Not every landscape “wants” to be a forest. Although forest gardens are a staple in the planning diets of many permaculture enthusiasts, there are (or were) lots of other complex, balanced ecosystems. For example, there are savannahs, based around perennial grasslands and large herds of grazing animals, as well as shrub and wetland ecosystems. Forest gardening is actually a slightly controversial topic in sustainability/ regenerative agriculture/permaculture circles because so many people simply pick it up as a default without looking at what works best for their location.
It’s important, I think, to keep that in mind and to challenge your biases when designing a system. Observation is key – as in so many things. Look at the natural wild or re-growth areas near your site to see what the landscape “wants” to be – is it forest? Woodland? Shrubs and dune vegetation? Savannah?
Chittering (where we are), when left to itself, becomes a shrubby, fairly open woodland, with a dispersed canopy layer. It has the potential to become forest, but the native sclerophyll (drought-tolerant, fire-loving) vegetation doesn’t lean easily that way. We have the great good fortune of having half the property vegetated with re-growth bushland, what looks like about 20 years worth, so we can see what our exact site “wants” to be. Our site plan is based on that: a fairly open savannah-woodland, with “clearings” (sparser woodland, still with shade cover in summer) for grazing animals, and denser, more forestlike areas as well.
Of course the species we’re selecting are based on our needs and wants, rather than simply being whatever evolved in the area and survived the European settlement. I do want to grow some native plants, but most of the useful Australian natives I’ve researched are from the East coast. We have a few species of wattles in already, and I plan to plant sandalwood, quandong, and a few lilly pilly varieties, as well as macadamias. But the next round of planting, to get some tree cover across the open area which will be orchard and paddocks, is mostly poplar, mulberry, carob and honey locust – because they’re are tough, well adapted to the local climate, reasonably fast growing, and edible to livestock. Mulberries and carobs have the additional benefit of producing edible fruit and seed pods respectively, too.
I also have several loquat seedlings (or possibly guava – they look like loquat, but the friend-of-a-friend who gave them to us claims they were growing under his guava tree, self-seeded). And we’ll be ordering some assorted trees from the Ballingup Small Tree Farm, to supplement the ones we’ve grown form seed and/or cuttings and/or been gifted as seedlings.
Further to this whole planting plan, getting some tree cover on, we’re planning a planting day at the beginning of May. Last time we had a planting day it was just the two of us, and we managed to put 70 saplings into the ground – so this time I thought we’d invite people up for a permablitz, to help plant trees. Lots of digging, but it’s pretty straight-forward and very satisfying. I put a Facebook event up, so do RSVP and come along. 🙂
If enough people come, and are interested, we may do a seed-ball creation run with The Machine.