Lyneham Commons Food Forest GREEN BUILDING 2019 OCT／NOV Vol.061
Lyneham Commons Food Forest
翻譯：Janelee Li 李怡貞、Evan Yu （CSED studio）
在坎培拉北部住宅區的某個角落有一塊長期被忽視的公有土地角落，乾燥、硬實的土壤和被修剪過的草正在逐漸變成一個富有生機的森林花園。萊納姆公共食物森林（Lyneham Commons Food Fores）首由一群在地永續農業愛好者發起，2019年8月為種植果樹的四周年，截至目前為止，這是一段相當漫長的旅程。
Healing the land
A previously ignored and neglected corner of public land in the northern suburbs of Canberra with dry, compacted soil and mown grass is gradually being turned into a productive forest garden. So why did a group of permaculture enthusiasts decide that this was an ideal spot to set up a food forest? August 2019 marks the fourth anniversary of the first fruit tree planting at Lyneham Commons Food Forest, and it has been quite a journey so far.
In 2013 a group of friends, living locally to Lyneham, were motivated to establish a food forest in a public space to share their knowledge of permaculture and food forests with the wider community. A food forest is a perennial system of edible plants that mimics a natural forest ecosystem. It is highly productive with a diversity of edible fruits, nuts, herbs, berries, roots and climbers and other plants that are useful to us.
Healing the commons
The commons are the things we all share - cultural and natural resources such as air, water and a habitable earth are held in common, i.e., not privately owned, and accessible to all members of society. With the idea that this project was to be a gift to the community, it was important that the project was located on public land, as a way of reclaiming the commons for the benefit of all. To convey abundance, trust and openness, there was to be no fence, lock or gate to enclose it, so it remained accessible to everybody at all times. The group had noticed an unused piece of land close to the Lyneham shops, beside the frequently used bike path into town, and between three schools. Being very visible to passing pedestrians and cycle traffic, close to amenities (e.g., toilets at the shops) and knowing the local Lyneham community would be supportive of the concept, they thought that this would be an ideal place.
由於考量到環境惡化的情況－－碳汙染、氣候變遷，且對於外來糧食日益增加的依賴度、破壞性的農耕法、殺蟲劑與除草劑的使用，及汙染水資源的無機肥料，這些原因促使該團體勇敢前進。英國小鎮計畫「不可思議、可以吃的托德摩登（Incredible Edible Todmorden）」是靈感的來源。托德摩登與其志願者一起將其街景改造成吸引人並具教育性的食用花園，且民眾可以自由使用。在此案例中，任何人都可以採收農產品，強調教育大眾如何種植糧食，並吸引並的社區志願者一起行動。
Concern about the deteriorating state of the environment – carbon pollution and climate change, food reliance based on food being trucked or flown in from far away, harmful agricultural practices, the use of pesticides, herbicides, and inorganic fertilisers that create pollution in waterways - urged the group forward. Incredible Edible Todmorden, a town in Britain, was a source of inspiration. Todmorden has, with a community of volunteers, transformed its streetscape into a series of attractive and educational edible gardens completely accessible to the public. This example, where anyone can harvest the produce, the emphasis on educating the public about food growing and bringing community volunteers together greatly appealed.
Healing the community
A strong desire to encourage the Canberra community to connect with growing their own food and learning ways to live a more sustainable, simple life together was combined with the further aim of providing an opportunity to rebuild community and social capital. Social capital, the networks of relationships amongst people in a particular community and their ability to function effectively, are enhanced by bringing people together to share, in this case, the vision, planning and work establishing and harvesting a food forest.
▲冬季：城市可食森林地景教育（2018 年與台灣中原大學景觀系學生 CYCULA）。
Sharing the vision
The process of getting approval from local government took two years of negotiation and many, many documents and meetings. This was the first food forest on public land in Canberra, and that it was to be unfenced brought up issues around liability, as well as uncertainty about the longevity of the group. Strong support from a community consultation returned a 95% positive result from 500 respondents, and backing from Minister Shane Rattenbury eventually lead to success. On a bitterly cold day in August 2015, the first Lyneham Commons Food Forest working bee was attended by a large crowd of enthusiastic people who dug four long swales in no time at all.
Canberra has a very low rainfall, an average of 617mm annually. Swales are a passive water harvesting technique that captures rainfall runoff and stores it in the soil, enabling soil moisture to be available to plants for longer. Swales are created by digging a long trench on contour that slows down runoff and allows it to infiltrate the soil. At Lyneham Commons we have a swale and berm system to store water in the soil and we don’t have to water so often with the hose.
The opening event was attended by Minister Rattenbury and Gardening Australia’s popular TV host Costa Georgiadis, who described the project as having national significance and helped to plant the first fruit trees.
Regular monthly working bees have continued and a lot of progress has been made since that first event. Working bees are attended by volunteers from the community who enjoy sharing the work, learning about the food forest and meeting each other. Activities include planting, broad-forking, mulching, weeding, pruning, sowing green manures, etc. We provide educational activities – e.g., natural pest control, soil testing, planting a fruit tree – where volunteers learn skills that they can apply at home. And we always have time to socialise and share a meal together.
Sharing the planning
A core team of approximately ten "Commoners" have regular planning sessions once a month to progress sub-projects we are pursuing, such as water tanks, interpretive signage, windbreaks, habitat planting, etc. Feedback allows us to review and change the way we do things, if we feel we are following a wrong course of action. The most honest criticism comes from within the group where enough trust has been built up for individuals to freely express their opinions. This openness is very important to foster. It has been found that to form strong bonds, people need to work together and eat together. We do a lot of both and have a tight team.
We also have a design group responsible for the planning of the food forest. This has proved to be a large task as our site overall is 3000m2 with 240m2 of planted berms. We have managed this by undertaking a thorough site analysis, creating a guiding mission statement, concept and planting plans. We have also created season-based timelines as some activities need to happen at certain times of the year, e.g. planting fruit trees in the cooler months to allow establishment before the heat of summer. Our timelines allow us to organize in advance of working bees, e.g. prepare soil, purchase trees, gather compost and mycorrhizal fungi for planting, tree guards, stakes, etc.
Plant selection requires a lot of initial research and we started by designing the canopy layer, i.e. selecting our fruit and nut trees first. We gave careful consideration to the mature size of trees, how close they are to each other, and how we can retain sunlight to the whole system in the long term. We have favoured heritage fruit and nut trees where we can. Heritage trees are the old fashioned trees that our grandparents grew before the commercial production of fruit trees which lead to the widespread use fertilisers and pesticides. We would rather have healthy, good tasting fruit without pesticide residues. Heritage varieties are also more resilient to pests and diseases, have more nutrients and taste better. Supermarket fruit has been bred for commercial reasons, e.g. their ability to be stored for long periods; but they don’t taste so good, have fewer nutrients and are not as fresh as harvesting directly from a tree and eating it.
Sharing the work
Every aspect of the project has been run by volunteers. All the purchased plants have been paid for from donations or fundraising. We are growing a lot of our own plants, which we also sell to fundraise at local community events, such as Harvest Festival held by the Canberra Environment Centre.
We have planted a range of fruit and nut trees that will give us a spread of fruit across the season, rather than a lot of fruit all at one time. They include white mulberry, pomegranate, sweet and sour cherries, medlar, apples - eating and cider, fig, plums, feijoa, apricot and hazelnuts. Our planting continues as we prepare and develop each stage, and as we assess which varieties are doing well in our changing climatic conditions.
As we continue to design from the top down we start to deal with greater numbers of plants. We organise them in ways that will be supportive rather than competitive to the productive canopy trees. We call this guild design. We use plants that feed other plants, plants for bees, for pollination and beneficial insects that predate on pests. For example we put a plant next to the plum tree that is going to help it be healthy, e.g. a nitrogen fixer, and a plant to attract insects that eat aphids, a common pest of plums.
As a society, our reliance on supermarkets has meant we have forgotten how to eat seasonally and locally, since we can purchase imported food all year round. The transportation of food nationally and internationally contributes to carbon pollution, and is unnecessary when many things can be grown easily nearby. We grow a range of herbaceous perennials for culinary purposes, medicinal use and for their nectar rich flowers that attract bees and beneficial insects, e.g. rosemary, sage, yarrow, comfrey, rhubarb, fennel, borage, perpetual spinach, Warrigal greens, lemon verbena, lemon balm, lavender, mint, Australian native mint, Corsican mint, oregano, Italian chicory, thyme, and more. We also grow a range of diverse edible berries, bulbs, tubers, bush tucker plants (edible Australian natives), and climbers, e.g., parsnip, garlic, horseradish, mountain pepper, thornless blackberry, native raspberry, native bush tomato, strawberry, red and black currants, goji berry, asparagus, and more. Plant diversity is important to retain resilience in an unpredictable and changing climate.
Our soil has been challenging, being very low in nutrient and organic matter to start with, and having to cope with growing fruit trees that are heavy feeders. To mitigate this we have grown green manures to help fix nitrogen and provide organic matter. These are sown as seed and are an inexpensive way to get a quick vegetative covering over the soil, blocking direct sunlight and the drying winds across the soil surface and reducing moisture loss. Some of the green manures we use, such as lucerne and woolly pod vetch, have the ability to fix valuable nitrogen from the atmosphere onto nodules on their roots. They help us increase the fertility of the soil naturally and also provide a good nectar source for bees, pollinators of our fruit trees. Lucerne in particular has a very deep rooting system which breaks up hard, compacted soil and being a perennial can be cut back seasonally and continue to grow. Other green manures are dug into the soil annually to increase organic matter.
We have also planted acacia trees and shrubs, native to Australia, between our fruit trees for their ability to fix nitrogen. Being very fast growing they have contributed to shelter and shade and rather than a collection of single trees we have the sense of an ecosystem beginning to form. We ‘chop and drop’ these annually, releasing the nitrogen and allowing the cuttings to be decomposed by soil organisms that benefit our trees by recycling organic matter into available nutrients. Other plants known as dynamic accumulators often have deep tap roots and are able to draw up nutrients from deep in the soil. One of the most important dynamic accumulators is comfrey, which supplies potassium and calcium. When it is cut, or dies down over winter, the stored nutrients in the leaves becomes available in the upper layers of the soil where other plants can take it up. Fruit trees each need different nutrients and by planting the appropriate dynamic accumulator nearby we can facilitate self-fertility.
In 2018 we made a concerted effort to improve our soil after a disappointing test result. Ongoing hot and dry weather conditions have exacerbated the issue limiting the activity of soil organisms. Total rainfall for 2018 was 472mm, only 76% of the annual average. We were successful in a grant application from the ACT government to purchase a large amount of high quality organic compost from a local supplier, and this has helped. We are fortunate to have this resource nearby as we haven’t been able to compost on site due to the local authority’s restrictions and concerns around rodents and smells.
Sharing the harvest
We have used the pattern of a forest and applied it to agriculture. To help us mimic a natural forest ecosystem it has been broken up into seven layers. Each layer fills a niche of sunlight in the forest. We cannot expect to be able to exactly replicate nature, but by mimicking it we can start to create a self-sustaining ecosystem. We have seen how quickly the insects and birds have occupied the space once we started planting and how good it is to work in harmony with nature.
An infestation of aphids occurred at the same time we spotted ladybirds on our Mariposa plum tree. Aphids suck the sap of trees and can cause stress if they get too numerous. Several days later the aphids had been eaten by the ladybirds. Ladybirds feed on spider mites, aphids, scale insects and small caterpillars. They usually hibernate over winter, for example, beneath loose bark.
We want to encourage ladybirds and other beneficial insects like hoverflies to stay around. Hoverflies are wasp-like flies that feed on nectar and pollen. Other useful insects include spiders, parasitic wasps, centipedes and beetles. Beneficial insects like to shelter in perennial plants with flowers that provide nectar. These insects have short mouthparts and are only able to feed from shallow flowers such as those from the umbelliferae or compositae families. They are also known as the daisy or aster family, e.g. calendula, sunflowers, cosmos, dandelions and many more. Some of these also have edible petals. We do not spray with insecticides as this sets back the garden’s natural protectors. We allow plants to flower and go to seed. This encourages self-seeded plants and retains habitats for beneficial insects.
We have woodchip mulch delivered to us from the local authority. When their arborists prune or remove trees they chip them up into mulch. By covering the ground with mulch we mimic the forest litter of falling leaves. It helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds and is good for earthworms, fungi and other organisms that recycle organic matter and improve the soil. We are turning a waste product into a resource. In a world that produces far too much waste, this is a powerful action.
執行計畫期間，有四棵新種植的果樹被偷走了，這並非完全出乎意料的事，因為該基地完全開放，而我們住在市區。當立起「萊納姆公共食物森林（Lyneham Commons Food Forest）」的標誌並說明目標及表明這是一個志願性質的社區團體之後，盜竊行為就停止了。我們在此舉辦了一個兒童藝術課程，為標誌製作圖案，所以現在孩子們可以看到他們的藝術作品在公共場合展示，並覺得自己也是此處的主人。可惜的是，我們的標誌目前被當地居民視為塗鴉，有時社區居民的反應會以意想不到的方式出現並帶來挑戰，我們將會持續以正面的心態應付這些挑戰。
Four newly planted fruit trees have been stolen from our project. This was not completely unexpected. The site is totally open to everyone and we live in an urban area. Theft stopped once we put up a Lyneham Commons Food Forest sign stating our aims and that we are a voluntary community group. We held a children’s art workshop at the Commons to generate the graphics for the sign, so now the children can see their art work being displayed in public and feel a sense of ownership of the Commons. Unfortunately our sign is currently being targeted by graffitists; sometimes community engagement comes in unexpected ways and can present challenges. We will continue to work through these challenges with a positive mind-set.
We find the connections between things are as important as the things themselves. This is a long term project and the ultimate success is to see that the food forest is valued and cared for, and children are the key to that. We encourage children to be part of our activities. Research shows that children who are involved in growing their own food eat more fruit and vegetables. It is truly heartening to see the enthusiasm of children planting a fruit tree together, and later they love to see how the tree that they planted is growing.
In Australia, child obesity due to poor diet and lack of exercise is a problem. When we connect with nature it benefits our mental health. We want to see children happily engaged in nature play and knowing where their food comes from. It’s important for our planet that future generations are connected to the natural world.