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Starting from Scratch

"You can solve the problems of the world in a garden" - Geoff Lawton

Food forests are the most sustainable, healthiest, easiest and most fun way to grow food. Lone fruit trees in a yard of grass makes hard work for us and the tree. Trees need friends, and food forests are all about having layers of diverse edible vegetation.

There’s many ways to build a food forest, and to a large extent once the ground work is done, they build themselves, we’re really just the orchestrators. Many people feel they don’t have the space to build food forests, but mini food forests can thrive in the tiniest of courtyards. Even on balconies and rooftops you can grow a range of plants – only our imagination is the limit.

At Happy Earth we’re establishing a food forest from what was a carpet of kikuyu, with only a few small trees and palms scattered here and there. Food forests come to life over time, and we’re replicating natures way of regenerating land, by starting to increase the diversity of groundcovers, then shrubs and vines, and finally trees. And of course the focus is first and foremost upon building the soil. Here’s how we’re going about it:

  • Firstly, coming up with a vision, we call ours the Greenprint
  • Conducting soil tests to determine the mineral requirements of the soil – see soil improving techniques
  • Turf cutting the large areas of grass (see Lawns into Lunch) to start replacing the kikuyu, which is really invasive and not good friends with fruit trees
  • Sheet mulching the edges, and smaller spaces of grass with newspaper
  • Spreading a thin layer of compost to add the germination of soil improving ground covers such as millet, cowpea, clover and alfalfa.
  • Applying liquid compost teas to kick start soil biology
  • Mulching the soil with grass clipping from local backyards
  • Planting out support groundcovers (pintos peanut, sweet potato, pumpkin, nasturtium), then shrubs (indigofera, pigeon peas), and trees (acacias, bleeding hearts, leucaena).
  • Hand weeding kikuyu and other weeds e.g. cobblers peg until the desired groundcovers are established
  • Starting to plant fruit trees out after a minimum of six months working on improving the soil and establishing the support plants for the food forest
  • Focusing on positive affirmations and visualising a vibrant food forest (no we’re really not crazy, plants need encouragement too!)
Lawns%20into%20Lunch.jpg  Food%20Forest-Six%20Weeks.jpg
   Soon to be food forest - immediately after turf cutting, and again six weeks later with soil improving plants