Underplanting in the Food Forest

It’s difficult to envision my 4 spindly peach trees as a mighty Food Forest, but I know I’ll have a good start on it by the fall. I thought I was just going to sheet mulch the ground around the fruit trees but it will be years before there’s anything like a tree canopy. That’s a whole lot of sunlight, waiting to be harvested.

Then I came across this article on successful underplanting. So inspired! Even though her focus is on purely ornamental plants, it’s the idea of planting aesthetically-pleasing groups that appeals to me so much. Herbs and bee-attractors and perennial vegetables can be aesthetically pleasing, too. How about a combination of comfrey, thyme, and spanish needles? That would stack a bunch of pollinator-attractors under the trees, the comfrey pulls nutrients from deep in the soil, and the thyme is edible. There are so many choices! I eventually want a “cottage garden” feel- funky, artistic, colorful, even riotous… but not unkempt.

Ever since the one of the gardeners on the Grow Gainesville group suggested perennial peanut as a groundcover under the peach trees, I’ve really been paying attention to the “weeds” already growing in my yard. Now I’m thinking about saving and actively dividing and planting the low-growing weeds that seem to do well in my yard, like spotted spurge, dollarweed, dichondra, creeping beggarweed, and Florida pusley. They’re free, no mowing required, I think they’re all natives, and quite a few attract native bees.  Wherever I dig up the taller invasive weeds that I hate, like the damn nut sedges and the dog fennel, I plant a chunk of perennial peanut. Then I have groundcover that’s pollinator-friendly, diverse, needs little water after becoming established, and only needs to be mowed 2-3 times a year.

The next trees to be added hopefully will be the persimmons, I think.

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