After a little over three years I’m very happy to say our tropical forest garden is finished. The hard work of raising the garden beds 12” with about 60 dump truck loads of amendments is done. The trees are well established and many are starting to produce fruit. Many smaller plants such as pineapple, taro, vegetables and herbs are thriving. The beds are mulched with straw. The soil is rapidly improving by evidence of worm mounds (worm castings) popping up everywhere. The greenhouse is finished. Extra planters and CEB beds have been added to fill in extra space and increase plant diversity. Our first large batch of homemade compost turned out great. Eight wire mesh cages are full of leaves to make leaf mold compost. And, a special ‘wild area’ has been created along the drainage ditch for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife to honor and show thanks to Nature.

So has the garden been worth all this hard work? Definitely! It’s already producing some of the best food I’ve ever tasted such as top notch organic bananas, papayas, marian plums, pineapples, sugar apples and sapodillas (Mmm). Nothing can compare to tree ripened organic fruit.

Future work will involve a gradual process of upgrading the garden by adding a wider variety of plants — primarily more small plants, making more compost and adding more organic matter to the garden every year, ramping up production in the greenhouse (primarily microgreens), pruning the fruit trees, keeping the garden mulched, and adding a thick layer of ramial wood chips to the garden beds if at all possible. So far we have not found any wood chips for sale in our area.

Big changes are on the way since we just bought new land adjoining this homestead. The fencing and other work is already in progress. Stay tuned for updates.

You can see the yearly progress of our forest garden on our Sustainable Homesteading channel as well as seeing how we built our recycled wood house.
Here’s the direct link to see what our garden looked like right after planting three years ago. I go back and watch these old videos occasionally and it’s incredible to see how quickly the land has been transformed.


Comments

Our Forest Garden is Finished! — 16 Comments

  1. Hi Owen,
    My wife and I are building a 120sqm stilted house from reclaimed teak on one 40x40sqm (one rai)lot near the Pathum Thani/Nakhon Nayok border. We have six chickens and will add another six later with some land devoted to a chicken tractor. We have filled the land around the house’s 19x12m foundation area with “black” earth, about 20 truck loads to raise the land about half a meter. The plot sits just above the elevation of a paved road to one side and we have a fish pond about 4 meters wide the runs about 40 meters on one side of the rai. We’d like to have a garden on just over half of our rai of land. Could a forest garden be grown on that much land? If so, what suggestions would you make? Our idea is to grow as much of our own produce ourselves on the land and the Forest Garden is a lovely idea. Is it feasible?

    • I think you could have success with very small forest gardens starting with a “one guild” system — one large fruit tree surrounded by the other 6 layers. Scale that up as many times as you want. At the same time though I think forest gardens get stronger the larger they get. For instance, many of the plants on the perimeter of our forest garden are not as healthy, large and strong as those toward the center. The perimeter plants struggle from excessive heat and sun exposure.

  2. Owen, did you make the concrete water reservoir or Is it commercially made ? We’re building a concrete water collection pond and wondering what’s the most ecological way to seal it

    • The red container with lilies? We bought it. Or maybe you’re talking about the big water jars that are shoulder height. We bought those too.

      There’s an excellent website about water collection techniques used in India. It’s probably referenced on this blog. If not just search online for something like rain water collection India and you should find it. It covers lots of low cost methods including in ground tanks and above ground tanks. I don’t think they seal the concrete. There are additives you can buy and mix with concrete if you want. There are also swimming pool cements.

      • Thank you. We were thinking about Thoroseal but not sure if it’s toxic or not. The point is to have “live water” so if the sealant leaks toxins it makes no sense… I’ve researched ponds and everybody recommends to seal it to extend life of concrete, and I see here 10-year-old concrete structures that are not sealed and in miserable condition, mind it’ll be exposed to water pretty much all the time, so I will most probably do seal it, just want to find the least of evil..

  3. The change since you first started is amazing. The compost looks to be perfect – just right ! We could see the worms IN the compost ! This has given us so many clues and ideas – a cement vessel for collecting rain water in, and a smaller version for wildlife… Vines climbing OVER the mesh greenhouse… The plants and trees look so healthy too ! There is so much inspiration from this “tour” – we look forward to further updates ! Thank you !

    • Thanks for the encouragement. One funny story — I’d been wondering where our cats drink. Yesterday I saw one drink from our ‘wildlife lily pool’ and had to laugh. Yep, she’s wildlife.

    • Thailand. I’m in one of the poor, dry, minimally developed areas. Just imagine how fast the garden would grow in rainy areas with good soil. It’s mind boggling if you think about it. Our trees are struggling through miserable compacted clay soil. Many died. Some are stunted. But the ones that lived are busting up the clay (along with the mycorrhizal fungi that grows on roots) and in a few years I think the soil will be greatly improved.

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