The Start of a Food Forest
For the last six months or so, I've been moving our egg laying chickens around a swath of land that we set aside for building a food forest. What's a food forest? In my own words, it's a man-made forest with the goal of producing food from root crops, perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines, mimicking the layers found within natural forest.
This past weekend we installed two long swales on contour. These swales will catch rain and runoff and allow the water to soak into the soil. Beneath each swale, we planted a variety of food producing trees. Right now our selection of trees is fairly standard... apples, pears, cherries, trees, etc. We were able to find persimmon and quince, which will add a bit of character to the food forest, but I have yet to find pawpaw trees, which would be an awesome addition to this food forest.
On the banks of each swale, I scattered hay that we baled last year from our property. This hay is rich in native grass seed and should help quickly stabilize the bare dirt. I also tossed in some various nitrogen fixer seeds (primarily field peas).
As spring arrives and the weather warms, we'll add numerous other plants to the food forest. The immediate focus will be on nitrogen fixers and green manure. Over the next couple years, we'll begin building the understory of the food forest... shrubs, berry bushes, perennials such as artichokes, and plenty of flowers to draw in the beneficial insects.