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500 Days of Food Forest

500 days in the growth of a food forest 2015 Jan update Permaculture Organic

The idea started from sheer curiosity. I had always wondered, how fast does the food forest grow? I really had no idea.

What better way to satisfy my curiosity than start taking daily photographs and then morphing those many photographic stills into a short video?

Thus the project was born and 500 days has now passed and the project continues.

My farm is located in the south eastern corner of Australia and the weather could best be categorised as cool temperate. The winters are cool to mild and generally very damp and humid whilst the summers are warm to hot and usually quite dry. There are two food forests on the farm one is shady, whilst the other is very exposed to the sun and therefore much hotter. The combined food forests have over 300 unique fruit trees ranging from: nut trees; citrus; stone fruit; and many varieties of apples and pears.

The 500 days of food forest shows the growth in the shadier food forest and the photographs were taken around dusk each day whilst I was supervising the chickens as they free ranged underneath the fruit trees.

The chickens here live a pleasant life and I specifically purchase many heritage varieties as each breed has unique life and laying cycles. It would be a rare day that there is not at least one egg to collect from the ladies. Indeed many of the chickens are well into their fourth year here at the farm and they show little sign of slowing down.

As I am able to spend each day looking at a food forest, I see a lot of detail, but sometimes the big picture gets lost in that detail. The video has been quite interesting for me as it shows the progression of seasons in the food forest. For example, it is amazing to see just how quickly in spring the herbage underneath the fruit trees grows. It is even more interesting to spot a second growth phase in that herbage in autumn.

It is also worth mentioning that despite the very hot and dry summers at the farm, the fruit trees rely purely on ground water alone and yet still reliably produce fruit each year. As the food forest becomes more established it requires less ongoing work on my part.

The video satisfied my curiosity and showed exactly just how fast the fruit trees grow in this environment.

I hope that you enjoy the video and please feel free to ask questions.

The author lives on an organic farm which is not connected to the electricity grid, at an elevation of about 700m (2,300ft) above sea level in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria, Australia. There are about 300 fruit trees (honestly, I lost count after 300), heritage chickens, berries, vegetables, flowers and herbs all on 22 acres of cool temperate tall eucalyptus forest. Visit his site, here.


  1. Ha! When I see snow on the ground, then you can describe conditions as cold! Ten years will really be interesting.

  2. Hai Chris… nice shots and nice project. For a food forest though the undergrowth is missing (berries, herbs etc.) so it looks more like a fruit orchard?! Good luck and enjoy!

  3. Hi Rick. Haha! Many thanks and too funny. It snows perhaps once or twice a year here and rarely does that settle on the ground. There may be only about one frost per year too and the citrus, macadamia and avocado trees all happily sail through that. I’m not sure I’d enjoy living in an area much colder than here! Hope your place is growing well and the bees are all happy? I’ve enjoyed your videos.

    Hi Maurice. Yeah maybe. The herbage underneath the fruit trees has more than 60 different plants when I last bothered counting them. Berries and herbs are kept in a separate area because the farm has to deal with the likelihood of wildfire. The Ash Wednesday bushfires during the summer of 1983 tore through here so I’m always getting my head around various strategies to manage and deal with that fire risk. You’ll also notice that the wildlife which lives in the food forest – as the farm is open to the surrounding forest – has pruned all of the lower branches on the fruit trees. Those animals are wombats, wallabies and kangaroos which all call this place home. Those same animals also browse the herbage all year which mostly keeps it short. If you look at the video closely you’ll notice that the herbage that is in the cages with the young fruit trees gets much longer than the surrounding herbage. There are some seriously unusual issues I have to adapt to here at the farm which makes the place very interesting to live in. Thanks for the comment.

    Cheers. Chris

  4. Oh… I see…well, it’s just a name. A food forest is sort of a Zone 2 thing most of the times so fencing the whole area until it is more resilient would be the only option… but not very esthetic… an orchard with wombats and walibiies sounds even better! Good luck!
    I’m curious what happens the coming year.

  5. Hi Maurice. No worries. The trees are individually caged so that the wombats and wallabies can do all the mowing in between the trees (saves me doing the work!) and they convert it into copious amounts of manure. It is very hard to see in the video but each of the fruit trees has a companion plant of the borage family:

    The wildlife is feral here but they are – mostly – a pleasure to have bouncing and trundling through the food forest.

  6. As to mowing, I read Fukuoka’s Natural Way of Farming some decades earlier, and it gave me the idea of letting the grass grow tall and then bending it over, rather than cutting it. This was a huge improvement to the soil and kept the moisture in the ground year round, without irrigation. The grass stems stayed green, even into fire season! We live in a very similar climate in Norther California, Sierra Foothills – around 2200 feet elevation.

  7. Hi Rick. Good to hear. I watched many of your bee videos and they look like very healthy and thriving colonies. Respect.

    Hi John. You know, that is why I like communicating with as diverse a bunch of people as possible. What an awesome idea, so simple, so obvious. You are one of many people that have referred me to Master Fukuoka’s work in the past year or two and clearly some further reading is in order. Yes, the climates and plant communities would be very similar, plus the challenges. Many thanks for your suggestion. Do you have a website or blog?

    Cheers. Chris

  8. Hi Chris, my partner and I have read your ‘living on solar power’ and would be very grateful for a contact phone number to ring you, as we are off the grid in Gladstone Park here in Melbourne and are having a few problems convincing our family, visitors and friends that we have done the right thing. I want to write a small post outlining to all the facts, advantages and disadvantages about being off the Grid but don’t know how to make it short and factual. Can you please help us put this to them that they can understand? Would appreciate your help and would love to get more insight to how to make this work? Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you in the near future, Susan porter. [Details removed Web Team]

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