Monday, April 23, 2012

Fruits of a Food Forest

At the beginning of April, I visited Milkwood's Open Day on their farm out in Mudgee. A glorious whirlwind tour, speed-dating appropriate sustainable technologies including the  now classic rocket stove shower and oh so nearly completed earth bag building with gorgeous natural rendering. A couple of technologies were immediately standout useful for fruit and nut tree growers everywhere. First up a nifty greywater treatment specifically designed for fruit tree establishment.

On this farm work preparing the ground gets started long before before the tree is even planted in giant pits of woodchips, at least a meter square on the intended growing site. Greywater from their ample teaching shed is directed into these pits which over time collect nutrients rich enough to help a young fruit tree get a helping hand later planted in there.  It’s just one example of many small strategies that Nick, Kirsten and their growing team on this farm are making in the day to day practice that ultimately make a big difference to their lives and livelihoods. 

Nestled in a native forest themselves, they’re establishing a food forest filled with fruit trees and bushes along with lots of other herbs and native trees. In this way all the plants and creatures that live in this specially designed ecosystem have particular roles to play to keep it healthy with a minimum amount of work (hurrah) or expensive fertilizers (yay!) and instead all are working to support each other. 

And if you're thinking about planting an orchard sized property you'd save a heap of time using this fabulous seed ball maker to get those supportive species going. Dan Pascall Harris now works with this developing food forest, which contains a surprising number of nitrogen fixing wattles. The seeds are collected from local trees so they're better adapted to the local conditions here than ‘natives’ brought in from outside. Using these and other ideas of food forest design, in a few short years of its existence there is already a feeling of liveability in its interior, a sense that this little food forest has already begun project is own personality, and perhaps that is one outward sign of its resilience.

Tomorrow evening Permaculture Blue Mountains presents Nick Ritar from Milkwood Permaculture. Find out more about more about one farm’s experience of learning to live abundantly and respectfully within a native forest.

Creating Abundance in a Native Forest starts at 7:30 start Lawson Bowling Club.  

The Sustainability Talks are part of a series of talks films and workshops run by volunteers, talks are completely Free for PBM members, $5 for non members.

Milkwood Permaculture run inspirational and practical courses helping to create food forests using permaculture strategies, find them at

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We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)