Starting a Tiny Food Forest in South Florida

It’s been a while since my last post. When I started blogging again, I intended on creating one post a week as a way to document my life, growth, and creativity. It seemed easy enough but, as I dug deeper into the world of gardening, as each weekend became consumed by this ever-growing and exciting interest, I felt myself falling deeper into this beautiful rabbit hole. Every free moment was a chance to research, to better understand the heart of gardening in South Florida. I felt captivated by the idea of creating more than just a vegetable garden…I wanted to create an edible yard.

Food forest was a term I first heard of when my boss excitedly mentioned it to me. She dreams of transforming the wilderness that envelops our school into a forest filled with delicious food. What a beautiful concept. I loved the idea from the start but, like most people, I was unsure of what, exactly constituted a food forest. At first, I thought a food forest meant growing fruits and vegetables neatly arranged in earth boxes and adding some fruit trees nearby but that’s not it at all. A food forest is, as it’s name implies, a lush, wild forest where nearly everything is edible. The aim of a food forest is to imitate what goes on in a natural forest but to revolve those principles around food bearing plants. So, there are several plants of varying heights (mostly fruit trees, perennial shrubs, herbs, and ground covers like sweet potato) that are planted in such a way that they create layers like you find in a forest.

So, with a better understanding of what constitutes a food forest and a growing love for this beautiful, natural philosophy, I endeavored to create my own tiny food forest in the corner of our small backyard. When researching tiny food forests in South Florida, I couldn’t really find many videos showcasing a food forest as small as ours. So, with no clear model to emulate, I researched food forests in South Florida, learned about growing foods better adapted to our South Florida climate, purchased many plants from special nurseries, and then began to arrange my new plants and trees in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing but also fulfills the components of a food forest. No easy task but fun and exciting nonetheless.

After many hours of research, endless visits to local nurseries, and hours and hours of hard labor and with no clear end in sight, I wanted to capture our progress as a way to look back as well as a way to share our experience with others. I plan on documenting the progress of our food forest on the blog as it continues to change and grow so that we can track our progress and look back on all the work and dedication it took to create.

Here’s a look at our little work in progress…

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We still have to mulch it and set up a clear path but everything seems to be neatly placed and growing well. I long to see this space in a few months when everything has grown to fill the empty spaces…I love nothing more than a lush, green space.

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Our tiny food forest consists of a mango tree, a lychee tree, cranberry hibiscus plants,  many hardy herbs, Okinowa spinach, Brazilian spinach, a mulberry tree, a jaboticaba tree,  mimosa & comfrey (as nitrogen fixers), a canistel tree, lemongrass, a few banana plants, winged beans, a fig tree, and more. I think I counted about 45 plants in that tiny space. I’m sure it seems like we are growing too many plants but you’d be surprised how much can grow in a small space. Think of a forest and how everything grows on top on each other, now imagine if everything was edible. That’s what we’re doing.

Near our forest, we have earth boxes growing eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, sweet potato, leeks, peppers, malabar spinach, herbs, and radishes.

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We have two more fig trees, calamondin, and carrots all growing happily in pots.

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And we have a starfruit tree, a lemon guava tree, the praying hands banana plant, an avocado tree, a Jamaican cherry tree, and a persimmon tree growing in other areas in our backyard.

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Yes, we are obsessed with our garden at the moment. Gardening in this way, where you are growing your own food and watching the lives of amazing plants, is very fulfilling. We feel a profound sense of excitement and joy every morning when we wake up and check on our garden as well as every evening when we all gather in our garden, water the plants, and anticipate the bountiful harvests that we will soon have ❤

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