I gave into weakness and bought a handful of beautiful maple trees including the October Glory Maple, the Lion’s Head Japanese Maple, and the Coral Bark Maple. Am I done spending my money recklessly to collect beautiful trees that don’t produce any food? Absolutely the hell not.
Still, I had to find a reason for these trees to exist within my permaculture food forest system where all the other trees produce fruit or tea, but… what really was the reason?
Was it not enough for me find these trees beautiful? Could I not simply plant ornamental trees in the edible landscape of my food forest just because?
Apparently not. So I’ll share how I reasoned away the cost of purchasing my ornamental Maple trees and how I put them to work in my edible landscape to strengthen and improve the overall food forest design.
1. Growing Your Own Mulch
One of the things about being able to improve your soil Yes often recommend it is adding a lot of soil amendments. But adding in a soil amendments to the point where it really does have a positive effect on the healthy growth of your plants can be expensive, time consuming, and also labor-intensive. This is not to say that planting trees is not labor-intensive, because that would be a lie it and would not be productive to helping us all to find a better way to become more thoughtful, earth-conscious gardeners.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding amendments to your soil, but the problem with that is that you will probably have to keep doing it over and over again. There has to be an easier way than that, and there is.
You CAN Grow Your Own Soil Amendments.
Don’t shake your head at me. This is the truth. Every single plant that lives in dies in your food forest or edible garden sister has nothing to contribute to the improvement of the soil. This also includes ornamental trees. I know you have spent many an autumn raking, blowing, and bagging fall leaves. And for what? You are tossing out a free resource that will naturally shade your garden soil, break down, and provide more nutrients for future growth of other plants.
You do not need to solely depend on the leaves from your fruit trees or fruit bushes for this. In fact, many ornamental trees produce such an abundance of leaves, that planting them in your food for a system just gives you a more beautiful way to add mulch to your edible garden without you having to do any additional work past the original planting and mulching of your trees.
The super exciting thing about this is that every year as your trees grow larger and larger, you’ll get more and more leaves. Those leaves will get eaten up by micro organisms and earthworms and will provide a wonderful compost to feed all the plants in your edible landscape.
Lion's Head Japanese Maple Tree Companion Planted With Asparagus and Strawberry Bushes
2. Ornamental Trees Just Lift the Spirit and Improve Mental Health
I figured that out on my own with my 8 credit hours of college courses and my online psychology degree, but seriously…
Doing something as difficult as learning to grow food, after a couple years, it starts to take its own sort of toll on you. Though the journey…and the harvest…is always rewarding, you may find yourself comparing each season’s harvest to the next and, that can weigh on your spirit after a time.
Japanese Maple Trees need very little care and live for a long time. For you this means that each Japanese Maple Tree you plant in your edible food forest is one less tree that you’ll need to stress over. They are resilient so the likelihood of them perishing from over or under-watering becomes less of an issue, there is no concern over fruit production because there is no fruit, and, just staring at them throughout the season has the power to fill the most cold-hearted spirit with a sense of peace.
3. Wind-Blocking Can Be Beautiful
In a natural forest, the height and thickness of the trees do an excellent job of slowing down wind and preventing strong gusts of wind from sweeping tree leaves and other forest debris out of the forest.
The leaves, broken branches, and old stems that carpet a forest floor breakdown to provide future nutrients to the food forest, which cannot happen if the wind is allowed to sweep them someplace else.
4. Grape Vines Need Staking. Raspberry Bushes Need To Be Trained Off the Ground.
Training Your Raspberries Into Trees and Bushes
5. Providing a Place for Swings and Hammocks in the Future
Food forest and chill?
Don’t mind if I do! After you spend so much time growing and tending to your edible forest garden, it only becomes natural that as it grows more and more beautiful, you’ll want to spend more time admiring the, haha, fruits of your labor. 😬😬😬
But where are you going to do that at when you’ve been so focused on increasing your harvests and filling the ground with as many plants and fruit trees as it can hold? You can food forest and chill on a swing… attached to the strong and beautiful branch of that Japanese Maple tree someone told you didn’t belong in a food forest. *coughs*
6. Japanese Maples Do An Excellent Job of Providing Shade for Less Sun Tolerant Edible Plants
Now you’re just making things up?
But am I though?
There are plenty of food-growing plants that will tolerate or even need a bit of shade in order to thrive. These plants include:
- Sissoo Spinach
- Longevity Spinach
And you will still be able to harvest your vegetables and roots at the end of the season without worry.
7. The Chicken Tree-Coop for Your Food Forest Needs Somewhere to Roost
These Super Chickens Climbing Heaven's Ladder Up Into a Tall Tree
Are you as amazed and delighted as I was when I first discovered that chickens are, in fact, birds? 🤣🤣🤣🤣
So… you wouldn’t want to create a treehouse chicken coop and install it in a fruit tree, where are you need all available sunlight to help make sure your fruit is healthy and ripens well. This is where a beautiful Japanese Maple tree– with its strong wood and beautiful shady leaves– will become a beautiful home for your future brood of chickens.
The benefits to keeping your chicken coop off of the ground include:
- Saving (ground) garden space to plant more (chicken-resistant) crops
- Protecting the chickens from ground predators at night
- Fulfilling your dreams of being a magical, chicken-herding bad-ass
You don’t have to thank me. I can feel your excitement through Rihanna’s internet. Now go forth and make your organic chicken egg dreams happen!
In summation, you need Japanese Maple trees in your food forest, edible forest garden, edible landscape because you love Japanese Maples and WHO IS GONE CHECK YOU?
It’s important when growing plants for you to grow things that you love and enjoy and not everything you grow is going to be “useful” in the sense that you can eat it. That certainly does not mean that it has no place in an edible landscape design.
When you get creative, all things are possible through plants that strengthen us. Amen!! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
How Growing Maple Trees Can Benefit Your Food Forest Or Edible Landscape
Additional Reasons That Japanese Maple Trees Should Be Grown In The Edible Landscape
Didn’t ya’ll ask for a blog update? Well, here it is. I’ve discovered other uses for Japanese Maple Trees in the edible landscape and I’m sure you’ll never be able to guess what they are. Let’s do this though!
8. Ducks (and probably chickens!!) Love To Forage On the New Leaves
Good luck keeping your homestead birds away from most anything. They have voracious appetites and absolutely no self-control so anything that isn’t well inside the limits of a chicken wire cage is prone to getting snacked on. Anyways, for more mature Japanese Maples with branches well above where your ducks or chickens can reach… the suckers of your Japanese Maple Tree will become lovely little snacks. The trees will regrow those leaves too, giving your birds additional foraging, unless you prune off the lower branches, of course.