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Many Hands

What a great day!

Thank you to everybody who came along to take part in the Food Forest Plant-In.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a snapshot of what went on.

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Plant-In Preparation

We planted ten bare rooted fruit and nut trees today, including fig, mulberry, apricot, peach, nectarine, plum and almond.

The ground was extra soft because of all the rain we have had, making the holes easy to dig.

This is Richard and Heidi. We only found this ground at all because of Heidi. When we had the idea to plant a Food Forest, we had great difficulty finding some land. Heidi, a local resident heard we were looking and suggested we approach St Michael’s. The rest, as they say, is history. In the making. Thank you, Heidi!

After saying goodbye to Heidi and Richard we spent a few hours mulching the Forest floor, leaving a meter around the periphery bare so people know where to settle their plants during tomorrow’s Plant-In.

Just before lunch we went out to the Marrickville Community Nursery and picked up some Pigface, Whiteroot, Coastal Rosemary and native parsnip, which we are going to plant tomorrow in the Forest’s outer ring.

So people can identify what’s what, we then wrote each plant’s name on a small copper tag and hung it on the corresponding tree.

It’s rained nearly every day we have worked on the Forest. But this afternoon’s downpour was too heavy to work in, even for us Victorians. So it was tools down, and bottoms up at a hotel around the corner.

We will be on site tomorrow from 10am to 4pm come rain or shine. Come one and come all!

Companions for a Polyculture

We had an organisational day today, so we were a little drier than we were yesterday. People have been contacting us to ask what plants would be best to bring on Saturday to the community plant-in. So if you too are wondering, here are a few suggestions:

Herbs such as basil (attracts butterflies), chervil, fennel, oregano, spearmint, dill and coriander (all repel aphids), sage, borage and hyssop (all attract honeybees), caraway (helps strawberries and attracts parasitic wasps), thyme, wormwood.
Flowers such as yarrow and tansy (both attract beneficial predators such as ladybugs and beetles), nasturtiums and marigolds (general all-rounders for attracting predatory insects).
Strawberries, rhubarb, Chilean guava and anything else that will grow in a semi-shaded position on the south-side of the garden. We are also requiring a few small hollow logs for lizards to inhabit.

As you can see below, the two internal zones (citrus, Cadigal and guava middle) and the upper canopy (large deciduous for winter light) are nearly complete, while the outer zone, the green pharmacy, will constitute the community ‘plant-in’ area.

The Forest for the Trees

There was much activity on the corner of Albion and Flinders Streets today. Apart from all the rain and cloud action, we had trees and visitors aplenty.

Yesterday it seemed like an achievement to get two trees in the ground, today we planted considerably more, albeit somewhat smaller.

Here is one very special gardener with a very special delivery: olives, lemon verbena, rosemary, riberry and pecan.

And dianella and lomandra longifolia, the latter whose leaves contain a fibre that can be used in basket-making, weaving and to make string. Their flowers can be eaten raw, or dried and ground to make a flour for dense cakes.

We also planted a variety of citrus: grapefruit, mandarin, lime, lemon, orange and kumquat.

We also planted feijoas, coastal rosemary, lilly pilly, Brazilian guava, Hawaiian guava, avocados, lemon grass, loquat and cherimoya, which Mark Twain described as, “the most delicious fruit known.”

With all the rain and planting the ground was getting pretty muddy, so we barrowed some mulch to make a path.

Then we cut down some trees and whittled them into stakes. Ha ha, not likely, although maybe one day the Forest will be abundant enough.

We fastened some hessian tree-tie to them, to support and guard each plant.

Just as the rain cleared, St Michael’s Rev Francis Chalwell (right) came to say hello and introduce Bishop Alan Stewart.

And then a little later, Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, Sustainable Cities portfolio, (right) and Tony Hickey, Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Sydney, (middle), came to see the Forest.

Dignitaries abounded, but the really very special guest was a visit by a beautiful native minor bird who danced around the oranges and had us entranced.

As well as updating this blog with the Forest activity, we have been documenting the progress on digital film, which we will edit into a short piece a little later on. Watch this space.

The First Trees

We had another early start today. It was cold, so we all hooked in to the task of weeding, breaking up the clay, and preparing the ground for the first trees to be planted.

This is our friend Josh, who travelled up to Sydney to work with us on the Forest. Not only are you a gun with a shovel, Josh, but you’re a great person to be around.

This project may be credited to the Artist as Family, but there’s no way we could do this without the help we have received from people such as Josh, Anna at the MCA, Rachel, whose lodgings we crash out in each night, our friends back home who have been ringing and emailing their support, and people we meet on a daily basis such as Owen.

This is Owen. Our two main trees arrived on the back of his truck this morning.

Here comes the Spanish Chestnut. At 5 meters in height, she makes a very grand entrance and is carefully steered into her place at the head of the Forest.

Next up comes the Indian Horse Chestnut, generously donated by Michael Pfhal at Treekeepers Nursery, Bowral, NSW, who also grew the Spanish.

In an attempt to prevent the untiring couch grass from taking over the forest floor, we have weeded out every last skerrick of root and leaf, and today, laid black plastic in a trench around the periphery of the Forest as a barrier.

The couch grass may be indefatigable, but we mere mortals are not.

Sleep well chestnuts! See you on site in the morning.