Beneath a freeway off-ramp, a field of fava beans emerges.
Wild fennel grows out of cracks in the concrete. Bees alight on yarrow plants, and a red-tailed hawk circles Eucalyptus trees. Hummingbirds pollinate blossoms in the valley where Hayes Creek once gurgled.
Most of the plants at Hayes Valley Farm started from seeds in the Greenhouse with the biodiversity team. Once an initial planting of fava beans added nitrogen and biomass to the soil, we embarked on a freeway food forest.
The approach to the food forest was to cultivate 7 layers of vegetative growth:
Roots (oca, carrots, beets, burdock and leeks)
Ground cover (miner’s lettuce, cleavers, chickweed and violets)
Vines (kiwi, perennial squash, grapes)
An herbaceous layer (comfrey, brassicas, nettles)
Bushes (Cape Gooseberry, Ribes, twinberry, mallow)
Small trees (apricot, plum and apple)
Large trees (almond and eucalyptus)
True to the idea of tending the wild, we worked on planting the food forest in such a way that various plants would support each other, act as insectaries or add biomass. We grew edibles, medicinals, beneficials and ornamentals that were good for humans and also provided food and habitat for animals.