As I learn more about food forestry I’m constantly in awe of the usefulness of some plants. Comfrey is one that really amazes me because it can do so much for the garden and for us. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is highly medicinal aiding in wound healing and anti-inflammation. For the food forest is provides much soil building mulch. Comfrey is considered a bio-accumulator because it pulls potassium, calcium and magnesium up through its tap root into its leaves. These leaves later decompose in the soil and give back those nutrients that would’ve been hard for other plants to access. Comfrey also fights compaction with it fat taproot. Comfrey provides excellent shelter for beneficial insects and spiders. I’m sure there’s even more Comfrey can do, clearly no garden should be without this workhorse of a plant.
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read this book and you'll want to make some changes
I love borrowing books from my local library so I’m always searching their catalog for things I’m interested in. My “food forest” search lead me to The New American Landscape – Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening. What I most love about this book is it’s format. Because it is a gathering of experts in the fields of ecology, horticulture, soil biology, landscape design, permaculture, bio-instensive farming, etc… it really hits home for me on so many levels. This multi-angle attach synthesizes from the soil (managing soil health) to the roof (green roofs) and everywhere in between what can be done to shape our own yards into ecologically contributing spaces. I highly recommend this book for sustainable landscape beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
My client and friend actually blurted “it’s freakin’ fecund!” when I was at her house taking photos of her garden. I think her description is very spot on given the fact that when these photos were taken the garden was in for just 5 months! I used mainly 1 gallon plants or flats with a sprinkling of 5 gallon plants. It’s astonishing how happy her plants are and how quickly they’ve taken hold. In fact, I offered her a few vegetable plants to stick in the ground right after I planted mine. Wouldn’t you know it….hers are twice the size of mine and insect free. I think this is due to the fact that there’s a good amount of diversity in this garden and we added a really nice organic soil conditioner called Tri-C Humate Plus. The garden is largely native and all the new plantings are low water (except the vegetables which actually don’t get any supplemental water). This is another Santa Monica Sustainable Landscape Grant garden of mine so this client received $5,000 towards the installation. Not bad considering this was just a lawn and basketball court. I’m really proud of this garden for many reasons. First of all, it’s a total transformation of a backyard that was definitely not picturesque, inviting or sustainable. This backyard will support some native insects and birds, offer gorgeous views from inside the house and lure the homeowners out to enjoy the beauty. It’s also a low maintenance garden since the natives only need occasional attention usually in the form of pruning back. In addition to the plantings we removed an old patio and replaced it with a beautiful permeable patio of Belgard pavers. We also added an outdoor kitchen and a metal fire bowl by John T. Unger.