Simply put, a food forest is exactly what it sounds like it should be, except that it doesn’t have to be planted in a forest. In fact, these gardens are so diverse that they can be planted anywhere, as long as there is a patch of land available. A food forest can also be described as a type of land management system or one of various different gardening techniques. In a food forest, the environment imitates the ecosystem of a forest, by replacing usual greenery with edible plants such as annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs.
On the lowest level of the food forest’s ecosystem is where the edible annuals, perennials, and shrubs reside. Trees are at and occupy the top-most level of the ecosystem in the food forest.
Food forests are typically designed to not only resemble the ecosystem of food forests, but to resemble the patterns that plants that would usually grow within a forest, such as which plants can be found growing near or next to each other. It has been described by experts as not necessarily gardening in a forest, although this can be an option, but gardening like a forest. These patterns have previously been described as being mutually beneficial for each plant. Occasionally, food forests will also include plants that mimic the effects that forest animals have on the ecosystem.
Examples of foods that can be grown in a food forest include, but are not limited to, vegetables, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and herbs. Each food forest is different. Many common products harvests by food forests include fuel, fibre, food, and fertilizer.
When designed carefully, a food forest planter can create a beautiful garden that yields a large amount of growth. Whether created by a professional or an amateur, if designed properly, a food forest can be mostly self-sustaining and maintaining.
What are polytunnels?
Polytunnels that you can refer to by other names such as poly house, hoop greenhouse, hoop house, or even hoping tunnel are tunnel made of polythene. The tunnels are semicircular in shape resembling the popular glass green houses. The tunnels are made in such a way that any warmth absorbed cannot escape from the tunnels enabling plants to grow with enough warmth and regulated amount of light.
The wall of the tunnels can be fitted with equipment’s to help regulate conditions such as temperature humidity and ventilation. Having you crops protected from hash conditions will guarantee you better quality of the produce and also increase of the harvest. This will in turn fetch high prices making you revenues override the costs. The polytunnels are therefore a good investment despite the cost that you may incur in purchasing them.
Uses of polytunnels
Polytunnels will mainly come in handy in temperate regions however they can be used practically almost everywhere. They are mainly used in organic farming of fruits and vegetables and also flowers. Their structure is in such a way that it provides higher temperature /humidity than that which is provided by normal temperatures. Polytunnels in most cases will be used in floriculture and nurseries as the returns are high hence making them worth to be grown in the polythene tunnels.
Types of polytunnels
Polytunnels have the same basic structure however there maybe variation depending on your farming needs. The main types are:
Regular polytunnels- this is a single span tunnel with opening at both ends. The tunnels have straight sides to ensure good working space. The cover is normally fixed by either trenching or fixing to abase trail. Their cost is relatively affordable and easy to maintain.
Solar tunnels-the tunnels usually come in a standard straight sides tunnel design the cover is not a single sheet as in regular models ,the tunnels ate usually covers by a double=layered mesh filmed with a green nylon mesh. This feature makes them more resistant to damage better insulation but light transmission is poorer
Panel houses- the panels are usually a hybrid between regular tunnels and green houses. The structures have a variety of polytunnels type frame to support plastic panels. The best types of plastic polytunnels are made of a dual wall with bubbles embedded between the layers giving a very strong covering. The major limitation however is the cost involved.
Self-build tunnels- self-build tunnels are simple structure which persons can build using a self-guide on the internet. Some of the materials that you may need are rigid plastic piping and lumber. The structure I anchored to the ground to make it firm. The limitation is that the plastic piping will become weak with time due to the effect of ultraviolet rays.
Advantages of polytunnels
Allows farmers to grow organic foods throughout the year even in times considered to be harsh for growth of plants such as fruits and crops.
Some of the high tech polymer have space heating systems as well as soil-heating systems to purify systems that allow soil purification of unwanted viruses bacteria and other living organismsThe polytunnela provide enough space to allow for the farmer o prepare bedding for his pants such as vegetable from the seed so as to ensure quality strains are produced.
Also allows the farming of crops that would otherwise not grow well outdoors, such plants include melons, cucumbers, okra, peppers, tomatoes, flowers and aubergins.
Polytunnels provide convenient working space during harsh weather conditions for example when it is raining, during winter and even harsh summers. Polytunnels are considerably cheap and affordable as compared to greenhouses made of glass. Some of the limitations of having to use polytunnels. Though polytunnels have advantages there are also shortcomings the come with having using polytunnels.
You have to ensure that there is a reliable water supply in the tunnels which can be easily regulated. Due to poor lighting in the tunnels fungi growth may be encouraged hence there is need for careful management to avoid such problems.
The doors need to be opened and closed regularly to allow for air movement which may call for most of your time. Polytunnels may serve for a period of time; however they may not last forever as light transmission decreases with age. Another disadvantage is that due to static the polytunnels are likely to catch a lot of dust making them unsightly
How to maintain your polytunnels
Polytunnels are normally large in size. Taking care of them will require dedication and a lot of hard work. However large your polytunnel is, it is always advisable to wash it inside out once in a year, this will ensure that the hoop house allows light penetration which dust will hnder.
The covers are likely to last for a maximum period of three to four years after which you need to replace them, however some of the latest versions of polythene sheets can last up to 10 years.
Another important aspect is in planning your tunnel .The crops in the tunnel should be well spaced to avoid overcrowding for maximum yield and better returns from your farming.
Overall a polytunnel can provide a lot of protected growing space for far less than traditional greenhouses at the expense of a shorter lifespan. An ideal stopgap whilst finances are short or, if you don’t mind replacing covers every few years, a long term option for large indoor growing.
The Food Forest
This is an amazing concept that I came across online, the best way of growing food I’ve found. It is, essentially using on contour ditches (swales) and ponds to hold rainwater on the land rather than allowing it to drain away immediately. This replenishes the water table on your own land and others below you. A good water table on your land is like money in the bank- really nice to have.
Once you have plenty of ground water you can plant all kinds of ground cover, fruit trees, vegetables and just about anything else that will eventually give you an abundance of food without the constant weeding and watering that conventional gardening requires.
I recently helped a friend, Mike dig a system of swales on his land using a towable digger like in the picture. This sort of digger is absolutely ideal for small holdings or self build projects. In the UK you can buy them secondhand for between £1000 -2000 (about $1200 to £2500). Compared to hiring expensive JCB machinery repeatedly it is an absolute bargain and it will run all day on less than a couple of gallons of fuel. Of course you could dig all this by hand but they ditches we dug in 2 days would have taken weeks of work by hand and my back certainly would not survive that.
His land consisted of 2 acres of south east facing gently sloping grass which made the design really easy. As it is in England south east facing means it has the most sun possible and is away from the prevailing winter wind. We dug the swales three feet deep and four feet across running along contour lines that my friend had previously laid out using an A frame and spirit level (total cost $15 or £12).
The spoil from the digging was laid on the down slope side of the ditch and then planted with several species of pioneer pants to prepare the soil for later plantings of apple and pear trees plus raspberry, gooseberry and other types of low maintenance fruit and legumes. The exact mix of plants will depend mostly on experience on the site. No matter what you think you can grow and what experts tell you will grow nature is the boss so reinforce success. If something doesn’t want to grow in a certain place it won’t, try something else. The idea is to make a self sustaining food forest that will provide food at minimum cost in effort which is very welcome if you’re getting as old (and grumpy) as Mike.
Since digging the swales the plentiful English summer rain has confirmed they work holding thousands of gallons of water onsite. Two new natural springs have started running and the early planting has progressed well. We have high hopes for the land and reckon that the next 3 or 4 years should dramatically change the look and productively giving a good surplus of food to either sell or distribute to Miles family.
To be honest I was very surprised at the ease of the project. For some careful thought, a few days work initially then regular inputs of planting and modifications you can drastically increase productivity on a relatively small underused field making a real food forest.