This is my annual video update of our forest garden. I’m calling it ‘Forest Gardens as a Hedge Against Drought’ for reasons I’m about to explain. Right across the road from our garden you can see the barren, dry rice fields that are normally under water and lush with rice this time of year. Now they’re brown with dying weeds. It’s so bad that many farmers aren’t even plowing and planting. This is the worst rainy season in 15 years and yet our garden is still very lush. It’s not growing as fast as when it rains because plentiful rain softens the subsoil so roots can grow more readily, but our forest garden is still a lush oasis as you can see in the video.

Barren rice fields across the road from our forest garden due to the recent drought.

Barren rice fields across the road from our forest garden due to the recent drought.

Multiply this simple forest gardening concept millions of times all over drought affected areas and you would see massive positive economic and environmental change. There would be food security, better health, more jobs and much less poverty. Everyone would benefit, not just a few. And instead of gradually depleting the soil until it’s trashed (which is the norm), you would continuously improve the soil until little or no fertilizer or watering is needed, just like a natural forest. It’s unconscionable how modern agriculture with energy intensive inputs, chemicals and mono cropping depletes the soil and pollutes the environment. It’s a crime against nature and humanity that has to be stopped.

YouTube
More videos about our forest garden and sustainable homestead on our YouTube channel. Compare how our garden looked two years ago to how it looks today! Very funny!


Comments

2 Year Forest Garden Update: Forest Gardens as a Hedge Against Drought — 17 Comments

  1. Mr. Geiger,

    I have been following your youtube channel on your garden. Very inspiring. This season I started my garden and we are going on some hot/no rain spell here in TX. But several of my plants are surviving and self identifying themselves to be Ok for the area. Anyhow, I am learning tons and can’t wait to apply it to my mini forest. You mentioned almost at the end of a video on forest farming in India that identifies the many plants they grow that you talked about it in previous posting…I looked and looked yet can’t find the reference, would you mind sharing that video name/link so that I too can enjoy it. And thank you for the great postings! B

    • Yes, I can answer a few basic questions for free to get you started. After that I charge $50/hour with pre-payment via paypal. My email is at the top of the page under About Us.

  2. Owen,

    Thanks for making this video!

    I have not taken on a forest garden endeavor yet, but I have spent time reading books that deal with the topic. My question for you pertains to the spacing of trees. Are you planning to thin the trees you have planted as they come into their mature stages? I was especially thinking about the mulberries that were fairly close together. Based on my reading, it seems that most people who start a forest garden don’t plan for fully grown trees, thus resulting in a fully closed canopy or amounts of competition that hinder tree development. That did not appear to be a problem for you after two years, but I am curious to know what your thoughts are about that as the system develops further.

    Again, thanks for posting the video. I am eager to see what things look like after year three!

    • I’m eager to see what it looks after 4-6 weeks in Nepal!

      We put our main fruit trees closer together than an orchard for several reasons. We planted in compacted, heavy clay soil that was as hard as adobe. The soil in the tree holes was a mix of the same heavy clay soil, rice hulls, manure, etc. It was not ideal. The beds were not built up to the desired height until two years later. That’s how long it took me to shovel on all the extra material. Numerous trees died from flooding/getting waterlogged. Obviously this system isn’t ideal and quite a few trees died. In our case the hearty local trees like bananas, mangoes, guava, papaya, jack fruit, etc. did fine for the most part, while quite a few of the delicate trees that prefer cooler temps and more rain died. Now that the forest garden has filled in and is better shaded, and the soil is much better, some of those trees might survive if replanted.

      No problem with the spacing on our mulberries. Our mistake was planting along the fence where the jungle growth out competed the trees. In situations like this you want to plant plenty of extra because many will likely die. The trees will get cut back each year to make harvesting easier. The base of the tree will develop multiple shoots where we cut them off. They grow like weeds with almost no care.

  3. This reply is for Matti from New Zealand,
    Might we visit your garden next time we come to NZ?
    Dave and Erika Collins from the US

  4. Nice update, Owen. And very promising! I’m planning something like this in the northern part of Thailand soon. What kind of vegetables do you grow?

    • We’re trying to grow almost everything that grows here except delicate plants that require special care or cool weather. Many will be planted this fall after the rainy season. Many will go in the new veggie bed where they can get extra light.

  5. Hi Owen
    Awesome forest garden. When you start your new demonstrate forest garden Id love to give you a hand now and then. i go to Thailand once a year or so.
    I started a forest garden here in temperate New Zealand about 7 years ago,on land that had been used for years growing mono crops. I planted a lot of blueberries/berries as an under story while the other trees grew. Within a couple of years I had enough blueberries/berries to feed the whole street. My little plot became an oasis in a sea of mono crops…forest gardening and food forests are the way to go! In about the three and four year it was seems to pop and there is food everywhere and its such a beautiful environment…thanks so much for your great video.

  6. It’s hard to believe that in only two years time, you have turned a virtual desert into a food jungle! I was going to ask you if you had planted any moringa, but you answered it in your video. Well done indeed! It’s been a pleasure watching your progress as you recorded it here in your blog. And a lot of hard work, I know.

    I’m tempted to send you a bunch of pecan seeds from my backyard, but although they produce a vigorous tap root, They tend to block out plants grown around them, other than grasses.

    • The moringa has taken off since this video. Most of the time it is dormant and almost dead looking. A few rains and it comes to life. Ahhh… I wish it rained more.

  7. Have you considered planting more citrus trees? I know they take a little longer to fruit than Papaya, but papaya trees normally don’t live as long as other fruit trees.

    • The shorter lived papayas are part of the long term plan. As they die out it will open up space for the larger mango, jack fruit, etc. Like I said in the video, forest gardens are dynamic/ever changing. You have to think years ahead and try to synchronize all the plants.

      More citrus trees. Maybe. There are a few gaps where trees have died and new trees could be planted. Local orange trees are heavily sprayed, so they may be hard to grow without special know how. We should have plenty of limes though!

  8. This is the first time our garden really started looking good. Sure, there are some unfinished projects like one whole bed that’s mostly weeds. But now it’s starting to look like a real food forest. A big step was getting the beds raised with 25+ dump truck loads of soil amendments. Until then we couldn’t finish planting under the trees.

  9. There is bad glare in my face the first few seconds. Sorry about that. That’s part of doing unscripted, unrehearsed videos. Over all, in my opinion this is by far the best forest garden video we’ve done. It provides a closer, more detailed look at the garden.

    Video update: This was filmed about one month ago. Since then we have had several good rains and things are greening up. In general though, it’s still a poor rainy season with about 1/3 normal rainfall. Also note, the photo above was taken the same day as the video. For some reason my videographer forgot to put the photo in the video.

    Update #2: We had a pretty good rain last night, which is great news. But I was very dismayed to find two large papaya trees had fallen over. One was huge (about 16′) with quite a few papayas. It may have broken a mango tree at the base. It was quite a chore getting them erect again by myself and some bamboo poles. A combination of wind, water logged soil and limited root penetration in poor subsoil make large, top heavy papaya trees vulnerable to toppling.

    Update #3 about one year later: The two big papaya trees that fell over both survived and went on to produce some of the best tasting fruit imaginable. Too bad many of the fruits fell off when the trees fell over. Oh well, that’s why you plant dozens of trees not just one or two.

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