One of my major projects this year is to plant a food forest in an area behind the house where a bunch of Live Oaks are dead or dying of oak wilt. I want to replace them with fruit trees and other food plants under the canopy of beautiful Cedar Elms.
The first part of this larger project is to prepare an area to plant plum trees next winter.
I first laid out a contour line and built a low berm of logs and dirt to stop the runoff on this very slight slope. The berm is curved a little to hold water, and has an overflow stabilized with rocks.
Then next to where the plums will be planted, I dug a big hole down to bedrock and filled it with old logs. This is a technique I use in my vegetable garden, which has made all the difference in being able to grow food during drought - the logs hold water as they decay slowly.
I soaked the logs in the hole with water and covered them with a thick layer of wood chips. Then I fenced the area to keep out the hordes of deer and planted a whole bunch of seeds of plants which in the future will be cut as mulch for the plums. These are called "support plants" in permaculture. Some kinds I planted were Thornless Honeylocust, Palo Verde, Moringa, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Esperanza. Also seeds of various kinds of beans, squash, and melons, some tomatoes and peppers, and some flowers. Then I put a light layer of wood chips over everything as a mulch and watered thoroughly.
This project is inspired by the work of Geoff Lawton, one of my heroes. Here's a video of him explaining the stages of a food forest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2bvTeMUuO0
More permaculture videos by Geoff (you have to sign up to view them, but there's no cost, and they are so inspiring!): http://geofflawton.com/