One of Bill’s final requests was for us to plant trees in his memory. So we decided to plant a new food forest for Bill.
During the November Permaculture Design Course 2016 our class went on an excursion to Daleys Nursery in Kyogle to buy some trees for the new Bill Mollison Memorial Food Forest Garden at Djanbung Gardens, which is an extension of our Sub-tropical food forest, planted by Robyn Francis, Peter Hardwick, myself and others back in 1997. While we had some plants in our own nursery here at Djanbung, there were numerous other varieties we could source from Daleys. Paul Daley took the class around the nursery explaining the different processes and systems there, and we selected a lovely range of mostly grafted fruit trees to take home for planting.
During the Food Forest session, we looked at the different plants which Robyn had bought for the garden. We discussed their root depth, sunlight requirements and pollination requirements. We were interested in creating pathways through the orchard, so that we wouldn’t be walking everywhere and compacting the soil. There were some groundcover plants and pigeon pea already in our nursery, so we chose Pigeon Pea, turmeric, comfrey and Plectranthus as interplants for the orchard. Pigeon pea is a great legume shrub, which doesn’t become weedy in our region, provides Nitrogen for the soil when it is cut back and if you are lucky enough to beat the parrots, it can provide an abundance of seed for making dhal. It is a traditional staple crop for dhal in India. Plectranthus is a native groundcover which grows wild in the nearby sclerophyll forests, and is very handy for attracting hoverflies and beneficial insects into the orchard. The turmeric is a very useful medicinal and culinary plant, and also makes a great yellow dye
The main framework of the orchard is the fruit trees. In November, after our first summer showers, the ground was soft enough to dig. With the permaculture class, we prepared the holes and added some compost, gypsum, blood and bone and an all-purpose 5 in 1 style of animal manure pellets. We planted Carambola Kembangan, also known as Starfruit, near to the path. It is a very ornamental tree, and the variety Kembangan is said to have a rich sweet flavour. We already have 2 or 3 other Carambolas nearby, so if it needs cross-pollination they are available.
Nearby, the Acerola Cherry Malphigia emarginata was planted. Acerola is sometimes confused with the Brazilian cherry, Eugenia uniflora. The acerola is a most decorative tree with the pink flowered variety bearing the most delicious fruit. The third type of small tree which we planted is the Jaboticaba. We have planted 2 varieties, the Yellow Jaboticaba and the variety Sabara. The Jaboticaba fruits along its trunk. The term for this type of fruiting is cauliflorous. The bark itself is very decorative, looking something like the old-fashioned crepe myrtle trees we used to grow in the backyard in the 1960’s. Jaboticaba is a very slow growing plant, so a grafted specimen will fruit much earlier than one grown from seed. The seeds are polyembryonic, so will often be true to type. I found the seedling Jaboticabas took 15 years to fruit. Frequent applications of compost can help them along much more quickly.
The smaller trees above, plus a pawpaw (Papaya) surround a Jackfruit tree. This will be the canopy tree in this part of the food forest. It also fruits along its trunk, so although it is to the south of an established Rainforest tree, the Foambark tree, it should still be expected to produce fruit. Cauliflory often indicates a tolerance to partial shade.
Emerging from the canopy of the sub-tropical food forest will be the two Bangalow palms. These are abundant locally, and are excellent for making traditional water-carriers and other beautiful handcrafted baskets. As long term nitrogen suppliers, we have also interplanted leguminous trees, Robinia and the Leopard Tree.
Bill Mollison often stated that all food producing systems should be floristic systems, they need flowering plants to provide forage for pollinators when the fruit trees aren’t flowering. Thus we interplanted some native flowering Bottlebrush shrubs and Hybiscus.
The wallabies took a fancy to munching on the Jackfruit leaves so we had to put tree guards around them. We did a follow-up planting of several more flowering natives and on the northern edge of the food forest planted a Bowen Mango. Mango trees need lots of sun, they flower on the edge of their canopy, so we located it where it receives good sun especially during winter and can enjoy the afternoon sun year-round.
by Janelle Schafer
Janelle Schafer is passionate about trees and forest gardening. She teaches the Orchard and Food Forest session of PDCs at Djanbung Gardens and conducts specialist workshop on Forest Gardening for subtropical, tropical and temperate climates.