Food Forest

Nonastringent Persimmon

I started working on my perennial food forest about eleven years ago. Gardening is my hobby, not my job, so those eleven years took time I might have used for other things. That time I chose to use in my garden created a solid foundation in feeding our family, outside of the grocery store.

Biscamp pear

I put my perennial trees in first and worked my way, down in size, to flowers. Because I was new to gardening in South Texas (we came from Colorado, a very different growing zone!) I relied on our county’s extension office recommendations. Unfortunately, there have been a few plants that I have had to replace over the years, but for the most part I have been very successful sticking with the extension’s picks and Texas A&M’s suggestions.

Day glow flame skimmer.

There have been a few years where my health got in the way of my forward momentum. I’ve had two pulmonary embolisms, Guillain Barre and other serious but random and bizarre things my body likes to throw at me. But, my obsession with gardening brought me back faster than I would have been able to, if I were not constantly outside tending my garden. In fact, I’m pretty sure my gardening habit has saved my life a few times.

Pomegranates, Parfianka

Because we live in a super hot, dry area: a lot of subtropical and tropical plants work here. My garden is full of low chill fruits like an antique Southern Pear (Biscamp), Pomegranates (Parfianka), Elderberries (American varieties), Mulberries (Dwarf Nigra), Figs (Brown Turkey and Celeste), Muscadine Grapes (Paulk), Non-astringent Persimmons (Fuyu) and even Bananas (Veinte Cohol and Gros Michel). I consider my garden a giant science experiment and I am happiest out there seeing what new theories I can test out.

My bananas in this bed have come back 3 years in a row and seem to really love our season and where I’ve placed them. I am in zone 8b. The shorter one in the middle of the bed is the Veinte Cohol and its supposed to fruit in 9 months.

The biggest expense I have in my garden is the city water that keeps everything going.

Spoiling straw. This is how to use straw safely in the garden without having wheat or barley sprout up everywhere. It takes about a week or two with the straw constantly wet. In that time, all of the seeds will sprout. Once they die, you have clean straw for mulch. Straw is my very favorite mulch.

I have four raised vegetable beds that are based on a combination of hugelkulter and lasagna gardening. Our land is a little over a quarter acre and I have plants tucked into every place I can fit them. We still have grass for our kids and dog, but there is a lot of amended soil (amended by me, over the years) surrounding the grassy areas and that’s where I grow my vining veggies and flowers.

Remesh panels (these are shorter and easier to transport than cattle panels) holding up canteloupe, watermelon and cucumbers.

The worst part of our year is our insane summers. Today our high was 105°F. I tried to work in the morning the other day. It was 86 degrees. We had a sprinkle of rain that day and it just made the air turn into a sauna. The “feel like” temperature after the light rain was 95. You just can’t win down here in this heat.

My heat mid July.

If we lost power for an extended period in the winter there are things we could do to survive that comfortably. If we lost power in our summers? Wow. I don’t know how we’d survive. However, if you are like me: covid supply chain issues were a wake up call about our stores of food and supplies. So, I now plant my garden for extra calories and I can things regularly. So, we can survive some random things better now. Like hurricanes. Those come through the south regularly and we would be ready for the type of situation that one of those could bring.

Persimmons I had to pull before hurricane Harvey. You can ripen persimmons on the counter, just like tomatoes.

I am always trialing something outside. This fall I’ve decided to build a mushroom bed. I’ve picked a spot in the yard that almost never dries out (as long as the sprinklers are working!) I’ll be waiting to see how that goes. I also have a 9 month fruiting banana. I’m about to switch his fertilizer to bone meal to force him to flower. I’m very hopeful. I have a mulberry nigra that is super happy in our heat. It is a replacement for the astringent persimmon that got sick and I had to cut that guy down.

My garden is also full of things most people don’t know are food. So if I get a nosy neighbor who wants to pull my veggies out for themselves, I will still have a lot of things that would be left behind.

Celeste fig

I am growing some Asian vegetables that do really well in our heat and that produce large amounts of fruits that can be canned. My trellises are full of vines like full sized watermelon, canteloupe, cucumbers, lima beans, green beans and cowpeas.

Watermelon and canteloupe vines.

Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is going to be ready to can when my oldest boy is doing marching band and JROTC. Those two things take an enormous amount of my time, since he isn’t driving yet. And my younger boy will be entering high school right when my older boy is leaving. So none of these crazy time consuming activities are going to stop any time soon.

Full sized watermelon in a sling on remesh trellises.

And lastly, I am running this whole crazy schedule with my husband working out of state. It’s been over two years now. I’m ready for my hubby to come home!

So, I have some canning recipes I’ll be posting soon, right before my busiest time on this blog: my Halloween tutorials. Crazy, crazy busy with no end in sight! But it’s a life I absolutely love. I’m so happy with all of the things that appear in my days. My garden, my kids, this blog and all of the wonderful people I get to share this with, and a bright future: for my life to remain full and satisfying. I’m a happy, happy girl. See you outside in the garden!

If you are interested in building a food forest: you are in the right place. See links below on how to start.

Pomegranate flowers.

Learn how to build a food forest with these 4 specific classes:

Beginner Gardener:

CLASS 1

CLASS 2

CLASS 3

CLASS 4

My angel’s harp wind-chime.

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