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Review of Geoff Lawton’s Food Forest DVD, by Paul Wheaton and Helen Atthowe

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Review of Geoff Lawton's Food Forest DVD, by Paul Wheaton and Helen Atthowe

Paul Wheaton and Helen Atthowe ( watch Geoff Lawton‘s Food Forest video and Helen really loved it. It shows a food forest as they start it, at 6 months, a year, 3 years, 10 years.

Paul thinks it is one of the best permaculture videos. Lawton starts by talking about three concepts: the layering of systems (there are 7-10 layers of a forest), succession of systems (how nature repairs itself), and time (working with different events — eg: sun, shade, flood over time). Paul shares Helen’s hesitancy using the word “permaculture.” They also talk about the word “science” and “studies.” Lawton has 1st, 2nd, and 3rd recovery plants. The first are: annuals, nitrogen fixers, ground covers and leguminous shrubs. The second are medium size nitrogen fixing trees (later to be chopped at head height in order to nurture the longer term trees). The third are longer term nitrogen fixing trees.

Paul explains the word “pollarding.” Black locust wouldn’t work well as a second plant because it never really rots. Helen suggests starting with a forest system and releasing the plants that you want. You could graft what you want onto wild species that are already there. Helen argues that the only way to have a release of nitrogen in the soil from legumes is to mow or prune them. Paul argues that they also release nitrogen when they are stressed. Helen thinks you still need to fertilize, rather than just plant a legume next to something like a fruit tree. Paul doesn’t like the fact that Lawton used cardboard — he has concerns with using cardboard/newspaper as mulch. Helen talks about how interactive diversity makes stability in the system both in nutrient cycling and in weed and disease pest management. Helen shares about her experience with cabbage worms. She also shares about diversifying carbon input to diversify primary decomposers.

Lawton creates a diversity of residues by managing a diversity of plants. Paul critiques Lawton’s chicken pen. Paul liked his position on having fast carbon species, and planting most trees from seed. If Helen did market farming again, she would still do rows. They briefly talk about working with beneficial weeds and letting them repair the landscape. Paul mentions his mullein video.

Paul Wheaton

Paul Wheaton is the tyrannical dictator of, the largest permaculture forum on the web. As a certified master gardener and permaculture designer, he's built an empire around what he calls, 'infecting brains with permaculture'. His forums are full of rich information, and there are a number of great free resources, guides, and articles that can be found on his sister site, as well. Most recently, he has worked with rocket mass heater experts Ernie and Erica in developing a 4 DVD set on all things rocket science, and has built a following around his World Domination Gardening DVDs, which detail how to use hugelkultur, swales, and natural ponds to capture and utilize water without irrigation. His recent work with natural buildings based on Mike Oehler's designs have resulted in the creation of the Wofati, a semi underground natural home design. Currently, Paul continues to run his internet empire, and is now offering several opportunities for people to learn and experience permaculture at his property in western Montana, where he offers PDCs, workshops, living arrangements, and even resort stays.

One Comment

  1. Recently walking through Geoff’s Lawton’s farm, he showed me his oldest, top swale where we shot part of that movie a few years back.

    What a change a few years can make.

    I was blown away how majestic it was looking. You can now see the various layers of the food forest. Instead of a scrappy mixture of saplings and weeds, the grandeur of the system had now emerged with a full canopy above and a carpet of ground cover below that had now suppressed the weeds. You would never have guessed that it was all planned. It looks so natural – and wild.

    It really does work but it takes courage to be visionary enough and see the potential and plan something like this far into the future. I would like to revise that film and show a little more how that system had advanced. It would be worth doing.

    Geoff says students that have seen that film are amazed at how it all looks so different now. Nature is indeed a rampant dynamic force.

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