Food forestry and forest gardening

Designing and establishing a temperate climate food forest in rural North Canterbury, New Zealand.

Using permaculture principals to work with and mimic nature, we are guiding natural processes and directing the outcome with human intent. By selecting practical plants that serve multiple functions we build diversity in all layers of the biological system.

This approach guides natural processes towards a productive ecosystem. By introducing human knowledge and planning we can encourage and accelerate the growth and development leading to beautiful, abundant and nutritious habitats.

  • Attractive, productive ecosystems

    Attractive, productive ecosystems

  • Exploding with flavour and colour

    Exploding with flavour and colour

  • Natives and exotics. Something for everyone

    Natives and exotics. Something for everyone

  • Visit, explore and learn

    Visit, explore and learn

  • Pattern based function stacking

    Pattern based function stacking

  • Book your relaxing stay today

    Book your relaxing stay today

Spring grafting season for fruit and nut trees August - October

Spring grafting season for fruit and nut trees August - October

Wood is cut and graded in June for dispatch in July – August. On receipt, scion wood will need to be stored refrigerated until the appropriate local grafting time.

Length: 150 – 170mm with 3 - 4 buds

Diameter: 5 – 12mm

Grafting is the process of adding part of a known, desirable tree onto existing, growing roots of a similar species. This process offers many benefits such as having many types of apple on a single tree or influencing the characteristics of the tree such as size, soil requirements and disease resistance.
  May   June   July   August   September   October  
  graft  fruit  trees 
Planting shelves

Planting shelves

I grow a lot of plants and trees from seeds. One space saving way that I have come up with is to use the vertical wall space at the back of the house where my nursery is located. Adding these metal 'gutters' as plant growing shelves has given plenty more growing area situated at perfect working height.
March 23, 2019
Tree growth on terraces

Tree growth on terraces

Details   6 years of growth from 2014 - 2020
As part of our water wise landshaping, we spent considerable effort creating a number of hand dug terraces as well as having a mini digger create an access track on a sloping amphitheater.
Terraces allow for improved rainwater infiltration, reducing runoff and erosion while also making it easier to work and harvest from the trees.
This particular area is a nice sun trap and has excellent cold air drainage. The biggest challenge is the dry and, in some places, the blackberry. Here we grow a number of fruit tree types with a focus on apricot.
Date   April 28, 2020
Tags     terrace  trees  progress  zone3 

Regenerative planting - 10 year update

Details   The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now...

When we arrived most of the land was grass, exposed to the sun and wind. Heavy clay soil added to the challenge and progress was slow initially but as our knowledge and understanding improved things accelerated and once our pioneer, nurse trees reached shoulder height then things really kicked into high gear.

Lifting the wind off the surface of the land, blocking some of the strong sun and increasing biomass all helped to improve the conditions for our subsequent plantings as well as the earlier, initial attempts that did not enjoy life out in the open.

Grass has mostly been replaced by deep rooted, perennial plants, many of which we chop heavily and regularly to feed the soil and aid the productive fruit, nut and berry plants.

The photos show 10 years of progress looking North
Date   December 30, 2020
Tags     progress  zone2 

Learn about foodscaping / food forest gardening

Develop an understanding of how to design and implement your own food forest garden with a one on one guided tour and discussion session.
  • Explore the extensive, established forest garden at blockhill
  • Learn identify, develop and exploit niches to grow a wider range of useful plants
  • Discuss mixed and companion planted polycultures and guilds
  • Understand plant succession for ecosystem transition and transformation
  • Witness beneficial insects and extreme biodiversity
  • Meet the chooks, ducks and pigs and see how they fit into the system
  • Overview of useful hand tools
2 hours
Mulch, soil carbon and organic matter to improve moisture holding

Mulch, soil carbon and organic matter to improve moisture holding

Mulching is the practice or process of covering the soil with a thick layer of organic matter. This has a number of benefits depending on the mulch material and desired outcomes. Some of the advantages include preventing moisture evaporation, smothering weeds, feeding soil life and increasing soil carbon and water holding capacity.
Use as much mulch as you can get your hands on.
June 06, 2015
  mulch  carbon 
Setting of expectations

Setting of expectations

The expectations we have about what we should be eating and when determines what options are open to us in terms of where and how we obtain our sustenance. By adjusting our requirements and evaluations of what makes something desirable food we open up new sources and types of fruit and vegetables. This is a prerequisite of low input forest gardening.
November 22, 2015
Practical uses for flax

Practical uses for flax

New Zealand Flax, the native Phormium tenax, is an excellent plant to include in the forest garden. Not only does it grow in almost all conditions from wet to dry and full sun to shade, flax has some great practical applications.

The plant produces tall flower stalks that feed native bell birds. These stalks can be over 2 meters long and can be used for poles in the garden. While not as long lasting as bamboo, the flax poles decay after a season or 2, they are extremely light and easy to work with.

The flax leaves contain extremely tough fibres making them ideal fro tying and weaving. From simple rope to intricate baskets, woven mats and dental floss, the flax leaves and fibres are very versatile and durable.

I use flax constantly for tying and training plants. Being biodegradable is an added bonus as it breaks down into the soil and trees tied with flax will not strangle.
Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth. Certain plants have a useful ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. This is often achieved through symbiotic relationship with fungi in the root zone. Being able access unlimited nitrogen allows these plants to grow quickly while also making some available to surrounding plants. The practical reality is that including nitrogen fixing plants of various shapes and sizes amongst other productive plantings improves overall health, vigour and fertility,

Scarification - Preparing hard tree seeds for planting

Many trees have seeds with extremely hard coatings. This allows them to remain viable for a long time, waiting for a trigger such as fire or abrasion due to erosion to activate the growing stage. These seeds require some form of scarification to encourage germination.

This is typical of several leguminous, pod bearing tree species such as tagasaste, locust, laburnum, carob etc.

There are several ways to perform the scarification prior to planting the seeds.
Plant leaf deficiency indications

Plant leaf deficiency indications

Details   Identify common mineral deficiencies based on plant leaf colours.
Plants require a range of essential elements for optimal growth and health. If these are not be present in the soil or are depleted then the affected plants will develop visible symptoms and remediation may be required.

If in doubt give plants a regular feed of seaweed to boost a wide range of micro nutrients.
Finding the culprit

Finding the culprit

Details   A lime tree that had been performing well, several years in the ground and producing plenty of fruit quite suddenly turned yellow, dropped its leaves and died. I quickly ruled out any insect damage and wondered if it had been too wet or too dry. Also it happened to be planed in close proximity to where a sickly apricot had been when we arrived. Could it be something in the soil? Some time passed and I decided to prepare the site to plant something else. When I got the old root ball out of the ground I could see that it was a gnarled, tangled mess. I think I found the culprit, myself, poor planting practice and failing to carefully spread out the roots from a pot bound plant.
Date   October 06, 2021
Tags     citrus   
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