Forest Gardens, Hugelkultur and cold-climate Coconuts

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Recently Harris (who heads the Forest Garden projects at Milkwood), has been in Chile teaching, designing and implementing forest garden systems. We thought you’d like to take a peek at some Chilean permaculture action?

Given our Gondwana connection, there are many correlations between Chile and Australia in terms of plant species (similar nitrogen fixers, for a start) so Harris has been gleaning all sorts of amazing indigenous, on-the-ground knowledge that will translate to Australian shores in terms of forest garden polycultures and creating abundance in poor soils…

Forest Garden placement design…

Students presenting information on the species niche of desired species in a forest garden…

Pig tractored orchard, ready for retrofit at el Manzano

Constructing borders with fungi rich, nitrogen rich acacia logs…

Harris and students designing the forest garden in-situ

Forest garden design brainstorm…

Gathering material for hugelkultur beds

The first layer of trunks in the hugelkultur bed (NOTE: this is not ‘black gold’ soil we’re looking at, but instead mostly black sand)

Second layer of trunks and gaps filled with charcoal and horse manure

Hugelkultur lasagne almost ready to mulch…

Mapping out levels in the forest garden…

Building access paths (forest gardening is all about the paths…)

Resident botanists collecting seeds…

Via Harris: “Final pattern taking form. The central circle is joined by 4 primary paths which points to the four cardinal points. At the outer points of the perimeter the paths bifurcate to create three prongs.

These prongs allow access and the pattern emerged as it allowed us to build nice paths around the huglekulture. Here are the plantings with tree guards for the rabbits and a wet straw mulch.

Here all of the beds have been mulched with manure and branches from acacias and then topped with old woodchips. Also, keyhole paths have been built in the large beds for access”

Vacola Plus! Rocket stove powered food preserver at El Manzano for Jams, Passata and stewed fruit…

Chilean cactus with edible fruit like prickly pear (called tuna here just to be confusing) may be less opportunistic than prickly pear and damn tasty…

Cocitos, cold climate coconut… each is about the diameter of a gold ball. Amazing and tasty! Will definitely plant some of these at Milkwood for future generations, even though they take 80 years or so to produce…

Milkwood Forest Garden

We’re looking forward to Harris returning to Oz and to Milkwood in October with loads of new ideas and knowledge, at which point he’ll be diving into teaching a Forest Garden Design course here on-farm, followed by 2 months of intensive forest garden design and implementation…

May the polycultures be with you…

>> More about Edible Forest Gardens at

See the comments

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0 responses to “Forest Gardens, Hugelkultur and cold-climate Coconuts

  1. There is another hardy coconut like fruit called Chilean Wine Palm or Jubea Chilensis. I have a couple growing. They have an edible fruit with a nut about 1 inch in diameter that tastes of coconut. The tree is mostly used to produce sugar, but that requires cutting down mature trees to collect the sap. A local guy has had his growing for over 30 years and they are getting big, but have yet to produce. I’m not sure how hardy they are, but at least to 20 degrees Far.

  2. Coquito refers to Jubaea chilensis , relatively common in very old gardens in Australia.
    seeds can take 3mths- 3yrs to germinate.
    taste just like little coconuts as the name suggests, even with water in them.

    Coquito can also refer to a less well known Parajubaea coccoides and P.torallyi from the Andes (Equador, Bolivia and Colombia).
    they’d be the ones to go for if you can find them.
    a bit faster growing I beleive.
    They are grown in New Zealand, possibly in Aust. but rare.

  3. Hi guys, we’re talking about Jubaea chilensis here. An amazing speciemen of a cold-climate palm. You can buy bags of these delicious seeds on the street here in Chile and the tree is somewhat of a national icon. Stevene, you’re that a mature tree needs to be cut down to collect the sap which was traditionally fermented, giving the english name wine palm. The forests of this tree were reduced by over-exploitation and there are 3 major stands left here in Chile. After the tree stop producing cocos the tree is felled to collect the miel de la palma and another tree is planted in the clearing.

    There are quite a few of these trees growing all over temperate Australia. The trunk is smooth like a coconut, I’ve seen them in old ag colleges and in cemeteries in my travels. Easy to grow from seed, you just need patience.

    Happy Forest Gardening, I’m off to visit the chilean bunya bunya forests.


    1. Oh, Ok, it is Jubea Chilensis then. Golf ball size is way bigger than I’ve ever seen them. More like an inch or so in diameter. I tried growing some from seed, but they never did sprout and rotted eventually. I have a couple trees that I bought from a local guy though. Hoping someone will get to eat those nuts eventually, but probably not me. I’d like to know what the analysis on the fats in that are. Also, curious if there are any selections for bigger nuts etc… Maybe that would explain the golfball sized nuts.

  4. Also, everyone should check on the great work that everyone at El Manzano is involved in here in Chile and other parts of South America. From Transition initiatives, earthquake proof bio-construction, ecovillages and making some of the finest blueberry jam I have ever tasted.

    Have a look, there is an english translation option.

  5. narf77 they would definitely grow in tassie and i think you might find that there are some growing in Tassie, but I don’t know this. If you see any palms growing around the traps with smooth trunks thats a fair indicator its a wine palm. Not sure what they rules are for bringing in seed but there is loads in NSW that you could reap and sow.

    Stevene, you’re right, the size of cocitos is a bit smaller than a golfball. I haven’t come accross selected varieties here, just delicious wild-harvested nuts.

  6. Harris,
    it may be worth importing some Jubaea seed, as the trees in Aust. may all have come from the one source over a century ago.
    a bit more genetic diversity may be a good thing.
    If you wanted to look into it further, here are the AQIS requirements for
    Importation of Jubaea sp. seed.
    If you contact AQIS beforehand , with enough time to get things in order, it may make the process run a bit smoother.

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