Now that the weather is warming up people are coming out of hibernation and beginning to spruce up their landscapes, mow lawns, fertilize, and start their annual vegetable gardens. Have you ever thought about our societies addiction to lawn and yard work? Maybe not, because a lot of marketing goes into maintaining this status quo and encouraging you to keep the $74 billion lawn care industry funded. Of course this addiction is also keeping the oil, natural gas, chemical, and manufacturing companies in business.
There are a lot of statistics out there from the EPA and other environmental groups about our societies lawn problem, but what solutions are being offered beyond using resources more responsibly? Well, we have a solution for you, plant an edible forest garden!
An edible forest garden is a woodland filled with edible trees, shrubs, plants, ground covers and vines. It is a place where you experience nature daily by observing the insects and wildlife, harvesting and eating the fruits and vegetables, relaxing with friends under an arbor of grapes and wisteria or taking a nap on your hammock next to your pond. When you use permaculture design to create your edible eden, it becomes a self-maintaining oasis that waters, fertilizes, and mulches itself.
I have personally taken the edible forest garden challenge and by the end of 2015 my lawn will be no more! In the fall of 2012 I began transforming the smaller side of my front yard which is 25′ x 14′. It took me about two and a half days to complete and cost about $700. I started by collecting 50 lawn and leaf bags filled with dry fall leaves from all of my neighbors, cardboard from a neighbor that just moved in, and a manure delivery from Mama’s Magic Manure (organic composted mix of cow, horse, sheep, goat, duck, chicken, and rabbit). Then on to sheet mulching which took me about 4 hours to do alone.
On Arbor Day, Jodi and I headed to Evergreens of Elwood to pick up ourfruit trees and planted them in holes dug by my son. On Mother’s Day I went to a local nursery and purchased many of the shrubs and herbaceous plants, supplemented with a few other plants from a native plant sale, and spent the day planting. Now I needed wood chips to finish it off, and it just so happened that my neighbor two doors down was having two trees removed. The tree removal company was nice enough to dump the chips in my driveway, add a few hours to spread it and job done!
In the summer and fall of 2013, I harvested raspberries, strawberries, peaches, 1 apricot, globe artichokes and a few wine cap mushrooms. This year, my harvest should include:
- Bartlett pears + another grafted variety
- Reliance peaches
- Apricot (grafted branch on peach tree. Not sure variety)
- Bing cherries
- wine cap mushrooms
There is a rhubarb and asparagus patch, but it is best to let those establish for three years before harvesting.
I happen to live on a relatively busy street with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic and a park one house away. People have been very interested in this new addition to the neighborhood and I have met many neighbors because of it. The peaches and raspberries were shared with anyone who was willing to take them. It took a lot of encouragement to get people to harvest fruit from the trees and shrubs, something I am still working on overcoming. Part of the design was to share the abundance with my community and to break down property barriers. Some signage and a fruit stand will be additions this year to continue the process.
Learn how to get started by taking our Design a Fruit Tree Guild class on Wednesday, May 14th at 7:00 pm . We will teach you how to begin your lawn transformation with a 10′ x 10′ area. Gradually, you can add more fruit tree guilds until magically your lawn is gone and you have an edible forest garden!
We are also hosting a vegetable plant sale on Wednesday, May 14th before class from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. The money raised will support The Liberty Gardens Seed-Lending Library. Organic, heirloom, international, and ancient varieties of tomatoes, kale, chard, kohlrabi, and cabbages will be available for purchase. Ask your family and neighbors if they need any plants and bring some back for them. Come for the plant sale and stay for the class!
See you on Wednesday!