Holyoke edible forest garden
Started in 2004, this garden was the "playtest" of the design process used in Edible Forest Gardens II and is the case study in chapters 3 and 4 of the book. Designed and maintained by Jonathan Bates and Eric Toensmeier, who have since been joined by Megan Barber and Marikler Toensmeier.
Original mission:"Our urban forest garden is an intensively managed backyard foraging paradise, a megadiverse living ark of useful and multifunctional plants from our own bioregion and around the world. The forest garden is the unifying element of a larger permaclture design for food production, wildlife habitat, and social spaces that encompasses the entire property."
Thanks to all the people who participated in our work parties and made this garden possible, especially to members of Western Massachusetts Permaculture Guild.
Here's how we started in March 2004:
And here is the process of sheet mulching to create a nursery bed. We brought plants with us from our previous garden, so we needed a place to put them while we did our design. And start improving that soil!
Here is spring 2005. Later this year we did a lot of work!
Here's 2006. Tallest plants in garden are annuals! Also our strategic materials depot.
2007:Snow pattern showing winter sun/shade pattern (reverse of summer); Installing trellis and pond; Keith and Lisa dig bamboo rhizome barrier; path and bed layout.
2008 was a big year in our forest garden. We definitely went from sleep and creep to leap and reap. Here are some photos: spring yields, persimmony polyculture; pockets of production; sea kale coming into maturity; Marikler with pawpaw polyculture and chicken run; bamboo barrier polyculture.
In 2008 we came up against some problems and solutions. Main problem was too much darn vegetation - plants, foliage, and dried stalks/prunings. Solved with:
1) Chickens. Cut-and-carry system turned weeding into feeding! They turn our excess foliage into manure and eggs. Make a very high quality compost, much better than we had before.
2) Nursery. Started selling all those excess plants, raised $ for irrigation system.
3) Firepit. Meg got a metal outddor firepit which became a great place to dispose of large stalks and prunings which did not compost well. We get roasted marshmallows, social time outside, and ash for fertilizer.
In 2009 the system started to really take off on its own. Not a good year for grapes due to excess moisture, but great year for berries, Asian pears, much more. Removed min-dwarf apple and peach, also bush cherries. Too many pest problems for all. Replaced with Badgersett hazels and dwarf sea buckthorn, plut in a new sun-loving polyculture in meantime featuring lots of sylvetta, sorrel, prostrate birdsfoot trefoil, alpine strawberries, and green and gold.
Photos include early summer berry harvest, kiwi trellis (still mostly tomatoes), understory richness, Asian pear and bamboo, pockets of production, bamboo corner.
Big insights of 2009 - we want to remodel in 2010. Change in goals from maximum biodiversity. We currently have around 175 species on our 1/8 acre and have tried many more. We now know what GROWS WELL that we LIKE TO EAT. Now we want to focus on those species and how to grow them in FUNCTIONAL POLYCULTURES.