Not Your Traditional Garden
It is Not Your Traditional Garden but it can be a easy, fun project for anyone that thingks they have no time to set up a traditional garden? It is also very rewarding to eat food that you have produced and know that it is free from GMO’s and man made chemicals.
In this method, you will be applying parts from the food forest model. With the food forest model, you get a natural looking garden that does not expose what you are growing and has no need for weeding, pesticide, or fertilizers. If you want a low maintenance garden, where you plant once and reap the harvests for many years to come, you can plant perennials to your zone. In nature nothing is planted in rows, it is more of a circular direction.
If you are unsure, here is what the food forest natural growth pattern looks like:
1) The center is a tree of some sort (maybe a nut or fruit tree), which will provide natural weed suppression and mulch as it drops leaves, pine needles, etc. in the fall.
2) This tree provides much shade beneath it for shade-loving plants, like blackberries and blueberries. So this is the next circular ring of plants growing in the trees’ shade.
3) The next ring outside the circle of shade lovers can be herbs. These herbs attract pollinators and wasps that will eat the “bad guy” bugs, a natural pesticide. The herbs act as a protective layer for the fruit, berries, and nuts.
4) The outer layer is usually a ground cover, which acts as a natural fertilizer, as it accumulates nitrogen and makes that nitrogen available to the surrounding plants.
Here is What You Will Need to Do
First, find a tree. (We have a few on our property so this has become a project of love for me)The main reason is mentioned in number one above, but also under the tree will be very rich soil from the years of natural mulch falling from the tree and breaking down into rich soil. This ground will usually already be ready to plant in. Determine how much sun the area on the ground beneath the tree gets and plant only plants that love partial to total shade. You will be planting in a circular motion, walking in a circle around the tree.
Now, on the next circular ring out decide what you want to plant. It doesn’t have to be herbs here. You decide based on your climate, what amount of sunlight this area get and the plant needs, your desires and what value the plant adds to your garden. This can be a trial method until you find out just what will thrive in these conditions. I plan to have something different for each tree. Living in a tropical zone, my choices will be different than most of you.
For example, I may start with the main larger tree such as a mango tree as the center. Then plant a smaller fruit tree or shrub in its shade. I may also plant a vine plant like grapes or string beans around the tree, which are accustomed to living in a tree’s’ shade. From there, I would work my way outward considering the sunlight, needs of the plant, what works in my area and what I desire. Squash seem to do very well here in Mexico but the locals do not care for any squash that would require time in an oven, that would heat their houses. If you want something like acorn squash you need to grow your own because you won’t find it at the farmers market.
If I am successful, I will roast my squash very early in the morning before the day starts to heaten up.
You can also plant plants that need full sun in your food forest garden. You just need to plant them on the outer ring, outside of the trees main shaded area and make sure that they get their recommended number of hours of sunlight per day.
While it may Not Your Traditional Garden the best immediate soil to work with for an instant garden is that right under a tree that has been there for years. You will find some of the best natural soil here, ready for planting your plants that don’t mind the shade. If you would like to add more nutrients to the soil, then consider making a compost tea that you can use that day.
This planting method was just passed along to me about a month ago so I so not have any pictures to share with you of a successful “tree garden” at this time. I will share my success story with you later this season once everything is growing. Some of you will need to wait a few months before you try this but that is great planning time. It is the planting season in this part of Mexico so I will be starting later this week. as soon as I figure out how to protect it from Maria’s chickens.
I will post more gardening information in coming articles. I am an advocate of producing our own food and enjoying it as close to actual harvest as possible.
Eat Healthy food, laugh often, enjoy life.