An Edible Forest; Four and Half Years Later

Members of the Knoxville Permaculture Guild install an edible landscape on November 22, 2008.

Members of the Knoxville Permaculture Guild install an edible forest on November 22, 2008.  The Pine tree is in the background.

Way back in November of 2008, the Knoxville Permaculture Guild held a work party at a guild member’s home in west Knoxville where we planted an edible forest.  Some of the bushes and trees seemed so little an fragile, and we wondered how any of it would survive the winter.  This was Chad’s first permaculture design experiment as well as the homeowners were not experienced gardeners in any way.  We didn’t know if the forest would be a success or a failure.  It was one of those things where only time would reveal the result.

After four and a half years, I had the pleasure of visiting the edible forest today (June 13, 2013), and I’m ready to report the outcome.

Members of the Knoxville Permaculture Guild install an edible landscape on November 22, 2008.

Members of the Knoxville Permaculture Guild install an edible forest on November 22, 2008.  Some plants were tiny sticks with roots.

Chad designed the forest around an established pine tree planning several canopy layers.  I don’t remember the entire design plan, but the upper canopy consisted of the pine tree and a Heartnut tree, which we planted.  The next canopy included trees like Nanking Cherry, Goumi berry,  Plumcot, Pear, and Plum.  The third layer consisted of bushes like Gooseberry and Blueberry as well as Kiwi (vine) along the back using the chain link fence as support and asparagus.  The homeowners really wanted a peach tree, and that was added to the planting, too.  We planted the stuff, laid cardboard boxes around plants to suppress weed growth, and left instructions for the novice gardener homeowners to mulch as soon as possible.  Chad also left a list of ground covers that could be planted in the future to assist with weed suppression and assist with keeping the soil healthy.

And that’s how we left it.  I heard last summer that the peach tree produced a ridiculously large harvest and received some peach jam from the harvest, but other than that, I had not seen or heard about the forest…until today.  I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos.  All I had on me was my cell phone.

Edible forest June 2013. The pine tree is in the background.

Edible forest June 2013. The pine tree is in the far background.  Pear tree is in the very front.  Next is the Goumi berry bush, and behind that is the purple plum.

Edible Forest 2013. Pear tree in forefront and Heartnut tree in background.

Edible Forest 2013. Pear tree in forefront and Heartnut tree in background.  Thought healthy, neither tree has produced yet.

Plum Tree 2013

Plum Tree 2013.  The homeowner says that the birds usually find the plums before she is able to pick them.

But we did find one plum that the birds missed!

But we did find one plum that the birds missed!

The Plumcot tree 2013 with the pine tree in the background.

The Plumcot tree 2013 with the pine tree in the background.

Plenty of Plumcots, but not quite ready to harvest.

Plenty of Plumcots, but not quite ready to harvest.

I learned today that Gummi Berries have more Lycopene than the tomato.

I learned today that Goumi Berries have more Lycopene than the tomato.

Only one of three blueberry bushes that survived. It's in need of more sun.

Only one of three blueberry bushes that survived.  It is healthy, but no where near the size that it should be.  With a bit more sun, it should do fine.

A gooseberry growing. Both bushes planted are doing well, but only producing for the first time this year that the homeowner knows.

A gooseberry growing. Both bushes planted are doing well, but only producing for the first time this year that the homeowner knows.

The peach tree June 2013.

The peach tree June 2013.  The homeowner laid a weed barrier fabric to suppress weeds and applied mulch to keep in  moisture.

Plenty of peaches again this year!

Plenty of peaches again this year!

I was so completely surprised at the health an size of the forest.  The forest itself isn’t in a huge area an would easily fit onto half a city lot.  Most everything survived.  They lost two of the three blueberries and two of the three kiwis.  The homeowner didn’t think that any of the asparagus survived, but we found one shoot today.  Overall, the homeowner is very pleased with the forest, which is also quite important.

I am happy to say that the work we did back in November of 2008 is alive and thriving!  It’s good to see permaculture in action.

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About Tracie L. Hellwinckel

Hi! I'm Tracie L. Hellwinckel creator of The Agrarian Urbanite. My experience in gardening education began 2000 as a Peace Corps volunteer. Since then, I've served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Beardsley Community Farm and Habitat Urban Gardens. I sold plants at the local farmer's markets but discovered that when customers asked me questions about gardening, it was the teaching techniques and sharing of information that inspired me. Gardening Education combines my formal education (Masters Degree from the University of Tennessee in Elementary Education) and my passions, which are growing food and design. I can be reached at agrarianurbanite@gmail.com
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