Winter Abundance in a Food Forest

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia nuts in Shell - This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already cracked

Aloha Friends,

 

Wintertime doesn’t stop the food forest from richly producing abundance! 

The great freedom of having a forest-style garden is how easy it is to get an abundant harvest!

Here’s a list of  the “work” we have done this winter:

Please note:  This “work” can also be thought of as fun, good exercise, an opportunity to enjoy being in nature, and an opportunity to create a healthy oasis for life!

Broadcast last summer’s seeds onto the forest floor before a rainstorm – easy!   Stroll through the garden with a bag of seeds in hand, sprinkling them onto the mulch as you go, then let the rain wash the seeds down through the  mulch where they will germinate when the weather warms up.

Prune the pecan and almond trees to keep them shorter so we can easily harvest from them next year –  top pruning takes about 1 hour per tree at most, and if you do it every winter, the tree begins to take the shape you want – we like umbrella shapes, so we prune off the branches that are growing up too tall for us to reach.   Here’s a link to our post about why we prune in winter:

How Winter pruning increases our harvests

 

Chip the pruned branches into mulch, which we spread on the forest floor – Easy with our new Patriot electric chipper

 Create a hugelkultur from the larger pruned branches. Easy – here’s a link showing how it’s done…

How and Why to create your own Hugelkultur from pruned branches!

A bit of mowing our pathways.

And a whole lot of harvesting!!!

Other than that, THE FOOD FOREST GROWS BY ITSELF – check it out…

ONIONS AND GARLIC

The delicious green garlic tops and onion tops are in season now.  The roots will survive a frost, especially when covered with mulch so the soil doesn’t freeze.

 

 

Onion and garlic plants look like tall grasses
Onion and garlic plants look like tall grasses – note the ground is covered by mulch

 

Garlic growing around the perimeter of a fruit tree - it gets sun in winter and improves the soil surrounding the tree.
Garlic growing around the perimeter of a fruit tree – it gets the sunshine in winter and improves the soil surrounding the tree.

 

A A A A single clove of garlic will multiply into a whole bulb of garlic in 1 year.

1 year old Garlic, harvested in late summer. These bulbs each grew from a single clove.
1-year-old Garlic, harvested in late summer. These bulbs each grew from a single clove.

 

This is the flower of the onion - it's a whole ball of individual flowers, and each flower has little black onion seeds inside of it
This is a flower from an onion that grew last .  It’s a ball of small individual flowers, and each flower has little black onion seeds inside of it.


 

Onion seeds that fell to the ground last summer are this year's new onions!
Onion seeds that fell to the ground last summer are this year’s new onions! They look like tall thin grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUGENIA CHERRIES

We enjoy eating these gorgeous purple cherries, seeds and all, either fresh from the bushy trees, added to oatmeal for breakfast, or dehydrated as snacks.  The turkeys love eating them too.  Every winter they produce abundantly – with no effort from us.

Eugenia Cherries are delicious and abundant in winter
Eugenia Cherries are delicious and abundant in winter

 

Use like cranberries in sauces or relishes or dry them for snacking. Delicious!
Use like cranberries in sauces or relishes or dry them for snacking. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aloha Farms food forest dried Eugenia Cherries, February 2017
Aloha Farms food forest dried Eugenia Cherries, February 2017

 

LEMONS, ORANGES, AND TANGERINES

These trees are worth planting if they grow in your area, because they produce useful delicious fruit for decades!  Plant them now and your grandchildren will thank you later 🙂

Aloha Farms Navel Orange Tree in February 2017
Navel Orange Tree in February 2017 You can tell by the trunk that this tree is very old, yet it still produces incredibly sweet and delicious oranges, year after year.
Aloha Farms food forest Lemon Tree in February 2017
Lemon Tree in February 2017 – This tree is over 40 years old – and it’s now healthier than it was 5 years ago!  Imagine, 40 years of lemons, in exchange for planting 1 lemon tree!!!

 

Aloha Farms food forest Tangerine Tree in February 2017
Tangerine Tree in February 2017  producing more heavily each year!
Aloha Farms food forest Valencia Orange Tree in February 2017
Valencia Orange Tree in February 2017 This is featured in our video (below) about increasing vigor in older fruit trees, and produces fruit year-round!!!

MACADAMIA NUTS

Each January, these trees produce a large crop, and smaller crops throughout the year.

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia nuts in Shell - This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already split
Macadamia nuts in Shell – This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already split.  These have been soaked in saltwater and dried.
Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia Nuts February 2017 - a small portion of our harvest this year
Macadamia Nuts Drying February 2017 – a small portion of our harvest this year.  (with and without their shells).
The Macadamia tree is forming flower tassels for the next crop, while we are still harvesting this winter's crop!
Macadamia tree is forming flower tassels for the next crop, while we are still harvesting this winter’s crop!  The abundance doesn’t stop in a food forest!

 

The macadamia tassels have just begun to show their form. Cute!
The macadamia tassels have just begun to show their form. Cute!

 

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia Tree in January 2017
Macadamia Tree in January 2017-  Healthier after a pruning and producing more than last year!

For more on Macadamia Nuts, please see our post from 2016:

How we process the Macadamia Harvests

GUAVAS

These tropical fruits grow safely here in a warm micro-climate at the edge of the oak tree.  

Aloha Farms food forest white guava tree in 2017 - with ripe guavas
White guava tree in 2017 – with ripe guavas

 

KALE

 

Aloha Farms food forest Kale in February 2017
Kale in February 2017 – There’s kale available year round

ARUGULA

Aloha Farms food forest Arugula in February 2017 - growing from last year's seed
Arugula in February 2017 – growing from last year’s seed. It spreads its own seeds,  growing with no effort from us other than harvest and prune. Last year, we made spicy mustard from the arugula seeds too!

LETTUCE

Aloha Farms food forest Romaine Lettuce growing from seed February 2017 - growing near Carrots, Clover and other Volunteers
Romaine Lettuce growing from seed February 2017 – growing near Carrots, Clover and other Volunteers

 

HERBS

Fennel, Parsley, Thyme, Mint, Sour Grass, Oregano, Stinging Nettle, Calendula and more can be found throughout the food forest.

 

Aloha Farms food forest Rosemary and Lavender - Some of the many herbs growing in February 2017
Rosemary and Lavender, Calendula and Nasturtium – Some of the many herbs growing in February 2017
Aloha Farms Food Forest Mint Growing in February 2017
Mint Growing in February 2017

 

 

Aloha Farms food forest Parsley growing from seed, February 2017
Parsley growing from seed, February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Fennels and Stinging Nettles growing from seed February 2017
Fennel and Stinging Nettles growing from last year’s seed – along with other volunteers – in February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Calendula and Lettuce growing along with other Volunteers in February 2017
Calendula and Lettuce growing along with other Volunteers in February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Chamomile growing in February 2017
Chamomile growing in February 2017

TOMATOES!

Aloha Farms food forest tomatoes still ripening in February 2017
Tomatoes still ripening in February 2017

Here are some things that are not quite ripe yet, but growing:

 

COFFEE

Aloha Farms food forest coffee ripening in February 2017
Aloha Farms food forest coffee ripening in February 2017

 

PASSION FRUIT

Aloha Farms food forest Passion Vine in February 2017 - here comes the fruit!
Aloha Farms food forest Passion Vine in February 2017 – here comes the fruit!

 

Even now in winter, the forest is lushly abundant with food for us and for the animals that make it their home – and it’s so easy – we just go out and pick what we want!!!

We hope you try growing a food forest of your own, and it brings you

Peace,  Abundance, and Aloha 🙂

Aloha Farms food forest Logo Roots Grow Fruits!
Roots Grow Fruits!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Hügelkultur Will Make Your Arid-Climate Garden Burst With New Life

Aloha Friends!

Hügelkultur is a German word meaning “hill culture”.  Simply put, it’s a way to speed up the decay of fallen branches, logs, twigs, canes, vines, or any other dead vegetation by covering it with soil.  Once its covered with soil, the diverse soil-dwelling life-forms feed from the vegetation as they decompose it, creating richer, moister soil as they feed. 

Hügelkultur is not a new concept!

For thousands of years, people worldwide have imitated nature by creating hügelkulturs.  Our modernized world nearly forgot about this process until recently, when world-famous permaculture experts Sepp Holzer, Paul Wheaton and Geoff Lawton brought the practice into the limelight and now promote it as a perfect practice for working in harmony with Earth.

 

Practicing hügelkultur achieves these results:

  1. Hide the garden’s unsightly “dead” vegetation
  2. Feed the soil-dwelling life-forms that help your garden flourish
  3. Enrich garden soil as vegetation decomposes
  4. Release moisture into the garden soil


Hügelkultur works in synergy with earth’s natural processes!

Hügelkultur happens all the time in nature.  When a forest tree falls to the ground, fungi, microbes and insects feed on it as they help to decompose the tree into rich humic soil.  It once was a tree, but it becomes part of the soil that feeds plants with rich nutrients.

Hügelkultur works all around the Earth!

Hügelkultur works in all environments – from snowy mountain tops to rain forests, to deserts. 

Since our climate is dry and we get very little rain, we have learned how to use hugelkultur to benefit our food forest, and here is what we’ve learned.

How to Optimize Hügelkultur for Arid-Climate Gardens

In dry climates, if you lay a pile of fallen vegetation on the ground uncovered – it will take years or decades to decompose. 

If you cover that same pile of vegetation with soil, and  it will decompose faster, but if it’s not completely covered, that will delay the process. 

For our first hügelkultur, we followed this diagram we found on Wikipedia. This method didn’t work too well for us in our dry climate, although it works well in moist climates.

 

We had a pile of branches sitting on top of the ground, so we dug up some soil from elsewhere in the garden and covered the pile with the soil.   We didn’t cover all of the vegetation completely, so some branches stuck out.  Over time, the soil settled down further, which exposed even more of the vegetation.  After a year or two, we covered the pile with more soil, but that pile ended up taking years to become a rich garden bed.  

Hugelkultur pile atop the soil - not buried
Hugelkultur pile atop the soil – not buried This pile took much longer to decompose than the hugelkulturs we buried completely in the ground.

Here’s how the unburied  pile looked a couple years later – in the lower left area of the picture – it still had not decomposed!

Hugelkultur - to bury or not to bury
In Arid Gardens, Burying the Hugelkultur completely speeds the decomposition process dramatically.

The next hügelkultur we made, we completely buried the spent vegetation into the ground, and found that the soil rapidly became fertile.  In the picture above, where you see pumpkin vine, potatoes, and corn – all growing vigorously – that’s the hügelkultur where we completely buried the vegetation, which rapidly decomposed and jump-started the soil with new life!

Here’s how the process works:

Rake any sheet mulch to the side to expose bare dirt. Set the mulch aside to use on top of the completed hügelkultur.

Hugelkultur Step 1 - Rake aside covering of mulch
Hugelkultur Step 1 – Rake aside covering of mulch to expose the soil

 

Dig your trench deep and long enough to hold the spent vegetation.

Hugelkultur Step 2 - Dig Trench Deep and Long Enough to Hold Vegetation
Hugelkultur Step 2 – Dig Trench Deep and Long Enough to Hold Vegetation

Beginning with the largest pieces, fill the trench with your fallen branches, twigs, canes, vines, leaves, manure, fruit and veggie peels.

Hugelkultur Step 3 - Add Large Branches
Hugelkultur Step 3 – Add Large Branches

Hugelkultur Step 4 - Fill the Hole with Smaller Pieces
Hugelkultur Step 4 – Fill the Hole with Smaller Pieces

Cover the vegetation back up with the soil you dug out of the trench.  Our chunky clay soil needs a soaking of hose-water to help settle it in.  Water the pile to help settle it, then cover the pile with mulch.  

Hugelkultur Step 5 - Using the Soil You Dug out of the Trench, Bury  the Vegetation and Cover the Soil with Mulch
Hugelkultur Step 5 – Using the Soil You Dug out of the Trench, Bury the Vegetation and Cover the Soil with Mulch

 

That’s it – you’ve completed the hügelkultur.  

We had great success planting garlic cloves on the mounds immediately, and in the following spring our seeds grew vigorously in their new home. 

Practicing Hügelkultur allows us to recycle our forest vegetation and enrich our soil with little expense or effort.

 

Top 10 Reasons to Practice Hügelkultur in an Arid-Climate Garden:

 1. The trench you place the material into will also serve as a water reservoir in times of rain, capturing water for the water table
2. Broken and trimmed branches and other forest material transform into humic garden soil
3. Provide food for the soil-dwelling creatures
4. Release moisture into the soil as it decomposes
5. Sequester carbon into the soil and reduce carbon in our atmosphere
6. Requires less work than chipping or shredding material – especially larger branches and logs
7. As a raised-bed substitute, it requires no wood frame structure.

8. Just bury the material once, and leave it alone – enjoy the results for years to come.
9. Increases soil health and nutrition in the form of humic soil, which helps plants thrive.
10. Burning your fallen vegetation may be dangerous and will cause the potential humus to go up in smoke and release carbon into the atmosphere. Hauling it away requires a truck burning fossil fuel to carry it somewhere else.   Burying it is free and helps planet Earth!

 

Do’s and Don’ts: Creating Hügelkulturs in Arid Climates

  • Do dig a hole deep and long enough to hold your material and to leave you with enough soil to cover it back up.
  • Do leave the soil you dig up next to the trench, so it will be close to the trench when you’re ready to back-fill.
  • Do cover the material completely with soil.   
  • Don’t leave any of the material sticking out of the soil, as it will wick away your moisture and lengthen the decomposing time.
  • Do include fruit & veggie peels, grass clippings, green weeds (no seeds), leaves and  a little sprinkling of manure (if available) for a nitrogen source.
  • Do be mindful of any seeds you may be adding to the pile in the form of weeds or spent flower heads. 
  • Do add only those seeds you want to see growing next season!
  • Do cover the soil mound with organic mulch such as leaves, straw, chipped material or compost.
  • Do water the mound to help settle it – unless you prepare the mound just before a rain!

Here’s a quick look at a Hügelkultur we created:

Look for an upcoming post on where to position a Hügelkultur to be most helpful to existing plants and trees.

Aloha to you!

Aloha Farms food forest Logo Roots Grow Fruits!
 Roots Grow Fruits!

Protect your Seedlings from Predators with Materials from your Garden

How we saved our pecan harvest from the crows this year – and you can too!

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecans Ripening

It started when we lost of most of our pecans to the crows last year.  Dozens of them landed in several tall pecan trees in our neighborhood, flapping, cawing and having a good-old time.   They ate from the top branches where most of the nuts were growing, and we could only watch because we couldn’t even reach the pecans.  We got hardly any of the nuts on the tree.

Here’s the good news – this year during their annual pecan-ripening feast, they’ve bypassed our tree and gone on to the taller trees in the area.

Here’s why they’re more interested in the neighbors trees instead.

We decided to trim the height of the tree so the pecans wouldn’t be too high to reach.

Here are some before and after pictures:

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree in 2014, before we trimmed off about 1/3 of the height.
The Pecan Tree in 2014, before we trimmed off about 1/3 of the height.

We waited until winter, when the tree was leafless and dormant. It took us less than an hour to trim 1/3 of the height.  We lopped off the vertically growing branches and kept the more horizontal branches.

It didn’t hurt the tree at all – in fact, the tree grew wider and fuller this year.    Now the nuts are at our level and we can get to them as soon as they begin to ripen, thus giving us a fair chance against the crows!  We will trim the tall vertical branches again each winter, because we are so pleased with the results.

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree grew fuller and wider after trimming and the fruits were in reach.
The tree grew fuller and wider and the fruits were in reach.

Here’s one more shot from another angle.  See how it’s a lot easier for humans to reach now?  The crows did get some pecans this year, but just wait, we’ll be on the ready next year…

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree - Healthier after Trimming 1/3 of Height
Pecan Tree – Healthier after Trimming 1/3 of Height

Here’s why we love our pecans:

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecans are delicious and good for you!
Pecans are delicious and good for you!
Aloha Farms Food Forest - These beautiful tassels are the pecan tree's flowers. This was in April 2014.
These beautiful tassels are the pecan tree’s flowers.

We keep the outer skin of the fruit for use as a hair dye.

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Fruit Husks Used for Hair Dye
Pecan Fruit Husks Used for Hair Dye

 

Pecan Fruit juice will stain your skin and hair dark brown
Pecan Fruit juice will stain your skin and hair dark brown

See how we use it for hair coloring, and other forest-friendly personal care ideas.

Thank you for reading the post and I hope it helps you if you have a problem with crows eating your fruit.

Aloha! 🙂