Project Canossian – Tree Belt (Part 3)


Tree belt on the left, veggie beds behind

When we designed the food garden at the Canossian School, we placed a tree belt around the perimeter of the garden. The trees, when they have grown bigger, will protect the vegetable raised beds in the middle. They will provide:

  1. Partial shade
  2. Wind protection
  3. Fertility in the form of leaf litter
  4. Wildlife and biodiversity

We picked about 30 types of small to medium sized fruit trees. They would be placed at the left, right, and back of the garden. While it would be great to have some big durian and mango trees, the space was limited and we wanted fruits that the kids can pick easily to snack on.

We planted them as a simplified food forest with a few layers – tubers (underground), ground cover, shrubs, creepers, and small trees.

For the front of the garden, we decided to use some hardy edible and medicinal plants. Since they don’t get tall like trees, there should be a nice view if one stands in front of the garden. This is a photo of how it started many months ago.


You are looking from the left side of the garden. Tree belt surrounding the veggie beds. We transplanted fruit trees at the left, right, and back. The front (right side of photo) is a narrow strip of hardy medicinal plants.

We actually ran out of compost by the time we started work on the front of the garden. It was a good chance for us to see how the plants fare without the fertility. After all they were picked for their hardiness. We propagated lemongrass, citronella, dog fennel, mugwort, Indian borage, and others.

Most of them grew up together with a bunch of weeds. But they prevailed and grew above those weeds, which now act as ground cover.


From left to right: lemongrass, mugwort, indian borage, turmeric, sabah snake grass.

For the back, left, and right of the garden, we created layers by using a variety of plants. The rampant sweet potato was our main ground cover and it did a pretty good job. The fruit trees suffered a little from the transplanting shock but are recovering.

I mentioned in the first post that certain parts of the field are waterlogged. For those areas, the sweet potato could not smother some of the weeds that thrive in swampy grounds. We might need to employ the help of more wet loving plants like taro, pandan, and bananas.

The tree belt is more or less established now and we have to wait patiently for the trees to get big slowly. As the vegetation grows, we plan to slowly reduce the irrigation and eventually stop it. Now that it’s the year end monsoon season, we have turned off the irrigation completely for the past few weeks.

Read everything else we are doing at Project Canossian!


Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tzu

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