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Use of Biological Resources in Establishing a Food Forest

by Tom & Zaia Kendall, Queensland, Australia

This article talks about how we use biological resources to direct and accelerate the growth of our food forest.


Part of our Food Forest

Tom has been planting out our food forest over the past few years. We use a chicken tractor to prepare the soil. They get rid of the weeds and grass seeds for us, and dig the soil up and fertilize (and they still lay eggs too!!). When the soil is prepared enough we move the chook tractor to another spot in the food forest that needs to be prepared.

The food forest will supply an enormous amount of food, as well as stopping the need for a lawn mower. Grass can’t grow where other plants grow, thus reducing root competition between unwanted grasses and the fruit and nut trees we want to promote. Tom plants the borders out with arrowroot, lemongrass, citronella grass and galangal, to provide buffers from bush turkeys and borders for areas the lawnmower still needs to get to. The borders also provide protection from the elements for the fruit and nut trees.


The prepared soil planted out

Today we planted a mulberry tree, taro, arrowroot, ginger, galangal, turmeric, strawberries, sweet potato, tulsi, pineapple sage and several nitrogen fixing plants, like pinto peanut (ground cover), pigeon pea, ice cream bean tree and cassia. The plants will be chopped and dropped once they have grown a bit, which will supply mulch and help establish the fruit trees, which are slower growing.


Our happy chooks in tractor

Most of these plants are edible (hence the term ‘food forest’) and perform multiple functions. We are directing and accelerating the growth of the food forest by planting a variety of plants in addition to fruit and nut trees. The idea is that once the fruit trees have grown up, most of the ground cover and smaller plants will disappear due to lack of light, but they will have created the ideal circumstances for the food forest to thrive.

The plants stop other invasive, non-beneficial plants from growing and taking the nutrients from the fruit and nut trees. Some plants are planted to house beneficial insects which will get rid of insects that are harmful to the food forest trees and plants. Others are planted to fix nitrogen in the soil. Others are there to provide the ideal fungal environment that food forest trees thrive in. These fungal conditions remain after some of the smaller plants and ground cover have disappeared.

Of paramount importance is the diversity of our food forest. By planting mutually beneficial plants and attracting insects that are beneficial, we will create a micro climate which will be highly productive.


Our Food Forest in progress, awaiting the next
planting in three weeks!!

The chooks are happy in their new spot, where they have plenty of grass, seeds and insects to thrive on. In another three weeks we will move the tractor again and plant out more seedlings.

We try and propagate our own seedlings from plants we already have on the property, without bringing in any external aids. We do buy some seeds and occasional seedlings at the moment, but we hope that in the future that will not be necessary due to our seed saving and propagating.

Things like pineapple sage and tulsi can be planted directly into the ground by just cutting some stems off an existing plant. They are very hardy and are quick growing in this area. They are very useful herbs (and incredibly easy to plant — just stick them in the ground…).

Zaia Kendall

Zaia grew up in a family of musicians in Holland, and has a background in top sport and web development and design. She co-founded the PRI Luganville and PRI Sunshine Coast Inc with Tom, and runs all the background stuff, like finances, business administration, website design and maintenance, writes articles, records and edits videos and also organises the cooking and the kitchen on site. She has been researching and studying nutrition and health for 20+ years, has a certificate in Nutrition and continues to study by research, reading and daily observation. She is a certified member of the International Institute of Complementary Therapists and is a holistic food, health and lifestyle coach. She is also an active member of several musical projects and bands, involved in community music and runs occasional percussion workshops. Visit Zaia's website at DIY Food and Health.

6 Comments

  1. This is such an improvement on slash-n-burn, great work, keep diatomaceous earth in mind for “pesticide”, doesn’t really kill much but is too irritating for most so defends OK. For farming there is a gray, low-cost grade.

  2. Looking very good Zaia & Tom.
    Where about in Qld are you & would mind a couple of PDC students (my wife & I) visiting some time?

  3. Hi Scott,
    We are in the Noosa Hinterland, please visit our website (www.kinkinsouls.com) for more information. If you are keen to come for a visit, please contact us direct (info on website). Thanks for your interest!

  4. Looking good Tom. Nothing like a bit of Sunny Coast subtropical weather to keep things growing. Go the chicken tractor! When I’m consulting people find it hard to make the link to letting animals do their natural thing and at the same time preforming a double function and ground prep for planting trees. They would sooner break their own back, spend money and use fossil fuels before engaging animals.
    As the say in the movie the Matrix – “Only Human”.
    Keep up the great work. Warm regards to both of you.

  5. Hi Zaia! Great to see your post!

    What you guys are doing is fantastic. I’m so impressed with the bunch of bananas on my kitchen bench that you grew from suckers in only 18 months. I want to divert the water that runs down our driveway into a swale system too and am inspired by your place. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Well Sis
    Let’s hope Rory can help you a little (he has some experience with melons and grapes) when he visites you in a few weeks. Anyway your website looks good and I’m glad to see you are feeling a little better , reading all this
    xxxx

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