January this year seemed to be having a bit of an identity crisis. We had the usual cold, snowy January days, then some extremely cold days, and then, bam! Spring! I was SO excited for spring to be here so soon! I’ve never been a big fan of winter and I usually view it as something I just need to get through. I hunker down and wait it out. I go into my own version of hibernation that involves a lot of hot tea, homemade soup, hoodies or sweaters, fires in the fireplace, and leaving the house as little as possible. I was overjoyed that my winter wait was over! The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and temperatures were in the fifties! I was ready to go hiking or go outside to work in my garden! I was all jump-up-and-down excited inside when I first thought of my garden, but then mild anxiety struck. My garden! I was so behind!
Last Monday we spent the evening with Andrew & Teri Hill at their home in Wheaton along with many fellow suburban permaculturists. The Hill’s suburban home has been transitioning from lawn to permaculture garden since about 2010, soon after they earned their Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) from Wayne Weiseman, Bill Wilson, and Mark Shepard.
A forest garden is a gardening technique or land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in plants which can include edible, medicinal, fiber, dye, and fuel producing trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Companions or beneficial plants are included as insectaries, pest confusers, dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, and mulch plants. Together they create relationships to form a perennial forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food for human consumption, ultimately with minimal maintenance.
The McDonald Farm forest garden will be a demonstration design for people to interact with and learn from and serve as an inspiration for transforming suburban lawns. We will also be using this project as a hands-on learning opportunity for our upcoming Permaculture Design Course, Food Forest Workshop, and Homestead Design Workshops.
We welcome volunteers who are interested in supporting this project and are available to donate skills and labor between August and October.
Enjoy the many photos Jodi and Karen took as they were collecting information for the site assessment.
Now those of you who attended our presentation at the Green Earth Fair last Sunday can’t say we don’t practice what we preach. One side of my Naperville front lawn has been transformed into an edible forest garden!
It all started in the fall when Jodi needed to complete a landscape design for a class she was taking and I volunteered my front lawn (How nice of me, right?). She created a beautiful edible design that I was eager to implement.
Late fall, when the City offers free leaf collection, I went around the neighborhood and collected about 40 lawn and leaf bags full of leaves and as much cardboard as I could. This hung out in the garage (sorry to my husband who had to park in the driveway for a while) until Mama’s Magic Manure delivered 3 cubic yards of composted horse, sheep, goat, duck, geese, chicken manure on December 13th. On December 14th I spent several hours sheet mulching and let that do its thing until this spring.
Imagine finding yourself in a young forest where everything around you is edible. The canopy is chestnuts, pears, and persimmons with a shrub layer of hazelnuts, raspberries, honeyberries, and currants. Under the shrubs are perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers with a ground cover of strawberries, clover and comfrey. Vining up the trees are nasturiums and peas with garlic and chives near the trunk. This design becomes more productive each year, requires minimal input from you and can exist right outside your door.
Visit our Course Calendar to take a course or workshop so you can begin enjoying your very own Edible Forest Garden!