In the fall and spring we planted some little “vignettes” or “plant guilds” of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants in our new Alabama food forest project.
The grass has surrounded them, however, so it’s time to turn our plant groupings into improved islands of fertility and life.
Here I’m chopping down little popcorn tree seedlings around a small island consisting of a pear tree, a goumi berry, ginger, turmeric and a canna lily.
This was yesterday’s food forest project. It was overcast in the evening which made working tolerable. The sun has been quite brutal lately, and combined with the humidity has made working outside near impossible during the middle of the day.
We watered this island thoroughly, then threw down a layer of dried cow manure and a layer of cardboard over the grass.
After that, we stacked on half-finished compost, chunks of logs and branches, chopped and dropping mimosa branches and ragweed, plus lots of grass clippings.
After that, we put on more grass clippings to make things look neat, then watered again.
Here’s the final island:
At this point, we could add some pockets of compost and plant seeds if we liked, or put in more perennials. If we needed things to look even neater, would could top off this island with a layer of wood mulch and call it “edible landscaping,” but we can afford to be messy out here in the country.
Later today I’ll post a video showing this entire island improvement project from start to finish.
If you’re able to just work on one piece of your food forest at a time, dividing it into little islands, you’ll really create a strong system quickly. Over time, the shade will beat the grass in between the islands and the whole system will grow together. This method of heavily improving living pockets of plants has worked well for us and makes a big food forest project much more manageable, as compared to improving the entire area with many loads of wood chips or extensive cover crops.
Just make islands of sheet-mulched plants with exceptional fertility around their roots – it’s easy!