Courses/WorkshopsFood Forests

Food Forest Implementation at Phayao Permaculture Center (Thailand)

Small area of food forest


The Phayao Permaculture Center (PPC) is a new two acre permaculture design implemented to be the retirement farm for myself and my Thai family. It is located in the wet/dry tropics at 19 degrees north latitude in Northern Thailand.

Having taken the PDC course with Bill Mollison on Maui, Hawaii in 1982 It has been my vision to retire on my own PC designed land. This came about in 2012 when I purchased the land for my Thai family.

The design was formulated and implementation was begun. Of the many elements designed in permaculture fashion the food forest and water considerations were the first to be implemented. After installing a perimeter irrigation system the food forest was begun next as the trees take the longest to establish since they don’t generally begin fruiting until after several years of establishment.

Design implications

The food forest occupies Zone 2 (citrus grove next to house location) and zones 4 and 5 (forest and wilderness locations). Also sector design was established to allow a view corridor to the east for the sunrise so the canopies were designed to slope from low (i.e. papaya. pomegranate), to high (breadfruit, jackfruit).

Zone 2 citrus orchard


Initially small holes were dug (the trees were very small (1 ft.-3 ft.). My cows would escape their pasture and eat them. Not a good outcome. After I sold my cows (I had them for fertilizer as a strategy to demonstrate the alternative to chemical fertilizers) I dug serious holes, used animal manures, wood chips, bio-char, compost tea and compost and planted with love and care.

Someone asked Bill Mollison if permaculture worked and he said "do trees grow?". My experience is sometimes. I’ve planted two identical mango trees 50 meters apart and one is thriving and the other died. No known reason why but many speculations. I have had to take the position that if a tree wanted to be there it would grow well. And if not it would die. This philosophy reflects free will.

My military service was in submarines and submarine duty is completely voluntary. If you did not want to be there you were gone. I apply this code to all the plants on the farm. Fortunately most plants volunteer to thrive with proper care.

Planting the food forest

Planting pattern

My food forest planting pattern is what I call disorganized chaos. I’ve planted mango, breadfruit, durian, star fruit, jackfruit, papaya, coffee, macadamia nut, longan, passion fruit, pomelo, lemon, lime, avocado, coconut, banana, bamboo, lychee, tamarind and rambutan — spread around in a helter-skelter fashion. I have used close spacing as a horizontal stacking strategy was used to see how much I can jam in. The future will tell how this idea works. I am following the "rough type" model, as exhibited by Mollison and Lawton. As Bill said "organic farming doesn’t necessarily have to be aesthetic". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me rough is beautiful.


Soil Building

My wife initially had the land bulldozed in line with local land practices. I did not have much to say. I took the land as is and started a soil improvement program. I initially roto-tilled, added organic matter, wood chips, compost tea, bio-char, animal manures and chopped and dropped during the rainy season when ‘weeds’ grew. The food forest soil is improving yearly. Also the property is/was a rubber tree plantation and I am slowly converting the rubber tree upper limbs and branches to mulch. This opens up the sun sector for the new trees to thrive and is a source of organic mulch. Some branches are wood chipped and spread around.

Organic soil elements


I used drip irrigation initially the first year and it served its purpose but proved impractical the second year. I hand watered the trees then. This year (it’s rainy season now so irrigation is taken care of) I am planning on sprinkler irrigating the areas to help build soil and irrigate the trees.

Phayao Permaculture Center is a demonstration and education center devoted to furthering permaculture. All visitors interested are welcome.


Phayao Permaculture Center will be hosting a 72hour PC Design Course with John Champagne, Brian Newhouse, Troy Johnson, Ben Dunn, and Bruce Bebe, between December 7-21, 2014 in Northern Thailand. Find out more here!


  1. Aloha Bruce
    We have been wondering where you were for more than 20 years. Good to see you are still doing permaculture. Dano and I are still together after 32 years. We’re on our farm on Molokai wher we have been doing a CSA for the last 22 years. We’ve made some forays into teaching and we are about to jump in in a big way. Geoff Lawton and crew were here doing videography of our farm and some other activities on Molokai 3 weeks ago. The video should air on his site in about 2 months.
    Hope to hear from you soon

    1. Hey Dano and Robin, Me too! I just saw Geoff’s video and wanted to contact you and say how thrilled I am to see you guys are continuing to live the good life. I am inspired. At 81, I am finally semi-retired and devoted to implementing my PC design retirement farm, educating and demonstrating PC. I have my course coming up Dec. 7-21. I just found this on the web so I hope you get this reply.. Bruce Life is good. Blessings to you.

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