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Texas Food Forest and the Results of Good Design.

Five years ago we moved to our current property in North Texas.  While the general area is not particularly challenging, the property itself was.  The three acre property has anywhere from 11 inches (28cm) to as little as 3 inches (7.6cm) of soil, sitting atop a limestone slab.  Note: not rocks but solid slab. An insane place to build a permaculture property but we set to making it happen.

In our first year we selected an area to make into a full on food forest, in a swale-based architecture developed mainly from what I had learned from Geoff Lawton.  This was a classic example of right technique for the right place.

Other than some other small swale like paths, this was the only area of the property we designed with swales. The area is about 3/4th of an acre.  In total almost 600 feet of swale capture and infiltrate about 24,000 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall.

Once installed, we planted the swales with fruit trees, mostly stone fruits that do well in our climate like apricots, plums, almonds and various crosses such as pluots.  We also planted many varieties of mulberry, apples and various figs, persimmons and pomegranates.  To assist these trees we planted heavily with support species including initial legume based ground covers and supporting nitrogen fixers such as autumn olive and black locust.

Fertility was nearly nonexistent on the property so we ran a flock of ducks in a paddock shift system for three years, as part of a commercial duck egg operation. This winter we decided the ducks had done their work and at this point were actually holding the property back.  We had improved other areas of the property but the effect of almost 1 ton of ducks on the property was preventing us from developing sufficient herbaceous understory.

We sold the ducks off to various customers and advised them in setting up their own small-scale operations and even turned many of our retail customers over to them.



As we came into this spring, without the birds grazing we knew something special was about to occur.  Five long years of work, attempting to grow a forest on thin and highly alkaline soils on top of limestone slab may seem like an odd choice for a permaculturist, but it was the right choice.  The locusts, oaks and even the fruit trees have deposited humic acid on that alkaline rock, creating fractures and fissures.  Where once an inch of rain filled our swales, now it takes over two inches, water is getting into the fractures, wild flowers and medicinal herbs are everywhere.  Our trees are labored heavily with fruit and it is only April.

The NRCS lists our land as “sparse range land, not suitable for agriculture”; perhaps someone should give them a free Permaculture Designer’s Manual and a copy of this video?


Jack Spirko

Spirko founded The Survival Podcast aka TSP in June of 2008 while still working with his partner Neil Franklin. During the first 18 months of the show (June of 2008 - Dec. of 2009) Spirko did the show during his 55 mile commute from his personal mobile studio a 2006.5 Jetta Diesel TDI. The show quickly grew in popularity attracting about 2,000 daily listeners by the end of 2008, by the end of 2009 the show was being listened to by close to 15,000 people daily. At that time Spirko made the decision to take the show to a full time endeavor. Today the show attracts over 100,000 daily listeners and is referred to by Spirko as his "life's work" and his "true calling".


  1. Great job Jack! So happy to see the host of TheSurvivalPodcast(TSP) spreading what is possible. Nothing proves a point better than actual progress.

      1. There is no last picture. Only an empty white space. Nothing to click on.
        If you can, please put a link for it here in comments. Thank you.

  2. Great Job! I think you have done well. This is a result of perseverance, technique, and faith. Food forest take time, hard work and patience and you have all this characteristics

  3. Where in North Texas are you? The limestone base begins around western Tarrant County and extends westward and down into the northern hill country. I ask because I am also from North Texas but my soil is the black clay gumbo.

    1. I am in Parker County (northwest of FW) and have the limestone base under 1/2″-12″ of black clay gumbo. Worst of both worlds!

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