My visit to Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden

28 February 2020

One hour from Melbournes bustling CBD tucked away in the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley is one acre of Edible Forest Garden. Louise Ward owner of Yarra Valley Estate where the food forest garden is located created the space out of a desire to reduce food miles but has since evolved into an education space open to the public interested in learning about growing a food forest garden at home, how to create healthy soil naturally and the importance of food security.

A food forest is a self maintaining perennial polyculture meaning there are a variety of crops of different heights within the same space similar to how a forest works. The plants, with some help, look after each other.

Food forests are a regenerative form of growing food that works to keep soils healthy rather than deplete them of carbon and minerals. Our current food production systems have been working in the opposite way. A regenerative method like a food forest garden helps to return carbon along with nutrients to the soil. If the soil doesn't have nutrients, this affects our health.

The goal of reducing exposed soil by covering everything in plants reduces soil erosion, protects groundwater, puts nutrient minerals back into the soil, allowing farmers and home gardeners the opportunity to move away from synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. A return to regenerative farming and gardening would helps address malnutrition, food insecurity, healthy water supplies, limit food waste, and reduce pollution from the production of agriculture chemicals. And a bonus is gardeners don't have to weed as much.





As I entered the Yarra Valley Estates Edible Food Forest Garden I felt like I was being drawn into a calming hug. The space is abundant in over 850 of edible and medicinal plants, with some specifically used to improve soil quality. Everything growing on the site is cultivated for the guest kitchen on site and used in workshops held in a up-cycled shed overlooking the garden.

For those who are used to the standard farming system of single crop structured in rows could be confused as how something wild like this would thrive. Forest gardens like this combine vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, shrubs and other plants to coexist aiding one another in their survival. The photo below is proof of this.



The large tree in the left photo is sugarcane used to protect the plants below it from the biting frosts in the valley. Yes, that is sugarcane growing in a very cold climate in Victoria. There are rambling strawberries for ground cover, something I had not thought of in my own garden. I discovered the plant Society Garlic, a perfect garlic alternative for me since I can't eat as much garlic any more. We munched on unopened Day Lillies (photo on the right) another unsuspecting specimen I have in my garden that I didn't know could be eaten. I feasted on gorgeous mulberries, tommy tomatoes, met cinnamon yams growing along side aromatic hops.


Yarra Valley Estates Edible Forest Garden is still in its infancy having started five years ago and only open to the public last year. Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am and you can find out more on their website www.edibleforest.co/



What had me excited was the education this space will offer. I can't think of any other edible food forest garden space open year round so people can see it at different times of the year. Often these edible forest gardens are private and only open for a handful of days throughout the year. I can't wait to revisit in winter and spring. The staff are kind and passionate, happy to share their huge amount of knowledge with visitors. It was inspiring to learn urban gardeners are visiting from Melbourne looking for help to get their own edible forest gardens started. Involving people and having interactive places to learn is necessary to creating confident gardeners. It's different reading about an edible garden and being able to walk through one.

Growing our own food, even if a little, helps the planet in so many ways. We reduce food miles and our fuel, packaging is not needed and we help improve soil quality for future generations. We learn new skills. We help draw carbon down. Our bodies get to eat food filled with healthy nutrients. And if we are lucky we can share the surplus in our communities, growing and nourishing connections.


Plan your visit:

Edible Forest at
Yarra Valley Estate
2164 Melba Hwy
Dixons Creek VIC 3775
www.edibleforest.co

Tours operate Monday to Saturday, at 10am for approx. 45 mins—1 hour and an additional Saturday only tour at 12pm. Bookings are necessary.

Tour, Taste & Educate – $15 Per Person
Tour, Taste, Wine & Dine – $65 Per Person
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