Last year I put in a swale and food forest on the north and east sides of my cabin. I planted the swale with comfrey, rhubarb, juneberry and yarrow with space between for annual veggies. This spring I seeded it with radish, chard, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cabbage. I’m pretty happy with the results thus far. The comfrey and rhubarb have filled it nicely and the veggies are going great in the swale. Now, if only we’d get some rain. Been a pretty dry spring. In the past 6 weeks we’ve had maybe one really good rain fall. The five rain barrels have come in very handy though they are nearly empty!
The pawpaws and juneberries are doing great. Well, Petunia has nibbled the juneberries so they’re not great but would be were it not for her. She’s left the pawpaws alone and they are growing very well. The herbs growing around the pawpaws, a mix of yarrow, self-heal, oregano, lemon balm and coneflowers are also growing pretty well. I’ve got some strawberries I’m about to put in though I’ll have to put some chicken wire over them to protect from deer and chicken. I’d put them in the main garden originally and they were doing fantastic but Petunia got to them and ate ALL of the foliage. Soon after they were taken over by weeds.
One key difference between the food forest and the kitchen garden is that the food forest seems much less prone to weeds. I think the reason is that, while in a sunny pocket, this area has mostly been wooded and the mix of foliage here is much less aggressive. The kitchen garden by contrast is located in an area that has been an open field for the past couple of decades or more. Any bare spot of soil up there quickly sprouts up with “weeds”. I’m thinking the strawberries will do much better over here. The key will be keeping them protected with the chicken wire.
One other key to this food forest area is the combination of light and heavy mulch. This pocket of woodland gets full sun most of the day with just a bit of dappled shade. That combined with the heavy wood chip mulch and leaf litter has really helped with the water retention. I’ve also got lots of big bark chunks from chopping wood that I place around the little trees. It helps discourage the chickens from scratching to close to the trees and holds in the moisture. The fertility of the soil is also being improved greatly I think. At the moment the chickens are back in the fenced forage area but they’ve been free ranging for the past ten months or so and have stirred and pooped in the food forest mulch that whole time. Next on my to-do list in this area is to add in more low level herbs to begin filling it out.