My Edible Forest Garden

Part of the reason for setting up this blog is simply to prod myself into documenting in more detail some of my current activities.  It’s not something that comes naturally to me and yet I do really enjoy looking back on old notes and photos when I have kept these.  I guess most people use Facebook for this purpose these days, but I’ve never really got into that and, although I do love Twitter, it has its limitations. So, to blogging I turn.

As little as a year and half ago, I had precisely no intention of buying property.  However, for many years I have been interested in the online communities and thinking around Peak Oil.  Much of this thinking involves ideas of home gardening as a more efficient and environmentally friendly lifestyle as well as being rewarding in its own right.  Given my early childhood years were happily spent growing up on a large farm in northern New South Wales, this aspect has resonated with me even if for purely nostalgic reasons (although there is no doubt that food freshly picked from the garden has tangible gastronomic advantages over what can be bought in the supermarket).

As my personal circumstances evolved and the idea of buying a property began to make financial and logistical sense, the idea of gardening and in particular food growing was at the forefront of my mind.  A large part of the reason why I chose Werribee as a location was the fact that it is still a place where you can buy a house on a roughly quarter acre block.  While one can do some gardening in almost any circumstances, I have been interested from the start to find out what kinds of yields are available on (what used to be) a standard suburban block.

Therefore, the very first thing I did upon moving in after buying my house was to get a vegetable patch up and running.  Maybe I’ll post about that at a later time.  For now, it’s enough to say that I did get some decent yields particularly with broad beans, cauliflower, corn and pumpkins.  Nevertheless, the amount of work required was quite high.  There’s a whole interesting economic dynamic at play there.  Venkatesh Rao has written on the subject of “hipster economics” and I think on this subject he is very much in the right in that a lot of this movement is done by people who have leisure time to fill and need something to fill it with.  Filling my leisure time with interesting activities has never been my problem and so the vegetable garden was starting to grate a little for me.

So, when I came across the books “Edible Forest Gardens” late last year, I was instantly intrigued.  Over the Christmas break, I devoured both books and eagerly began formulating plans and schematics for turning my land into an edible forest garden.

I think I’ll write some more about my take on the Edible Forest Garden concepts over time.  But the basic idea is to create a self sustaining and self reinforcing mini ecosystem which just happens to meet a large part of your dietary requirements.  There’s quite a fascinating history involved, both in relation to the deliberate ecosystem management of Australian Aboriginal and American Indian people, and to the British man called Robert Hart who, to cut a long story short, wanted to grow his own food but didn’t want to (and couldn’t!) do much manual labor to achieve that goal.

This resonated with me both as a way of getting more yield for less time and effort and also because of the inherent challenges in deliberately attempting to create and manage something as complex as an ecosystem.

Over the coming posts I’ll aim to document my work to turn my yard into an edible forest garden.  I’m currently about halfway through the initial planting and already there have been several interesting twists and turns.  Happily, I’ve kept my initial designs which just go to show that Eisenhower was absolutely correct in saying that a plan is a most useless thing but planning is indispensable.