Tree Check in the food forest


In this blog post we’ll get to see the trees and how they’ve grown after getting a few months of rain. I’ll post the pictures in a sequence from when they were first planted to how they looked when I left.

Most of our trees did really well and we took data every week on several species. We were trying to figure out if it was worth it to dig and prepare outplant holes or if the trees would be fine without them in the bare unprepared Gambian soil. So, if anybody is interested I have the graphs showing the rate of growth for the same species grown with and without a prepared outplant hole. Also have the “from seed” and “from cutting” growth rates for a couple of our leaucaena. Just send me a message or email and I’ll get them to you.

Ok, let’s get to it.


As usual there was some trial and error with a few of our trees getting sad after transplanting, or in this case a couple months after the initial transplant. So this one was due for a replacement and one day we stopped hoping it was going to be ok and said “it’s gotta go, let’s do it.” Luckily we had a spare in the nursery and it helps to have backups in cases like this.  


Here’s the new one in its place. This one stayed happy and healthy and started growing new strong shoots within a couple days. 


This is our gliricidia from ECHO seed company (aka “mother of cacao” or “quick stick”). We had high hopes for this tree so it got a big outplant hole and lots of good natural soil inputs. We were getting a great rainy season so were all excited to see just how tall this “fast growing” tree would get.  


While the gliricidia started off slow, likely establishing its root system, after about 2 months it reached a meter and started shooting upwards much faster. Compare the gliricidia to the sesbania bispinosa behind it in this picture and then look at the next picture. 


The gliricidia after a few months growth is now about as tall as the sesbania next to it. 


As the rains became less frequent the glricidia still grew well and added another 80 or so cm in the last month. It was likely that the soil 1 meter down remained damp and cool for a week or two after a heavy rain, which means that our tree could keep growing even when the rains stopped. 


The first tallow tree we put in this outplant hole split into a type of forked trunk so we replaced it with one that was better shaped. Although this tree is slow growing it got a great couple months of rain and were hoping it survives the upcoming dry season. 

L (2)

Here’s a permaculture allstar: leucaena. We had high expectations for this tree and it definitely met them. One of our fastest growing trees in the food forest. Thanks to ECHO seed company for providing us the free seed. 


A couple months after we outplanted the leucaena it was taller than my counterpart and it was growing 10-20cm a week. You can see how much new growth was happening all the time when you look at the newer lighter green leaves all around. 


And after about 4 months in the ground our prize leaucaena looked like this. We kept taking data on how tall it was every week but at this point we stopped when I could no longer reach the top while standing on a bucket. I have a graph of the rate of growth if anybody is interested. 


After 6 months to a year your african mahoghanys should be somewhere around a meter tall and ready for outplant. We put ours out and it was off to a good, but very slow, start. The nature of these trees is just to grow very very slowly. 


After a few months our african mahoghany was healthy and happy. 


Just 100 meters from our 1 year old mahoghany was this giant! We like to think that our new mahoghany would grow faster if it had a good example to look up to. 


This was one of our favorite trees on the farm: a grafted mango with the tough “sierra leone” variety roots down below and tasty “kent” variety budwood up top. Although it didn’t grow very tall it did develop a nice full set of leaves and the graft wound healed well. Now we’ll see if grafted mango can really knock 3-5 years off the the time till fruiting.  


Another favorite of ours, the handy pigeon pea. We used this as a quick growing, nitrogen fixing, windbreak. We put vettiver in between the pigeon pea because we had it and thought it would get more good roots in the soil and help as a lower windbreak. 


Within a couple months are pigeon pea was around 2 meters tall and stopping the wind from flying into the farm. We even had to do a light “chop and drop” on some of it because it was shading out our slower growing trees.  


Near the end of the rains, after about 4 months in the ground, our pigeon pea was well filled out and near 3 meters tall. If you’ve never used pigeon pea before I highly recommend it. 


Very fast growth rate, doesn’t interfere when planted in the garden, fixes nitrogen, drought tolerant, alley cropping, bee and animal fodder, and good for chop and drops: sesbania species. We had read and heard that this species of tree was a beast and prepared a small army of them to go out into our food forest and garden. 


Off to a bad start. During the first week in it’s new home a goat had got into the farm and eaten our sesbania grandiflora. My counterpart and I went to work on strengthening the fence the next day, which basically means hours and hours of climbing and machete work, then carrying heavy logs to the farm, then hammer and nails to attach it. Goats are great fence testers but generally considered the most stubborn evil pests around farms.  


Luckily sesbania is tough and our tree snapped back to life quickly. Despite this initial setback it grew back extremely fast. 


After 3 months in a proper outplant hole our sesbania grandiflora was the tallest tree in the food forest. 


We liked the sesbania grandiflora so much that we also put one in the garden. It’s hard to believe but this tree is only 5 months old. Modou is standing by the tree and I told him “ok, I’m not going to be here at the time, but when this tree flowers and sets seed you have to collect it and plant a lot at your farm.” Of course after we saw how this tree grew he enthusiastically agreed. It’s a small part of service but simply researching and introducing a new tree can really change things around for people. Just think of how, for almost no money, someone could practically reforest an area in short time with these trees. A farmer could also improve the soil fertility of fields, feed animals, or create a small woodlot to use for firewood. Sometimes, or perhaps always, the simplest solutions are the best.In this instance, a tiny seed the size of a dime. Amazing.  

One thought on “Tree Check in the food forest

  1. richard filipiak

    Great story and plan to leave a “Food Forest” legacy for the people and your service ……. nice work! DAD

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