Building A Food Forest

It is easy to incorporate ways to garden and grow which are kinder to the planet, and the Gelderbloem family does just that with a garden designed on permaculture principles which also showcases the benefits of reusing, recycling, and repurposing household waste whilst being able to feed a family and provide a rich buffet for pollinators.

Katrina and Peter and their three children, aged between 11-14, are a vegan-living family of five who garden in East Ayrshire, Scotland. Their eldest son Clayton, who is autistic and non-verbal, is home educated by Katrina and has developed a keen interest and eye for the garden. 

The family bought a property in East Ayrshire with large enough grounds of 1/4 acre to start building a food forest to provide fresh, basic food supplies for themselves. 

The garden when the family moved in
The food forest taking shape


Peter completed a Permaculture Design Course online and has designed the grounds using the 12 principles of permaculture design, starting with fruit trees and fruit and nut bushes, while they slowly build the area around them.

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Permaculture is a design approach based on understandings of how nature works. The word permaculture comes originally from ‘permanent agriculture’. The concept originated in Australia, bringing together a long history of practices from indigenous cultures around the world and combining them with the science of ecology, design approaches, and appropriate technology. With a permaculture approach, people tread lightly on our planet, in harmony with nature.

Organic Gardening

Conscious of wanting to attract beneficial pollinators to the garden, the family have planted a lavender hedge for a rich feast, all grown from seed on window sills around the house. This has the added advantage of providing a wonderful sensory experience for them all also to enjoy.

The biggest problem Katrina has found with the Scottish climate is it is wet often which means more slugs in the garden, but she has a variety of tools in her arsenal to deal with slugs without having to resort to harsh chemicals and makes great use of repurposing used plastic bottles. 

Katrina said her top tips to keep slugs at bay are to, “Build vertical gardens or raised beds to keep food off ground level. We even add cheap net curtains to cover the planters at night for extra assurance. Grow seedlings larger indoors before planting out so they are stronger in case those slugs do get to them. When outside, only water in the morning so the soil dries out during the day. Add extra protection: I used the middle of plastic bottles cut with pinking shears with copper tape around and crushed sea shell mulch.”

Deer roam through their garden from the fields morning and night, so they have caged in each growing area with fruit cages and a netted fence to keep the deer from eating all the fresh growth. 

Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Behind the house the family have built a kitchen courtyard garden dedicated to growing herbs and salads. They have made great use of this space by planting up a practical vertical garden along black fencing which retains heat and gives the plants an extra boost. The 66 repurposed milk cartons which are currently in use were kindly collected by their neighbours and are attached on a curtain rail, planted out with the seasonal crops. 

This is a fantastic way to incorporate the principles of reusing, recycling and repurposing, showing no matter the space you have, you can always start growing something. The family also makes use of toilet rolls, paper cups, and cut plastic bottles to use as sowing spaces, mini greenhouses, and cane toppers. They even have old shoes as planters! 


Very much at the start of their journey, Katrina and Peter are looking forward to having full meals provided by their grounds and believe it is never too late to get started, “Plant a fruit tree in a pot on your doorstep, start some lettuce on your kitchen window sill in a milk carton, pop some potatoes in a bag and start connecting with nature, it really is the best medicine for your mind, body, and health.“

Grow and Learn

Their son Clayton is most happy when planting seeds, potting up, and watering what he has grown and this year has started working towards the ‘Grow and Learn’ award with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society; a person-centred award, recognising individual progress and achievement in horticulture. The ‘Grow and Learn’ programme, “aims to address a gap in provision in the world of horticulture by offering an alternative learning opportunity for those who find mainstream learning challenging”. The Caley

You can follow Katrina and Clayton on their instagram page @buildingafoodforest_scotland as they build up their food forest with fruit, nuts and berries and tend to their vertical gardening kitchen courtyard garden. 

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