It’s time for another update from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, which is now entering its 13th year.
This little food forest is in a tiny backyard in Ft. Lauderdale, proving that you really can plant a food forest even in a small space on terrible soil.
The South Florida Food Forest
Here’s the view as you enter from the side yard.
On the left of the fence s may parents’ backyard, on the right is the neighbor’s yard. Years ago, it was filled with trees. Now it’s a totally bare patch of weeds. On the other hand, my parents’s yard used to be a bare patch of weedy grass – now it’s a lush jungle.
On the right is a young Jamaican cherry tree, with the 5th Street mulberry above it. A banana and a grumichama hide in there, along with wandering Jew, yam vines and sweet potatoes. To the left is the lovely starfruit tree.
The starfruit is really looking good, as we saw earlier this week.
It’s completely loaded with fruit, both ripe and green.
Here’s a view a little deeper into the food forest.
And from another angle, showing a second path into the interior:
There you can see moringa, starfruit, banana, mango and various self-planted landscape plants and ferns.
Isn’t that much better than looking at a patch of grass? It’s cool and beautiful, and the food forest is all you see out of the picture window on the back of Mom’s house.
Here you can see the big coconut palm and the avocado I planted, both started from seed.
Beneath the coconut palm are Turk’s cap hibiscus.
There are also katuk in abundance:
The katuk has naturalized and planted itself here and there around the yard. It’s a decent green and very easy to grow in a tropical climate. Almost everything grows in South Florida, including orchids – in this case, beneath a mango.
Some are blooming in the dry months of winter:
And the orchids aren’t all that is blooming. We also have tiger irises in the yard, planted by my Dad before I was born.
And there are lilies that my Mom dug up from my Grandma Marian’s yard after she passed.
All this abundance needs some taming, of course. Usually via machete.
Though it really takes very little effort to maintain this system. With a little more work, it would be incredibly productive. The ground cover layer is lacking, as are the shrubs, and plenty of vegetables could be planted in here… yet still, with little care, there is regular food available, from greens to roots…
In the front are a few more trees, including a beautiful clump of bananas:
The various bananas we planted in the last two years have really started to earn their keep.
The tamarind in the front yard is now a nice shade tree:
Just for perspective, this was that tree when I planted it back in 2015:
Overall, this food forest has been a wonderful success. It’s beautiful…
It makes the yard feel more private.
It contains a variety of botanical wonders, like this chocolate pudding fruit tree:
And it’s just plain fun.
Especially compared to a patch of weedy grass.
I will always be thankful to my parents for allowing me to use their backyard as an experimental garden. What we’ve learned has helped me write multiple books, including the greatly expanded new edition of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.
Remember, this entire system gets perhaps a couple weekends of work a year… if that.
It’s not a perfect, interconnected jungle of food, but there’s a lot of food there – and nature has filled in the gaps we missed.
As a proof of concept, it’s a great success – and we have the piles of fruit to prove it!