In many locations, the fruit trees produce on average every 2-3 years, due to late frosts or other calamities. But when things work out in the spring, the harvest is great, and it is time to make enough preserves to last for a few lean years.
Comfrey and yarrow work good together as a plant guild near fruit trees in our climate. Yarrow attracts beneficial insects, and has medicinal properties. Comfrey hides in its shade, offering its meaty leaves as high-protein animal forage. Because of the dry climate, normally prolific comfrey does not spread in the areas that are not watered. We use this plant guild around young fruit trees, to shade the trunk and ground.
Guinea chicks eat grasshoppers, catepillars and ants. They also like fruit, and help (somewhat) with cleaning out the orchard floor. In urban situation, a few bantam chickens would be useful for this purpose.
Goats and chickens get tree cuttings, fruit and culled veggies and plants from the Food Forest. We don't let them browse amidst fruit trees (too much destruction), they get to munch on it in their yard only.
Rhubard is a good insectary plant a food forest. It is attractive to pollinators and various beneficials, who literally cover the entire plant in the early months of summer. To see it happen, let your rhubarb blossom, and don't cut the blooming stems until they are dry. Take a look to see green lacewings, beneficial wasps and the lady bugs all up and down the stalk.
Plants for A Future is a resource centre for rare and unusual plants, particularly those which have edible, medicinal or other uses.
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply - a wealth of tools, green manure and ground cover seeds, and other organic growing supplies.
Greenhouse Gardener's Companion is a really useful book for gardening indoors.
One Green World offers unusual fruiting and ornamental trees and plants from around the world.
Regis-Tree is a site for documenting and saving the Southwest’s most celebrated horticultural legacies of growing fruit and nut trees.
Fungi Perfecti is a place to get mycelia inoculant and to learn about mushroom cultivation.
Seeds of Change is a source of diverse open pollinated seeds for veggies, flowers and herbs
How to Make a Forest Garden is a great book on the subject.
Permaculture Food Forest
At our farm, the food forests are designed to meet several goals:
As with pastured poultry, focus is on using heritage varieties of plants whenever possible. Most of the food forest is planted with local heritage apples, pears, apricots, cherries and plums, some of which date back to the conquistadores’ times. For guild planting we maintain a small nursery garden, where plants are grown to be divided, or from which seed can be harvested.
Guild design follows the classical approach of creating a maximum of beneficial relationships between every element of the guild, mixed with the industrious plant propagation of things that grow in nearby gardens. These two trends define the planting scheme. It is highly unusual for us to go shopping for plants to add to the mix - it has to be something truly unusual! Even then, the new purchase ends up in the nursery garden, for propagation. Animals are included in all guild plantings, as consumers, and help with the fertilizing and maintenance. Chickens, worms, song birds, snakes, lizards, horned owl, guineas, turkeys, goats and a cat all more or less consuem the by-products of each other, using different approaches.
With fruit trees we always plant nitrogen-fixing groundcovers and/or “mother” plant to shade and nurture young seedlings (such as Siberian peashrub, or False Indigo Bush). Then come the bulbs (iris, edible daylily, alliums), which absorb excess nitrogen in the springtime (when it is detrimental to fruit trees). Various sages (clary sage, culinary sage, salvias) are there to draw pollinators and beneficial insects. Beeforage plants, like bergamot, spirea, beeplant are there for the obvious reason. Perennial greens, such as garden sorrell and salad burnett are planted where the water is sufficient to warrant their survival. Mineral mining plants (comfrey, nettles) are combined with medicinal herbs which Arina uses for making herbal teas and concoctions.
We maintain a three season greenhouse and a garden for annual vegetables. All seed is open pollinated. No hybrid varieties of vegetables are used, for the same reason as we don’t use commercial breeds of poultry. Health, taste, food security and biodiversity have become priority considerations. The efforts to perennialize annuals by allowing reseeding are very successful, so that there is no need to plant a whole list of veggies each year. Top reseeders are dill, carrots, parsley, marigolds, calendulas, tomatillo, tomato, amaranth, arugula, lamb’s quarters, cilantro and mustard. Our plants are allowed to bloom, set seed and scatter it around, following their natural path. The seeds overwinter, and come out of the ground when they find conditions acceptable, making our lives easier.
Partial guild plant list for Northern New Mexico
and remember: “The yield of the system is limited by our imagination....” - Bill Mollison, founder of permaculture