12 Aug 2013

Permablitz 002 At Rainbow Sage Acre Farm - Starting a Food Forest

Submitted by admin

On August 11th, 2013 24 amazing Permies from the Southwest Florida Permaculture Guild volunteered their time in 94 degree heat to start a Food Forest at the Rainbow Sage Acre Farm in Naples.  This was our second Permablitz and it went really well.  The people who came out were truly amazing and very hard workers.  We got a LOT done and Andrea and Rene were wonderful hosts!  We did a ton of sheet mulching and planted 72 fruit trees, banana plants, and Moringa trees!  

As this was our second event, we are still very much working to improve our processes. The Permablitz went longer than we thought as we bit off a little more than we could chew which resulted in some people working harder than we would have liked.  We'll be making sure that doesn't happen again -- apologies from the organization team!  But all in all, it was wonderful.  Some pictures of the event:

Lots of people brought tools with them (thank you).  Even so, a couple more wheelbarrows would have been great.  Wheelbarrows are incredibly important tools for Permaculture Guilds to have a LOT of.


The Design and Organization Team showed up early to lay out exactly where we wanted all the trees and plants to go:

Andrea has taken a Permaculture Design Course and developed a design for Rainbow Sage Acre Farm.  While we didn't stick to it exactly, it was a great a great starting point:

We broke up into different teams with each having a specific task.  One team was in charge of doing the sheet mulching to knock down the grass and help build soil fertility.  Here were the layers of the mulching:

Andrea and Rene brought in 36 yards of compost, 200 yards of mulch, tons of cardboard, and lots of other supplies.  Some of the compost and mulch:

Pre-work meeting to get everyone on the same page:

Andrea and Rene showcasing their design and educating people:

Tree planting begins.  You'll notice in future pictures that we mounded most of our trees.  Here in Southwest Florida, during the rainy season, the ground can become saturated or easily have standing water.  On this property, if you dig a hole down 3 feet, at the 2 foot mark, you will have standing water.  We didn't mound trees during our first Permablitz and had to go back later to fix that.  We learned from that experience and the experience of other members' and now recommend ALL trees be mounded except banana, Malabar Chestnut and Jaboticaba (that list will no doubt expand).  Different trees need different mound heights with avocado being the highest and others getting very little mounding.  We'll be observing how each tree does in different conditions as the months and years go on and continue to refine our practices.

Cardboard begins to go down to snuff out the grass.  

Huge bales of hay soon become part of the sheet mulch:

The best job to have:

The mulching continues:

Steady progress with the trees.  We would have liked to use the native soil to mound the trees, unfortunately, that wasn't able to be done.  We do recommend that native soils be used whenever possible.

Our hosts made sure we stayed hydrated in the cutest way possible:

Excellent progress with the mulching:

Barbados Cherry in the foreground, Tikal Guava to the left, and Hak Ip Lychee behind it to the right.

Mulching is going well:

A Bay Rum tree surrounded by a host of Pigeon Pea plans.  Pigeon pea not only produces a great edible pea, it is also a nitrogen fixer so it a fantastic support plant here in Southwest Florida.

Notice the BIG mound for the avocado tree to the right.  Avocados HATE having wet feet for a prolonged period.  It'll kill them quickly.  Problem solved :)  At final planting review, we pulled the mulch back from around the trunk of that avocado.  It's never a good idea to mulch near the trunk (except bananas, they don't mind) and nowhere near the roots of avocados during the raining season.  They don't want the mulch retaining that moisture.

As mentioned, we bit off a little more than we could chew.  We didn't finish sheet mulching around all the trees, but that's ok.  We got a TON done!

A job well done.

Thank you to all of the Southwest Florida Permaculture Guild members who came out and volunteered your time.  You are truly amazing people who are doing so much to help transition Florida to sustainability.  And thank you to Andrea and Rene for being great hosts.  We look forward to seeing the Food Forest flourish and be expanded upon.

And here is a time lapse video of the first 160 days after the blitz.