Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’. What goes on the ground under a ‘food forest’? The truth is that the lowest tier of plants should be providing shade just inches above the surface. But when you are just starting a food forest the ground can be fairly bare. Here are some groundcover suggestions that will improve or preserve that top soil until the lush installation takes over. As for planting instructions: for the perennial, nitrogen fixing plants, scratch the surface of the soil with a rake and hand cast the perennial seed. Water to set into the marred ground. Water very lightly every day unless it rains. You could see sprouts within the first week. Watering will increase growth, but you can reduce to “when the ground is dry” once the plant is growing. For the annual ‘weeds’: find them in your favorite deserted lot. Look for pig weed, purslane, knotweed, low mallow. Collect in fall when seed sets in paper bags and spread on ground after winter snow is off. Keep the area mowed using chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, string trimmer or hand mower. Hand pull from immediately around the shrub and tree bases. Leave some groundcover flowers for all-season pollinators. #thegardenisnotclosed
“Food forest” is one of those permaculture terms that always feels like the secret language of only special people with special knowledge. Folks, it’s a windbreak, a privacy hedge, a hedgerow in the oldest sense. But it is a well-thought out windbreak or hedge. One that fits with the terrain, and the human, and the resources. It is truly organic, rising from the environment. Why do I keep the lowest branches and suckers trimmed up? To let the sun in on the lower plants and to be able to see the gliding markings of the local snakes including the rattlers. One moved in about two weeks ago. Almost four feet long, I saw him twice before the field of fire near the cabin was clear to safely move him on to his next incarnation. My knees started to shake ten minutes later, while his head was still moving, looking for a target. Building habitat does not mean pretending to talk to the animals. I love my 6 foot bullsnakes; they supervise me daily as I water in the nursery. Permaculture or “back to the land” does not mean drinking some Earth Mother KoolAid.
I’m posting some short videos on the Tara Farm and Nursery YouTube channel on my “food forests” here in the Great High and Dry Wind Corridor of Central Wyoming. This one is Number 2, so when you are there take a look at the first video as well (Food Forest: Tier One). Number III will be on the groundcover that I use and why. The information can be applied to a city lot, a suburban property or on the rural homestead. #thegardenisnotclosed !! Just ask the snakes….