The Forest Garden at the Solstice

This is the view from my front porch just over a year ago, at the start of the first sheet mulching project.


That area to the left was at one point a beautiful rock garden under the living room window. By the time we moved in, it was a weed-covered gravel nightmare. We paid a landscaping company to come and remove the top 4″ of gravel, most of the old plastic sheet underneath, and remove that ugly podocarpus. We also had friends come and take the useless boxwood hedges.

Here’s the house from the front when it was all scraped away. Those leafless sticks in front are the peach trees.

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The next month, the sheet mulching began.

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We completed most of the sheet mulching by November, and the whole bed sat and composted through the winter. I planted a few more fruit trees but not much else. Here’s what it looked like in early March, when I was ready to start planting the spring vegetables and adding the rest of the layers. Basically a giant stretch of mulch. The neighbors must’ve been so nervous.


And this is today.


The forest garden* now contains peaches, plums, persimmon, strawberry guavas, pineapple guavas, pomegranates, tomatillos, pumpkins, various chile peppers, duranta, eclipta prostrata, codonopsis, eggplants, cantaloupes, ground cherries, daylilies, snow parsley, milkweed, and cow peas.

Sometimes when I start berating myself for not doing “enough” in the forest garden, I need to look at these pictures to see how much I have already done. As tempted as I am to continue to add plants at the fast & furious pace, I want to let this area settle for a while and see what happens with the trees and perennials. One peach tree has died and been replaced, and I’m already questioning some of my spacing decisions.  Time to just observe this area, at least until fall planting time.  This is only one bed and one year. I wonder what another year will bring!

*A note on terminology. I am not sure this will ever be a “food forest” since this is my very suburban front yard. The scale, management, and especially aesthetics will probably always be more garden-like, so “forest garden” it will be.

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