Phase One: Freedom from Slavery! A Food Forest Plan

Food Forest - Spring 2021
The sense of freedom and independence thrilled me, the work I was a part of was fulfilling, and the food was the best I have ever tasted...anywhere!


This has been a long time coming. Ever since my time working on a small permaculture farm on Camano Island, WA. I have dreamed of having my own plot of land to replicate what I got to experience there. The sense of freedom and independence thrilled me, the work I was a part of was fulfilling, and the food was the best I have ever tasted…anywhere!

Now I have the opportunity to create the same for my family. It’s on a much smaller scale of course, roughly 1,800 square feet. But even with that, there is plenty of room to fill and have food lasting all season up through to the end of autumn. It has been plenty of work to get this infant forest started, no doubt about it.

When I first started the project, the land was all grass and the very back corner was full of weeds, dead and dry as a bone. I made the decision to rent a sod cutter and remove it all. Now, before I get ahead of myself let me say this…I knew better than to start this way. And I recommend to anyone looking to create a food forest to avoid this as well. It is time consuming and your soil misses out on a lot of benefits which I will get into in a moment.

The method I suggest, and what I have learned and put into practice in farming and landscape gardening, is using the sheet mulch method. By laying cardboard or builder’s paper over the grass, then laying 4-6 inches of wood chips on top of that, you can effectively drown out and kill the grass. This will save you some major labor, you don’t disturb the soil and the life within it, and the dead grass will deliver nutrients for your forest back into the soil.

So why didn’t I do this, you ask? Well, I wanted to level off some areas of the land that were drastically uneven and difficult to walk on. So the sod would be a cost-effective way to reuse a resource. Which, proved to be effective though the work I put in during fire season was monumental. I still used the sheet mulch method to cover the areas where I relaid the sod and added some commercial compost to the soil as well. Which brings me to the next topic, the soil.

The Most Unforgiving Ground

I want to be fair here. The area where we live is in a valley where a river once ran through. So I would imagine that there would be some give to the soil and hopefully there would be a good amount of organic matter. It is (by my estimate) 80% rock, stone, and gravel on our property. Cutting the sod was difficult enough. Add to that, the good soil depth is about 2-3 inches at best. All plantings in the original soil was done with a pick axe.

The good news is that this property will be a prime example of what I believe needs to change with our own food supply. The nutrient content and health of our soils need to change. When the ground is so dry that it is blowing dust around and won’t support any life, all you can do is add fertilizers and hope you can grow something. Here, by using sheet mulching and a few other methods routinely, we can retain moisture, add nutrients, and encourage biodiversity within our soils.

The benefit? Nutrient dense foods, rich in flavor that your body will use to regain balance and its normal, healthy state.

Planting For The Future

Part of the goal in creating a food forest is to have long term sustainability with high yields of nutrient dense food with minimal amount of work. Perennial fruits and vegetables are a priority in the forest as a way of reducing the work needed year-to-year. However time and care is needed while getting everything established. Below is a list of what we planted in 2020/21.

It’s definitely a good start. Come 2022, we’ll be ready to more to our little homestead.

Balck currants in the food forest
Young Black Currants in the foreground

Perennial Fruits & Nuts

  • Apricot
  • Hazelnuts (2 trees)
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)(2 trees/shrub)
  • Black Currant (2 bushes)
  • Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
  • Blueberry (8 bushes)
  • Fig (2 bushes)
  • Kiwi (3 vines, one died from extreme summer heat)
  • Gooseberry (3 bushes)
  • Strawberry

Perennial Vegetables & Herbs

  • Peppermint (Mentha piperata)
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Artichoke
  • Egyptian Walking Onion
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
  • Echinacea (E. pallida)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Lovage
  • Tarragon

Food Forest: Autmn 2021

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