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Planting the Seeds of Sustainability: Creating Our Food Forest Oasis

1.5 years ago, we set foot on Gran Canaria with a dream that’s turned into a mission. Our goal? To transform our conventional farm into an ecological wonderland, complete with a thriving food forest. This venture isn’t just about us; it’s our way of living sustainably, treading lightly on the Earth, and showcasing how farming can be a force for biodiversity and reforestation in this semi-barren mountain landscape.

Table of Contents

PREPARING

Getting the lay of the land

Unveiling the Landscape

Our exciting journey began with an in-depth exploration of the land. We asked questions, took notes, and gained a comprehensive understanding of the lay of our farm. Where did the shadows fall? How did rainwater flow and pool? Armed with these insights, we could make informed choices about where to create our food forest.

winfred exploring the land
Winfred exploring the land
reading a book
Studing plants with a book

The Art of Plant Selection

We harnessed our gathered knowledge to assemble a collection of plant species tailor-made for this island paradise. Our database brimmed with trees, shrubs, herbs, and blossoms, all poised to play a part in our food forest masterpiece. Each plant was meticulously chosen based on its unique characteristics, dimensions, fertility, harvestable products, and ecological contributions, be it nitrogen fixation, pollinator attraction, or pest deterrence. We were vigilant to ensure none of our selections appeared on the island’s “black list” of invasive species, ensuring the harmony of our forest.

Mapping Our Vision

Equipped with our accumulated observations and the expansive list of plant species, we dove into the design phase. We imported our farm’s map and a satellite image from Google Maps into a computer program called QGIS, crafting a visual representation of our dream. The farm was divided into distinct zones, from solar panels to pine and food forests, a vegetable garden, and a recreation area. Every tree, shrub, and herb was strategically placed on this digital canvas. We invested weeks refining the design, transforming it into a plan we were genuinely excited to put into action.

Navigating Island Plant Acquisitions

With our blueprint in hand, we ventured out to acquire the necessary plants. However, we quickly discovered that many of our selections were not readily available on the island. The local market predominantly catered to standard choices. In the end, we secured roughly half of the plant species we had in mind, forcing us to adapt our design. Some plants were impossible to obtain, while others could be sown ourselves, albeit more slowly, bring our vision to life.

Using QGIS to design planting zones
Using QGIS to determine what to plant
Planting schemes become very detailed
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PLANTING

Setting Down Roots

We eagerly awaited the arrival of our first shipment of plants, a month-long wait that finally culminated with the arrival of all the greenery we’d been yearning for. Our journey was about to take a monumental step forward.
tree delivery
Our first trees delivered
Measering pinus canariensis
Winfred measuring the growth of this year. From 10 to 85 centimeters!
PINE TREES

Restoring Canarian Identity

Our first task was planting 30 Pinus Canariensis, the indigenous pine of the Canary Islands. But we prefer calling them by the local name Pino. These trees have evolved to capture water from passing clouds. Once covering the island’s mountains, they were heavily logged by early Spanish settlers for their rum distilleries. The reforestation of these pines on our farm aims to not only contribute to the island’s revival but also provide us with a unique water source.

NUT TREES

The Patient Stalwarts

Nuts might take their time, but they are lifelong companions. These trees grow steadily, are long-lasting, and some will reach gigantic proportions. However, their nuts don’t appear in a hurry. Almonds, for instance, take a minimum of 6 years before they bear nuts. Compared to chestnuts (10-15 years) and walnuts (over 15 years), almonds are the sprinters. We planted them now to expedite the establishment of our food forest.

flowering almond tree
Winfred inspecting a flowering 15 year old almond tree.
kumquat
Sjef tasting a Kumquat
FRUIT TREES

A Quicker Reward

Fruit trees are the overachievers in this story. Most will bear fruit in their very first year, with a few eager ones making attempts the very year they are planted. Although not advisable for their growth, we removed the first fruits to nurture their development. Our orchard is a splendid mix of the usual suspects like apples, cherries, apricots, and lemons, as well as delightful additions such as mulberries, mangos, avocados, and pomegranates. The day we can pick their fruits is drawing closer.

SHRUBS

Nature's Blanket and Berry Buffet

Shrubs play a vital role, shielding the soil from the sun’s scorching rays and offering a safe haven for the island’s feathered residents. Birds not only bring a sense of liveliness but are also key allies in pest control. Besides, many of these shrubs will treat us to scrumptious berries. Silverberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries have all found a home on our land. As the winter rains descend, they will spring into vigorous growth.

myrtle
Myrtle berries waiting to be eaten by birds.
basil
Growing our own basil
HERBS

Aromatic Allies

Herbs are the secret heroes, attracting pollinators to our farm and serving as flavourful additions to our culinary adventures. Our future plans include crafting and selling jams and chutneys when our fruit trees reach full productivity. Therefore, we’ve sown an abundance of herbs. Unfortunately, we also had some unwelcome guests in the form of rabbit marauders. They nibbled on various herbs during the summer, even those considered toxic to them. I’ll delve into our rabbit tales when I share more about our farming approach.

Planting for the Future

Our work is far from over. We’re already nurturing young trees, preparing them for planting this winter. The hunt for new trees to enrich our blossoming food forest continues. After all, 250 plants are only the tip of the iceberg. Over the coming years, our goal is to fill every nook and cranny with trees, shrubs, and herbs, creating a mature and flourishing food forest oasis. And we hope to plant those trees with family, friends and visitors.

Planting trees with our friends, Maria, Carmen and Pedro

Gratitude to Our Supporters

None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of our donors. Over the past 1.5 years, 29 incredible individuals have generously donated a total of 90 trees for our forest. To our dedicated supporters, we extend our heartfelt thanks for being instrumental in this grand venture. And in due time, those who opted for it, will see their name besides a beautiful tree!

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