The Vast range of Edible Plants at the Coffs Regional community garden
The Coffs Regional community garden has one of the very best collections of subtropical and warm temperate edible and useful plants to be found anywhere in NSW. Showcasing a vast range of fruits, vegies, herbs, nuts, grains, spices, exotic and native plants, the CRCG is now a literal botanical garden of diverse permaculture-inspired food production. The CRCG management is also fully committed to organic production methods which include producing quality compost and liquid fertilizers, employing natural pest and disease control methods, promoting beneficial organisms and utilizing productive animals (Chickens, Muscovy ducks, Rabbits and guinea pigs) for foraging and additional nutrient recycling. The overall effect is an amazingly diverse, living demonstration of optimal and year-round abundant organic production. If you haven’t yet visited the CRCG or haven’t been to see it lately, you’ll be very impressed with all the growth!
Plants create a major part of the foundational diversity from which garden eco-systems are based. In the majority of natural systems there is a dynamic range of species that fill each niche and together combine to give stability and resilience to the system. Permaculture as a design science makes great use of these models provided by nature and sets about creating abundance through maximum integrated diversity.
In most landscapes there are a range of potential ‘micro-climates’. These are significant variations of conditions including ambient temperature; soil type; soil moisture content; drainage, aspect to the sun and topography. These differences within a particular area influence how particular plant species will grow. With research and practical experimentation, the optimal microclimatic conditions for each species can be understood and utilized to ensure optimal health and production. In Coffs Harbour we enjoy a idealic climate that is situated perfectly between the Sub-tropical latitudes and the Warm temperate zones. The mountainous landscape of the Great Dividing Range coming right to the coast at Coffs Harbour, further enhances the micro-climate extremes giving rise to an optimal potential to incorporate the largest range of edible and useful plants from around the Earth.
The site accomodating the Coffs Regional community garden is predominantly flat but we do have an elevated north facing slope on our southern boundary. Gently rising from the water course that meanders through the middle of the garden, this north facing slope offered us our best subtropical microclimate. Before planting out this area with a vast selection of subtropical fruit trees in July 2012, we dug two swails along the contours that now act to capture rainfall in dry times and to allow excess water to drain off in prolonged wet periods. The initial planting of Subtropical fruit trees included species such as Black sapote, Jaboticaba, Cherry guava, Brazilian guava, Babaco, mountain pawpaw, Santol, Panama berry (strawberry tree), Guamachama, yellow sapote (canistel), Tamarind, Coffee bean, Saba nut, Brazil cherry, Mexican guava, Mango, Lychee, White sapote, jack fruit, Acerola (Barbados cherry), Longan, Sapadilla, Tamarillo and more being acquired and added as they become available. These plants are strategically planted out to eventually become the canopy of the food-forest, but while they grow we have companion and understory crops growing. These additional crops include cassava, Yaccon, Sun root (Jerusalem artichoke), Taro, Coco yam and sweet potato vrieties
At the South eastern corner of the garden we have our very best north-facing and protected aspect. The slope here is even greater than our main subtropical area and we have some extra deposits of soil at the highest point (giving perfect drainage) and continuing down the slope towards the creek we have our Muscovy duck pen in the middle. A swail has also been created below the duck pen to capture the run-off nutrient and make further use of a permanent damp location (possibly a permanent spring or leaking water pipe) we have situated other plants that enjoy higher than average amounts of water such as Sugar cane, arrowroot and Taro. In this top corner of the garden on the extra mounds of top soil we are successfully growing papaya, Abika, avocado, sour sop, Amberella, Sea grape, Custard apples, Rollinia and again utilize perennial vegies as the understory until these trees form a canopy in a few years time.
Outside the enclosed fenced area on the northern edge of the CRCG we border a natural creek tributary that eventually flows into Coffs Creek. This part of the garden gets substantial shade and cool conditions particularly during winter where the creek vegetation creates a major shade zone. This area represents our best warm temperate area, being naturally cooler and with less direct sun exposure. In this warm temperate food forest we are successfully growing the whole range of Citrus, Low chill or ‘tropical’ varieties of apples, pears, peach, nectarine and plums. We also have in this area exotic figs, mulberries, Chinese raisin tree, Black walnut, pecan nut, Kiwi fruit, pomegranate, Olives, Maple syrup tree, Kei apple and some bush tucker plants including macadamia, Rose apple, peanut tree, Atherton almond plum pine.
Within our annual vegie and herb production range, we have been acquiring heirloom and long term locally adapted varieties where possible. We now have a seed saving program and our own seed bank that supplies most of the seeds we need for our nursery seedling production and for maintaining the interplantings throughout the garden.
The Coffs Regional community garden is evolving into ever increasing diversity, and demonstrates a reliable and perennial approach to garden food production. By cultivating the maximum diversity of productive perennial species, then interplanting with self seeding and self perpetuating annuals and devisable varieties, we have successfully created food forests that are resilient in all conditions, diversely productive throughout the year, very low in incidences of pest and diseases and would survive and continue to flourish even if no more human attention were given to them. Now that’s sustainable abundance by design!!
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