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Garden Diary April 11, 2019 - Turning the Courtyard Into a Food Forest

I have had so much trouble with a lack of sun in my gardens. My courtyard gets some afternoon sun, but not enough to plant full-sun vegetables. Still, the bananas seem to grow tall enough to reach the sun, and do very well, so I figure what I need is fruit trees that can grow taller than the garden wall.

The courtyard isn't that big -- 11 x 14 feet -- so I can't grow a lot of trees. Also, there is about 1/4 of it where nothing can be planted due to gravel in the ground or my new small seating area. Still, I think I can get at least 3 fruit trees in there, maybe four.

Which Fruits to Grow?

A friend gave me three varieties of mulberry, and one is a bush type that can be kept small. I have two fig trees I had decided to put into large containers, but putting one in the ground may be a possibility. I'd also like to get a satsuma mandarin orange plant. I'm not too crazy about the banana variety I have, so those will probably go.

Understory Edible Plants

There are quite a few edible plants that I can grow underneath the trees. I've never been able to get any potatoes off my my sweet potato vines, but they keep coming up, so I figure I can just grow them as ground cover and eat the leaves, like I've been doing. It will be awhile before the trees completely shade the area, so I can also grow beans and some root crops in raised beds for quite a while. Of course, lettuce and greens will grow in shade, so that's a possibility. I can also grow things like malabar spinach and runner beans up trellises on the walls.

Maintaining Some Afternoon Sun, While Creating Shade

The trees will have to be planted so that they don't block the afternoon sun that hits the south wall of the apartment. I have a few plants there that need to stay dry and need sun to bloom, so right there under the front windows under the overhang is a great place for them.

My seating area needs some afternoon shade, so planting at least one fast-growing plant where it can provide shade there is a consideration. I was thinking seriously of putting up a cattle panel trellis and growing beans or maybe luffa on it.

Lots of Plants Will Have to Go

If I undertake this plan, I'll have to get rid of everything that is in the courtyard now, or find another place for it. I think maybe a plant sale is in order.

This will be a big project and a lot of work, but I believe that I've enriched the soil enough over the past four years that I could make this work. There seem to be earthworms everywhere.

If you have any tips or ideas, please leave me a comment.

Happy Gardening!