16 Jun 2013

Permablitz 001 at Andrei's Place - The Making of a Food Forest

Submitted by admin

On June 16th 2013, the Southwest Florida Permaculture Guild held its first Permablitz. It was at our member Andrei's home in Golden Gate Estates and our goal was to begin development of a Food Forest for him and run water from his well to that Food Forest.

Ten brave, generous souls came together and the following chronicles our accomplishments.

Andrei's home is on a well. Step one was to tap into that well so we could send a water line back to where the Food Forest was to begin development.

We installed a ball valve so Andrei can turn the water off any time he needs to without having to turn the power off to his well pump like he had to when we tapped into it.

The picture above gazes towards where we were to plant the Food Forest more than 300 feet away! Andrei is on more than 2.25 acres so he has a lot of land to work with. This picture is facing west.

Andrei brought in a ton of mulch for us to use in the Food Forest. Mulch is INCREDIBLY important to utilize for a whole host of reasons. Everything from improving soil quality to moisture retention; without mulch, you're fighting an uphill battle here in Southwest Florida.

This is where we were to plant the Food Forest. "Lots of weeds" you might think. No! All those plants are GOOD. They're wild plants that came in once Andrei stopped mowing. They're excellent for a wide variety of purposes such as improving the soil and for a concept called, "Chop and drop" where you cut part of the plant and use it as a nutrient rich mulch.

The planting begins! All told, we put in 16 trees and shrubs then additional supporting plants.

It was hard work, but with a big group of amazing people, it was fun and went fast.

More planting. How awesome are these people for volunteering their time to help another person begin their transition towards sustainability? Truly amazing people.

Planting a passion fruit vine under the palm tree.

Over 300 feet of trenching complete! WHEW!

Trees and supporting plants are in! Now the wheelbarrow brigade begins to get load after load of mulch.

Mulch mulch mulch.

Everything gets heavily mulched.

Andrei begins spreading Azomite. Azomite is granulated volcanic ash that contains a ton of trace elements that are essential and beneficial to plant health.

A mulched Williams Hybrid banana which is a reasonably cold hardy banana. Proper variety selection of plants is essential to success here in Southwest Florida.

On the bottom left is a moringa tree, a HIGHLY useful and nutritious tree. On the right is a pigeon pea. Not only do pigeon peas produce an edible pea, they are also a nitrogen fixer. That means they take nitrogen for the air and in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria, fix that nitrogen into the soil so you don't have to fertilize them with nitrogen. Then you can also use them for chop and drop to fertilize other plants in the area. VERY important for successful Food Forestry.

This is a Jak Fruit tree. It can become a HUGE tree and produce fruit upwards of 80lbs! This one should be cold hardy to around 28 degrees but we protected it from the north-northwest cold winds by planting it south-southeast of the palm trees and planting other, more cold hardy trees as wind breaks.

In the foreground at the right is more pigeon pea. In the background under the palm tree is passion fruit vine. The plan there is to send it up the palm tree. What's nice about passion fruit is the fruit is ready when it falls from the vine, so you can send it up tall trees.

In the background is a loquat tree. It produces a delicious yellow fruit and is very cold hardy so we also planted it as a wind barrier.

An Arbequina olive tree. Very attractive tree as it matures.

At the left is a Winter Mexican avocado which is a cold hardy avocado. Surrounding it are two comfrey plants. They are dynamic nutrient accumulators. They send roots DEEP into the subsoil, bring nutrients into their leaves, and are then great forage for animals like chickens OR can be used as a chop and drop to feed surrounding plants.

The completed Food Forest. Over time, Andrei will be adding more and more and expanding his Food Forest. We also planted sweet potato as ground cover and threw cowpea seeds all over the place as a nitrogen fixer.

Water line complete. Yay!

I would say that the permablitz was a wonderful success. Our host took great care of us with a shade structure to get us out of the sun during breaks, lots of great food, and plenty to drink.

Everyone who came out was amazing. Truly awesome people. The way we work it is everyone who comes to a permablitz then gets their name in a hat. We draw out a name after each permablitz and that person then gets the next one. Names of volunteers stay in the hat until they're drawn and they get an additional entry each time they come. If they come to 10 permablitzes without getting drawn, they automatically get a permablitz. If you're not a member of the Southwest Florida Permaculture Guild, join this community and out meetup group at http://www.meetup.com/permies

Thank you again to everyone who helped make this a success. Andrei, please keep us updated with the Food Forest's progress