Creating our own food forest

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The triangle of land behind our houses

Next door to us is a convent, complete with a pair of very friendly nuns. Due to the oddities of land subdivision, the convent has a triangle of land that runs behind our strip of houses and the railway line.

I have been eying off this land for a while as a possible food forest. In permaculture terms, this would be a mix of food-producing trees, with supporting plants and animals (such as chickens and bees).

To date, this has been just a scrubby bit of unused land. Privet was running rampant along the railway line, creating a dense weedy mess. A local roofer is using another part of the land as long-term storage for roof tiles and slates.

The goal is to create a rich and fertile space that is shared by the convent and the strip of houses that runs alongside. A mini community space, this will produce fruit and other goodies for local residents,the church, and their their youth groups.

Starting to bring order to the chaos

I’ve now spent over a day, hacking out the privet, so the space is now free of major weeds. (Still plenty more work to be done yet though, including mulching all the privet.)

I’ve ordered nine apple trees as the core of the food forest:

  • Jonathon
  • Fuji
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Golden Delcious
  • Granny Smith
  • Maiden’s Blush
  • Sommerset Red Streak
  • Kingston Black
  • Sugar Loaf Pippin

The apple trees are definitely an experiment. Half the books I’ve read say “if you don’t have heavy frost, you can’t have apple trees”. Other people point to the local Sydney varieties of apples, and the local nursery certainly thinks they’re worth selling. I guess we’ll wait and see. In 4 years, we’ll either have a pile of apples for eating and cooking, or decorative trees with nice spring blossoms…

9 thoughts on “Creating our own food forest

    Darren (Green Change) said:
    August 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    As Jackie French says, don’t trust the books! Try it yourself and see.

    I’ve got young apple trees down here at Jamberoo, and I know a fair few people around who get fruit from theirs. I even pick fruit from some at the side of the road!

    Seeking out low-chill cultivars would improve your chances of success (I think the Granny Smith and Fuji are low-chill?).

    Oliver Bock said:
    August 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Be sure you paint the cut surfaces of the privet with glyphosate (Zero) diluted with one part water as soon as possible after cutting, because privet just loves to come back.

      James responded:
      August 9, 2010 at 11:28 am

      The privet has been seriously painted with glyphosate! While it’s not very permaculture, I agree it’s the sensible thing to do at the outset. Now we wait and see the outcome…

    Jack said:
    August 9, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hi James,

    Sounds like a great project James. If your in need of a hand sometime let me know. I’m in the Saturday Milkwood class and live locally.

    Apples in Sydney? Why not. Can’t hurt to try.
    Cheers Jack.

    jason said:
    October 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Looks fantastic James. Great work. Im a marrickville resident too and wish there were more folk around our fabulous city doing the great stuff you are.

    BTW, saw your book launch session last month. Also great work!

    Update on our food forest « Lewisham House said:
    December 12, 2010 at 8:27 am

    […] I cleared a overgrown mass of privet in the convent’s land behind our house to create a new food forest. Apple trees were ordered and planted, along with a bunch of other fruit […]

    Our first proper harvest of apples « Lewisham House said:
    February 23, 2015 at 8:43 am

    […] years ago we started planting out our guerrilla-gardened food forest in the land behind our house. This included nine different varieties of apple trees, alongside a […]

    Our first proper harvest of apples | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS said:
    February 24, 2015 at 9:51 am

    […] years ago we started planting out our guerrilla-gardened food forest in the land behind our house. This included nine different varieties of apple trees, alongside a […]

    kmfinigan said:
    February 25, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Ive got a great orchard of apple trees, and while the apple is better (in my opinion) after the first frost, you can definitely have apples anyway! You can check out my own apple story if you’re interested:

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