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Establishing a Food Forest - The long road to self sufficiency

Post 1 – Description of our site. Mel and I have moved into a new house and are keen to develop a food forest. We have a blank canvas to work with so there is scope to grow a variety of subtropical plants. However, our land (except for the area around the house) is clad with beautiful regenerating native bush so we are going to aim for intensive planting where there is space to do so and companion planting under the existing bush cover - with some selective clearing to make room. The bush consists predominantly of Rimu, Manuka, Kanuka, Totara, Tanekaha, Horoeka Lancewood and scattered Kahikatea. We also have two Kauri, one about 8 meters high the other about 4.

I have also planted numerous Puriri and Kowhai which are doing well. Of all the trees, the Rimu are the largest and are pushing through the bush canopy with conical crowns that frame our view. The under-story consist of various grasses and sedges as well as ferns, Nikau and stunted gorse that is being choked out by the taller bush cover – except where the ground has been cleared, there it is reappearing with Manuka seedlings, vigorous and roughly six inches high.

Our property is on the northern face of the Brynderwyn Hills. It's a spur leading off from a bend in the road with a gradual fall to the north. On three sides are steep bushy gullies that even after this long dry period still seep water that trickles over exposed rock and collects in dark pools where Koura can be found. There are large Totara, Puriri and Nikaus in the gullies and quite a bit of supplejack. For thousands of years our land would have been covered in forest, most likely Kauri but would have been first milled then cleared for farming (except for the gullies) some time in the past one hundred or so years. It was left to regenerate some time in the 1980's probably due to the lands susceptibility to erosion and reduced soil fertility. The engineer doing the site investigation had a pretty fancy description of the geology but I'd call it clay over brown rock with a thin layer of top soil.

Not the best ground for subtropicals, but not the worst either, and clay does retain moisture better than some soils. We do not get frosts and we are pretty sheltered from most winds.

Unfortunately this drought is having a negative impact on the bush and a number of smaller Tanekaha and Horoeka Lancewood, and some larger ferns have already or are in the process of dying.

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