Just for a comparison, here’s a photo of the other part of the land, taken at the same time as the one above, where we have not yet planted a food forest or have been implementing permaculture.
So back to the food forest..
How did we get from that bare sparse piece of land to a lush nearly jungle in just two and a half years? We called in a few superhero species to help us.
Enter Leucaena leucecephala, the leguminous pioneer whose bacteria fix Nitrogen to save the soil!
These we, right at the beginning of rainy season, cut back as ‘chop and drop’ to begin the build-up of nitrogen-rich organic matter to kick-start our forest floor. Their woody stems will also promote fungal growth – the foundation of any healthy forest soil system.
These nitrogen-fixers can also be called the ‘support species’ when kick-starting a food forest ecosystem.
When we chop and drop the support species down and lay them as mulch on the ground, they will decompose into topsoil, that like compost, fertilizes the productive plants, such as the custard apple in the photo above. They also cover the soil preventing erosion and helping water retention in the soil. So these support species stop our productive species from going hungry or thirsty!
In addition, we added old leaf roofing, clothing, mattresses and other organic matter as ‘sheet-mulch,’ a quick way to build up soil and simultaneously prevent weeds by preventing weeds’ seeds exposure to sunlight.
The sheet-mulch, including the organic matter from our chop and drop support species, will quickly create the topsoil that would many years to build up in a natural system. Human activities can actually catalyze the natural processes of regeneration!