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Young Food Forest Fruit Tree Guild by the Resilliency Institute
This is a single tree young simple mini system designed by Joshua Reynolds at 
Texas Edible Landscapes. He sells these PODS, self-sustaining micro eco-systems, that can come with lots of variables per the plants you pick. July 2019 prices – Ready made, $550; custom is $750. Food Forests and Guilds are catching on!

If you want to grow your own, if your land already has plants growing naturally on it, sit down with them. Maybe a bit each day for a few days. Let the land talk with you. Notice the lay of the land, how it flows.

Plant a tree thinking in terms of a food forest, guild! Trees are your master plant. Think carefully what tree that will be. It will be there a long time. What effect will the mature tree have? What about shading your area, the neighbor’s area? Do you want it to be a windbreak so the land will be warmed for veg planting? What does your space accommodate? Do you want full grown trees? Or would your space and palate do better with an array of different kinds of dwarf trees, mixed semidwarf trees at fruit picking reachable height? You don’t have to have tall trees…

Food Forest at Alan Day Community Garden, Norway, Maine
Food Forest at Alan Day Community Garden, Norway, Maine

December, January are a great time to install native plants and fruit trees! Nurseries stock them bare-root then! See if any of this info affects where and how you place them. A large food forest can be anchored by a south opening ‘U’ shaped planting of trees that captures heat for growing veggies in its center area. It can start with a single tree in your backyard. Read Toby Hemenway’s book ‘Gaia’s Garden,’ especially the chapter on Designing Garden Guilds. Toby says “…biological support replaces human intervention, shifting the garden’s burden onto the broad back of nature.” If you have time and inclination, see Linda & Larry’s Food Forest Video! Besides their suburban Santa Barbara yard being a food forest, it is the epitome of edible landscaping!  

*Guild plants are plants that grow well together. It’s a LOT more than companion planting by twos, two plants that like, enhance, or help each other, though that is wonderful too. Happy plants make more food! Guilds are systems of plants starting with a tree if you have the space! Generally that tree is a fruit or nut tree that provides food too. For lots of great ideas, check out Permies.com on Guilds. If you love the idea of guilds, and apples, check out the details at this Apple Tree Guild! – image at left. A super functioning guild utilizes both vertical space and horizontal overlapping circles!

Food forests are naturally occuring in nature. Permaculturists think of them designed in layers. From Wiki, adapted to one person’s Apple Guild example, running vertically from the top down:

  1. The canopy – the treetops.
  2. The understory or low tree layer – anything under about 4.5 metres. Our apple trees will be in this zone but in our neighbourhood they’ll be some of the highest plants around so nothing will be competing with them for light.
  3. Shrubs – our raspberries, broad beans, and blackcurrants are in this layer. Being larger, the vicinity of the apple tree will only sustain a few of these. Broad beans are a good bet since their roots fix nitrogen from the air and get it into the soil where the tree and other plants can use it.
  4. Herbaceous layer – lettuces, dill, thyme, cabbage, rhubarb and so on. Anything that flowers with the apple blossom will attract insects which will help to pollinate the tree (without which, no apples).
  5. Rhizosphere – root crops like carrots and potatoes grow here, so need to be kept far from the shallow roots of an apple tree.
  6. Soil surface – home of our strawberries, sedum and clover. Clover is another soil feeding nitrogen-fixing plant.
  7. Vertical layer – our hops, cucumbers, sweetpeas and vines grow here. Sweetpeas fix nitrogen in their roots, which can be left in the ground after they have died back – but they climb and have thick foliage, so only suitable for larger trees.
  8. Some people include the underground network of some fungi as an eighth layer. In our garden the edible fungi include puffballs, though somehow we never catch them before they are football-sized.

That’s the vertical plane – there’s also a horizontal plane. An apple tree’s root spread is one-and-a-half times the diameter of its canopy and its principle feeding roots lie close to the surface, which tends to be where most of the soil’s nutrients are.

Blended Mature Food Forest by William Horvath

Your Food Forest might look like William Horvath’s when it is mature. As your food forest grows, fills in, there will be no obvious layers. It will look just like nature does, blended, each plant getting sunlight per it’s height. William Horvath has ongoing experience with Food Foresting! See his detailed May 5, 2017 post and read the comments! 

When you are reading online, remember to pay attention to where the guild example is. There are super wet northern guilds, snowy mountains, humid areas, hot and dry south western desert types, snowy northern plains and central US flatlands. All will require their own special treatment. Your best guide will be Mother Nature herself. If you are a native plant fan, the ones in your area may be the most sustainable choice of all per water needs. What did the indigenous peoples eat there?

If you are growing for income, research to find the most productive trees and crops in your area will be key. If you want self reliance, diversity is key – what grows super well together. You want crops coming in all year – fresh potent nutrition makes for healthy lives, and  crops that store well if you don’t have the all year option! Some gardeners opt for a combination of in-the-ground plants interspersed with greenhouses.

I am in hopes you will talk this up to your apartment owner, install it on your own property. No matter what the size, model your veggie garden after it, share it with every gardener anywhere, of any kind that you know. This principle is so important in many ways. Guild lists can be made for every area, plant zone, specific for every tree! Guild planting makes sense.

  • It’s economical.  Plants grow densely, produce more for less work. We are making on prem food forests when times are hard and may get harder.
  • Ecologically we are restoring native habitat when we plant and support those plants that use our water more wisely.
  • It is sustainable –  produces more food on less land, cuts food miles, no fuel, packaging.
  • Health is prime as we eat organic, much more nutritious food that hasn’t been depleted by shipping, storage and processing.

Our list [SEE IT!] author is Linda Buzzell-Saltzman, M.A., MFT, co-editor with Craig Chalquist of the anthology Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, Sierra Club Books (May 2009). She is a psychotherapist and ecotherapist in Santa Barbara, where she specializes in helping clients with career issues, financial challenges and the transition to a simpler, more sustainable and nature-connected lifestyle. Linda is an heirloom rose lover, current board member of the Santa Barbara Rose Society, founder of the International Assn for Ecotherapy and co-founder of the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club! She cares.

Linda’s List is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardener’s successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!

SEE PART 2, the List!

Updated 7.1.19

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Mediterranean Understory & Guild Plants for Food Forests – Part 2

Please SEE Part 1 before you read this list!


Here is what a young Food Forest can look like in a part of your urban yard!

Linda’s List here is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardeners’ successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!
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Once our fruit trees are planted in their water-saving basins in a budding Mediterranean food forest, it’s now time to think about what else to plant in these usually moist wells and swales. Or up the trees? Or nearby? We need these companion plants to increase our food and medicine yield, and also to enrich the soil, provide habitat, pull up minerals and other nutrients from deep in the earth, draw nitrogen from the air and bring it into the soil, attract beneficial insects to control pests, create shade for delicate roots — and to provide beauty, a critical psychological and spiritual yield in every garden.

Thanks to the members of the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club for their ideas and input. Additions and corrections are welcome.  Please email lbuzzell@aol.com. Especially welcome would be input on what plants do best under specific fruit trees – so far I don’t have much information on that.

BERRIES
Blueberry. To grow well here, they need acid soil, so a container is often the best solution, since Santa Barbara soil and water tend to be alkaline. One gardener we know waters hers with a very dilute solution of white vinegar, plus puts pine needles, coffee grounds around the plant. Best in Mediterranean climates are the low-chill varieties like ‘Misty,”O’Neal,’ ‘Sharpblue’
Cane berries. Upright cane berries are fun to pop in here and there as understory plants and they take some shade. But we found out the hard way that you probably don’t want to put in sprawling, thorny berries (especially blackberry) that sucker underground – they pop up all over the yard and are hard to eradicate. When we buy new berries we limit ourselves to thornless varieties and our current favorites are ‘Navajo’ and ‘Apache,’ although the thorny varieties that still linger in our garden – and will probably be there for hundreds of years as they’re ineradicable – taste best. So we live with them and enjoy the berries.
Elderberry. Shrub. There is a California native variety. Produces edible fragrant white flowers (used to make elderberry syrup and wine) and edible small blue berries that the birds love. Ripe berries are safe to eat but leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots are toxic. Has medicinal uses. We use our elderberry as a sacrificial plant attracting birds away from other fruit trees.
Lemonade Berry (native). Rhus integrifolia. Can also control erosion.

BULBS AND ROOT CROPS
Placement of these may take special care, as you don’t want to plant them too close to delicate tree roots.
Carrots
Edible canna. Canna edulis –Achira. Flowers are smaller than most cannas and the root is edible, can be chopped and sautéed like potato.
Onions
Potato and sweet potato

EDIBLE FLOWERS (note: most fruit trees, veggies and herbs also have edible flowers. Always triple check the safety of any flower before eating!
Daylilies. Hemerocallis species. Buds are used in Chinese stir fry, Petals in salad.
Nasturtium (flowers, young leaves and buds that may be pickled like capers) Let the plants die back in place. They will reseed and form a straw mulch.
Roses (yield petals for salads, sandwiches, syrups, desserts; rose hips for tea, syrups, jam)
Scarlet runner bean
Scented geranium

HERBS (most have edible flowers in addition to other uses)
Borage
Chili peppers, including tree chili
Cilantro
Garlic
Italian parsley
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena. A drought tolerant shrub with delicious leaves for tea.
Mint. Some fear its vigorous, spreading roots, but we welcome it into drier areas as ground cover, autumn bee food and a source of fresh leaves for cooking and tea.
Mustard (young leaves can be stir fried, flowers are edible, plus seeds for making mustard)
Pineapple sage (leaves and flowers make delicious herbal tea)
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage

SHRUBS/Understory trees
Guava. Psidium Tropical shrubs native to Mexico, Central and South America that yield white, yellow or pink fruit. Not to be confused with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Psidium guajava (apple guava) is one tasty variety. Also try lemon guava and strawberry guava.

VEGGIES (there’s no way to name them all – it’s fun to experiment to see what likes the soil under and around your fruit trees. Our favorites are those that overwinter and/or reseed themselves)
Artichokes. Plant away from tree roots, in baskets as the gophers love them.
Brassicas like broccoli, kale, collard greens.
Chard.
Dandelions. Leaves are great in salads and so good for us. Small birds like the seed heads.
Fava beans and other beans.
New Zealand spinach.

VINES
We often forget about vertical space in the garden, but it’s nice to increase your yield by growing edible vines up fruit trees, on walls and over arbors, fences and hedges.
Grapes. Note: the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara has a separate list of recommended table and wine grapes for our area. Contact lbuzzell@aol.com for details
Passion Fruit. A garden member says “mine is simply rampant, productive and trouble-free; gets little to no supplemental water.” The juice can be used to make a spectacular salad dressing (served at Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road in their tropical salad).

MISCELLANEOUS
Bamboo. Use clumping instead of running kinds to avoid it taking over your garden. Bamboo shoots are a delicacy in Asia.
Pepino melon.
Sacrificial plants. In permaculture designs we often plant trees, shrubs and other plants that are nitrogen-accumulators, “nurse” plants or fruit-providers for animals that might otherwise eat our crops. When they have performed their function, we “chop and drop” them around our fruit trees as a nutritious mulch.
Yucca. We’ve read that yucca yields edible fruit and flower buds. Anyone have more info on this?

BENEFICIAL ATTRACTORS AND NUTRIENT ACCUMULATORS
Ceanothus. Shrubs and ground covers that fix nitrogen in the soil.
Salvia, ornamental. These are treasures in the Mediterranean forest garden.
Tagetes lemmonii. Golden color is lovely in fall.

GROUND COVER
Easy-to-grow succulents can provide temporary ground cover for delicate roots. They can act as a living mulch until other plants take over that function. This crop is often free, as gardeners who have ground-cover sedums always have too many and are glad to share.
Pelargoniums and lantana are other easy, colorful ground cover that can be removed as needed.
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#1 Home Permaculture book in the world for seven years!

Per PatternLiteracy.com, Toby Hemenway’s home site, Gaia’s Garden has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world for the last 7 years. The enlarged, updated 2nd edition is the winner of the 2011 Nautilus Gold Medal Award.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Treat yourself and your land to this incredibly efficient way of gardening. Wisely use ALL the space available to you in a good way. Nature is the Master Gardener – follow her lead.

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Food Not Lawns is all about raising veggies not grass.  Studies show they both take about the same amount of water, but veggies pay back sustainably with fresh highly nutritious food on your table and no-food-miles or pollution.  Plus they make seeds for their next generation, adapting to your microclimate niche!  http://www.sbfoodnotlawns.org

  • Do I have to rip up my lawn?  You can do lasagna gardening/sheet composting right on top, start with cardboard/newspaper. 
  • Do I have to do a major portion of my lawn?  You can do any part you want, big or small, your call!
  • But I don’t want to do my front lawn.  You don’t have to!  It’s yours, do what makes you happy!  You only need 6 to 8 hours of sun to grow veggies, any space, corridor that has that, works.
  • Is it really hard work?  Using the lasagna/sheet composting method is no harder than gathering the materials to do it!  There is NO DIGGING!  And you don’t have to build raised beds.  Building soil on top of your lawn can make a lovely undulating landscape.  Frameless raised beds have plantable sloped sides!  
  • Is it ugly?   Could be, but how you do it is up to you!  It can be integrated along/among border landscaping plants, you don’t have to have raised beds at all.  If you want to though, you can make really attractive raised beds with beautiful materials, ie a lovely rock wall, terracing.  You can  cover an unsightly area like the edge under a south facing deck.  There are so many lovely options! 
  • I don’t want to wait months before I can plant!  You can plant the same day!  Just pull back a planting hole,  throw in compost, bought or made by you, plus any amendments you want, just like usual, and plant NOW!  No waiting at all!

                            Sheet Compost/Lasagna Garden Layers                           

Mulch or Tarp or not
Optional – Compost, Sprinkled Soil
Repeat layers until 18” to 2’ deep
Greens – Garden chop & drop
Browns – twice as deep as greens
Greens/Wet – kitchen veggie scraps, garden trimmings, grass, manure
Browns/Dry – leaves, straw for air circulation, alfalfa for Nitrogen
Well wetted Cardboard/Newspaper
Existing surface – Lawn

Wet green layers go above dry browns so the juicy decomposing stuff seeps down, keeping the brown stuff moist!  Straw is good in a brown/dry layer because air can pass through it, keeping the pile aerated!  Throw in some red wriggler worms to work the pile, make castings!  Maybe toss in some soil to ‘innoculate’ the pile with soil organisms.

Don’t worry overmuch about exactness of ingredients in your layers as you chop and drop greens from your garden/yard.  In fact, you can mix them up!  But do put in manures for Nitrogen (N).  Decomposing plants use N to decompose, so add a little so your growing plants will have an adequate supply.

If you can, make your pile at least 18” high; it is going to sink down as it decomposes.  Thinner layers, or layers that have been mixed, and smaller pieces, decompose faster.

If you like, cover the whole pile with some pretty mulch when you are done!  Or tarp it to keep things moist until ready for use.

When you plant, especially in ‘new’ soil, sprinkle the roots of your transplants with mycorrhizal fungi!  The fungi make micro filaments throughout your soil that increase your plants’ uptake of minerals, especially phosphorus that builds strong roots and increases blooming, fruiting!

Anybody can lasagna garden/sheet compost in any garden, any part of a garden, any or all the time!  It’s a time honored soil building/restoration technique!  Happy planting!

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