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building a food forest
We are growing a food forest on a somewhat barren mountain top on Gran Canaria. We want to create a dynamic, sustainable and ecological food production system that contributes to the biodiversity on the island. Avoiding conventional agriculture, we will use local natural resources with respect.
Through reforestation, we shall return our mountain top to its natural state. Centuries ago it was overgrown by local Canary pines. We are replanting at least 40 of them in 2022. At the same time we will return water to the land, plant fruit, nut and pod trees, shrubs, herbs and much more.
This way we will be nurturing the young forest until it is old enough to guide us.
what does it all mean?
5 influential plants
Canary island pine
The Pinus canariensis is an extraordinary tree. It is able to extract valuable water from clouds and fog passing by its leaves. The water is released into the soil to feed plants downhill. And it is extremely resistant against forest fires.
Comfreys, Symphytum spp. are great accumulators of minerals and nutrients, especially potassium. Its deep taproot searches for these minerals and nutrients, absorbing them and storing them in the leaves. The leaves then make for excellent mulch and natural fertilizer.
A very sturdy and resillient plant. Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, is a real pioneer. It easily settles in open sites and grows quickly. It also fixes nitrogen from the air, making this essential nutrient for plants available for its neighbours.
Anathum graveolens is great at attracting beneficial insects. Planted throughout the food forest, it provides easy nectar for lacewings, ladybugs and other predators. Making sure that they can hunt for aphids and the like with enough energy.
A beautiful, flavourful, indigenous fruit tree. Arbutus canariensis is an important fruit tree for butterflies and birds. The fruit can be eaten raw, or easily made into a jam. It is also used to make a natural sweet liqueur.
The 7 layers of the food forest
- Canopy layer: Large nut, pod and fruit trees. And of course the Canary Pine
- Understory layer: Small fruit and pod trees
- Shrub layer: Berries, Large woody herbs
- Herbaceous layer: Comfreys, Fruit & Vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes and peppers
- Root layer: Vegetables like beet, carrot and parsnip
- Ground layer: Crawling plants that cover the ground like strawberries, periwinkles and clovers.
- Climber layer: Vertically growing plants such as passionflower, wisteria and the hyacinth bean.