I understand agroforestry to mean the combining of indigenous forest trees with more useful food producing species in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Starting from scratch, on an empty piece of land, we selected a mixture of indigenous hardwood trees with a number of other species with medicinal properties and edible leaves. A list of the main trees we used at Mae Mut is posted in the Basic Stuff section.

Main points to highlight

Sun exposure. If we have the advantage of a sloping terrain, we leave space on the S and W edges, to allow for the planting of food producing smaller trees and shrubs which then still receive the full sunlight they require.

Wind exposure. It is almost impossible to protect from storm damage, but we can consider the direction of prevailing winds, if any, when designing the planting scheme, to protect the food growing areas with a living fence and to give the larger food producing trees some wind protection using the closest forest trees.

Overplanting. We plant more trees than will eventually grow to full maturity, and allow other seedlings to sprout and grow spontaneously, in the same way a natural forest does. We will select what to thin out as the trees grow, it is impossible to know how each tree will develop and it is much better to wait and keep the healthiest looking ones, after they have had a chance to show us what they can do.

Succession. Sometimes we plant fast growing trees just to provide protection for weaker species as they develop, with the idea of removing the faster growing and less valuable plants when the right time comes. Or we hold back the planting of coffee, cocoa, pineapple, fingerroot and other herbs until some shade is available.

Wilful neglect. We deliberately neglect the hardy species, giving them a chance to develop in a natural way, ensuring that the stronger trees survive, rather than absolutely all of them. We help along, with some targeted watering and feeding in the dry season, only the seedlings of food producing species, which we don’t want to lose or which develop slowly, all others have to work it out by themselves.

Published by marco

growing food and making do with less

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