Our Permaculture Food Forest Evolution

Element Eco-Design's Suburban Food Forest

Element Eco-Design's Suburban Food Forest

Fall Planting for Spring Success!

Early fall is a great time to get perennials and home fruit trees in the ground, they still have enough time to settle into their new homes and often preform better the following year than those planted in the hot summer sun. Another great reason to plant your trees in the fall is the cost savings! Nurseries often discount trees and perennials at the end of the season to clear out for next years stock. Be sure to check the tree over thoroughly, you do not want to bring home a damaged or diseased tree.

The same rules apply when planting a fall tree as a summer one but Gord and I tend to avoid adding an excess of nitrogen such as bonemeal and opt for Mycorrhizal fungi instead.  We do this to encourage root growth over branch and leaf growth which may be susceptible to frost damage.  Be sure to water your tree regularly despite cool fall temperatures this will give your tree the best chance for surviving the winter.


Our Permaculture Food Forest Evolution

I think any designer would agree with me, planning your own site is the hardest thing to do!  Gord and I have no problem visiting a client and coming up with a whole list of beneficial recommendations for their Permaculture project, but when it comes to our own site we get stuck. I think it is because our site is an evolution of sorts, the master plan has been set for the property but the devil is in the details.  We are constantly being inspired by the designs we create for our clients, the books and articles we read and the all of the fantastic new flavours we experience each season. Because of all of this our Backyard Food Forest design has become an ever evolving project.

The area in question is located at the back of our property at the base of our North sloping yard.  The area is well protected to the North by a large stand of mixed conifers, which actually work to create a wonderful, warm, sun-trap microclimate.  The area began as dynamic accumulator(AKA weeds) central and only after adding layer and layers of cardboard, wood chips, straw, spoiled hay and over 100 bags of leaves does it kind of resemble a designated garden.  Our next step was to replace the previous dynamic accumulators with plants of our choosing, this helps to occupy the space that would otherwise be occupied by said dynamic accumulators. As the area is well over 75’x30′, that would be a lot of seedling to plant, I opted instead to broadcast sunny, annual, Calendula seeds over the area.  Calendula is a great medicinal plant which grows in thickly and quickly out competes most common weeds. Calendula is loved by bees and although it is enthusiastic, it is also easy to manage and easy to remove when it is time to add in a more productive plant.

Since prepping the site last fall and broadcasting the Calendula, Gord and I have added multiple berry bushes and fruit trees such as Blueberries, Huckleberries, Saskatoon, Native Thimbleberry, Chinese Chestnuts, Hazelnuts and an Ever-bearing Mulberry. We are now beginning to plant the fruit trees, we have a multi-graft Apricot/Nectarine, a Peach, a Nectarine, a Pear and an Apricot all waiting to be planted. Next spring we will add to our support species with perennials such as Yarrow, Echinacea, more Comfrey and one of our favourite nitrogen fixing plants False Indigo.

So although our plan has changed many times and Im sure this is not the final design, we are glad to get some plants in the ground, some guilds formed and we look forward to obtaining a yield next season!

August: What to Plant Now


Well by now the garlic is harvested, the lettuce has bolted and you probably have a bit of new found space in the garden, don’t let that loved and tended soil lay dormant quite yet.  There are still a number of great fall crops that you can plant now and enjoy well into the pumpkin season.


Swiss Chard and Beets, they are quick growing and fairly frost hardy.  They can be sown in to late August and protected with frost or shade cloth.  The greens are great in salads while they are young and when given a chance to mature they are great in soups and stir-frys.


Cilantro, if you planted this south west staple in spring you should have some seed developing by now.  Plant the dried seeds soon for your fall salsa recipes. Don’t forget to hold a few seeds back for next spring’s crop.



Spinach and Kale are very cold hardy and some kales can be perennial in some zone 5 areas.  Tiered of kale salad? Try dehydrating seasoned kale leafs into kale chips or freeze the washed leaves for winter soups.
These are just a few of the great cold hardy veggies you can sow now for a fall harvest!


PS.. Don’t forget to order your seed garlic for planting in October, if you are in the North Okanagan we recommend Rasa Creek Organic Garlic Farm or stop by your local farmer’s market to find varieties that are tried and tested for your area!

Summer, Time to Obtain a Yield



It seems summer is in full swing in the Okanagan. We have just gotten through our driest summer on record, just 1.1 mm of rain. Despite temperatures often exceeding 34 degrees Celsius, our crops are flourishing and the harvest is beginning to roll in. We are getting tomatoes daily, the plums are plump, peppers are almost ripe and the zucchini…oh the zucchini. To keep these crops producing longer you can simply harvest more often to keep the plants going.

It is inevitable some crops are finishing up such as: garlic, lettuce, peas and turnips. As you continue to harvest and crops finish, gaps start to open up in your garden and there lies an opportunity to get on succession planting. I know no one wants to think about it but it is also time to start planning for fall and winter crops.

Succession Planting

Succession planting is simply adding more plants to your garden where ever there is room. In Permaculture we refer to this as filling niches. Be sure to observe how much sun and shade a site is receiving and remember the days are getting shorter so that same spot my have more shade in a month or so. Also remember to observe your first frost date and calculate backwards to make sure you have enough time for your crops to mature. In Vernon, zone 5, we are reseeding beets, bush beans, carrots, cilantro, lettuces, mustards, radishes and turnips.

If you are really ambitious you can go right now and start fast maturing brassicas indoors and transplant them out at the end of the month. Some fall crops we are preparing to start include: asian greens, corn salad, kale, swiss chard, radicchio and winter lettuce blend. By starting now we can enjoy all of these crops into the fall, some even into December!

If you do not live in such a favourable climate or you would like to enjoy more veggies even later into the season the consider some season extension ideas.

Season Extension

To protect your crops well into the fall and even through the first few frosts consider the use of cold frames, greenhouses or row covers. Cold frames are basically garden beds that can be covered by a window or sheet of poly to keep the soil warm and retain heat during cool evenings. Row covers will essentially do the same but instead of glass or poly you will be using a cloth, usually made from UV stabilized polyester. Row covers will give you 1-2 degrees Celsius protection from frost. Finally you can consider planting your fall crops into a greenhouse to provide your plants with a controlled growing environment.

To take season extension to the next level look at the Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Coleman uses both movable greenhouses and row covers to grow almost all year round in Maine (zone 5). He explains that each layer of protection you add, in the form of poly or row cover, you gain 1.5 growing zones. So a greenhouse will move you to a zone 6.5 and row covers inside a greenhouse will move you to a zone 8!  For the hardcore gardeners our there this is a must read.

Best of luck on your gardening endeavours this fall stay tuned for our next article on cover cropping to maintain your soils nutrients.

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