I have been building a food forest for the last 11 years. I love finding plants that will both flourish in South Texas and feed my family. I have a lot of plants on my quarter acre, suburban lot and I am a big researcher. I find out everything I can about each of the successes I have out there.
When I was growing up we moved every couple of years for my dad’s job. My mom was always planting huge flower gardens (she gave up on fruits and vegetables because we always traveled to see family in the summer, right when everything was ready to harvest.) She started keeping track of everything in the yard, in a binder. She left it on the counter for whoever the potential buyers were at the time. It was a big selling point. And she always left the binder for whomever bought the house.
I have made it a point NOT to move for my husband’s job. It’s been hard, but my kids aren’t picking up and starting over every couple of years like I did. But, just like my mom, I too have a binder with the plants in my yard in it. I don’t expect to need to show it to a buyer anytime soon, but because of the variety of fruiting plants that I have, I like to have notes that are easily accessible. This is a treasure trove of information that I can dip into if something starts to go wrong or if I just want to remind myself about the needs of the trees and bushes out back.
I really suggest starting a binder, for a living science experiment, like a garden. There will be things that are specific, not only to your local climate but the microclimates found within your property. I am big on organizing, mainly out of necessity. I put planting and harvest times in my phone’s calendar and I organize my seed in big binders with heavy duty seed packet sized photo holders. If I don’t keep on top of things: it can severely affect my yearly harvest.
This is how I set up my binder:
A one to three inch, three ring binder, with pockets
Set of dividers
Marker or paint pen
Access to a printer and the internet
Begin by deciding how you want to organize your binder. I have mine organized by plant type: vegetable plant dates in the front, then fruit by size and growth pattern. My main tabs are: Berries, Vines, Bushes, Trees, Tropical, and Diseases and Pests
In the back folder I have a list of preferred plants put out by Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office. These are proven producers down here and I usually adhere to their recommendations.
In the front, inside folder I have receipts for whatever I’ve ordered for the year. I’ll add the growing information once I get some time to sit down and organize before spring.
Within the dividers I have generalized growing needs for the types of fruit I’m growing. For instance: pears, persimmons, cherry, apple and plum. I pull this information from my county extension office and print it out so that I have a hard copy of the information.
Behind the generalized growing information I will put the varieties of the plants that I have out back. For instance I have a Biscamp pear (which doesn’t have a lot of info online, even 11 years after I planted mine), a fuyu non astringent persimmon or the two low chill cherries I’m trialing: Royal Lee and Minnie Royal, etc.
All of this printed information makes any research I’ve forgotten, easy to access again. I usually find a .pdf of the type of fruit, to print. I don’t usually trust a nursery’s information. I’d rather get something from a university or extension office.
I’m putting what I’ve ordered in a new type of pot that I’ve invented. I’ll put up how I build them in a bit. My motto for my backyard garden is: the best type of plant for my region at the cheapest price I can grow it. I don’t have a huge budget for my backyard so I research all sorts of ways to save money. My most expensive addition is the city water we’re on. So finding smart ways to save water is big on my list.
Trees can take several years of growing before you see any fruit. And you have to baby young plants. Some of the things to remind yourself about is initial pruning and shaping and sunscald on new plants. I have found white washing the trunks can be more beneficial than just stopping sunscald. On my white washed trees: I do not have a problem with borers. My assumption is that the moths that lay the eggs don’t recognize the painted surface as a viable plant and they go elsewhere. I also have a spray schedule I stick to and I believe this year I will try kaolin clay spray. I’m hoping this helps with our intense sunlight and disease but also, like the painted trunk, confuses pests and leaves more for me to harvest.
This binder is my main recommendation for staying on top of a Food Forest. If you keep track of your plants differently, let me know your system below.
See you out in the garden! Crazy Green Thumbs