I started the yard in 2009, with a weigelia and some day lillies. Now I am in year 6 and I have 16 trees and about 130 species in total in my small urban garden. I have Apples, pears, plums, cherries and more fruiting trees in various stages of maturity, as well as seedlings of experimental trees like Carya ovata and kentucky coffee tree. I also experiment with Bamboos and other hardy exotics. Up here in NW Ontario, we arent known for growing many things but the more I see what I can get away with the more I am surprised.
My goal at the beginning was to grow as much food in the city with as little work as possible. I also wanted to limit the use of chemicals. Now it is more of a crash course of the many fields of conventional gardening and permaculture skills. I have always loved plants in general, but due to researching the yard and plants I have become a lot more aware of what is growing around me in the city. Plants and trees that I used to walk by and wonder at are now identified. For instance, there is a 20 foot Amelanchier just down the street or comfrey growing prolifically along the river banks. IT has opened my eyes to insects and birds and other animals that all interact in the yard.
It took me about 3 years to expand all my growing areas to the size they are now. I understand that one of the first rules to permaculture is planning in the present and for the future but I ended up expanding bit my bit over those 3 years. I never got a chance to fully sheet mulch and eliminate grass (I am planting over lawn). There are some "unruly" areas in the beds but I really wanted to see what came up after disturbance. One bonus is some nettle popped up in a few places. Dandelion also came up profusely in the first 2 years, but have now dropped to such low numbers I dont even worry about them. The main problem is ground ivy. Now that I have a great idea of what will come up and where, I am finally going to do a decent sheet mulch this year.
A short list of plants is as follows: Seedling and Honeygold apple, Toka and seedling plum, Grafted flemish beauty golden spice and john pear, Evans Carmine Jewel and Juliette cherry, seedling apricot, seedling hickory, Himrod Valiant Kay Gray Flame Niagra grapes, saskatoon berries and dozens of ground cover plants like comfrey, yarrow, strawberry, hosta, sages and about a dozen herbs. This year I will be planting Norther Red Oak acorns around the area, and planting some Manchurian Walnuts. For nitrogen fixing trees I have a Quicksilver russian olive and a honeylocust (which does in fact fix nitrogen, just in a different way then what is normally classified). I also have a 5 year old clump of Phyllostachys areosulcata alata which survived with no protection this winter (top killed but green culms about 5 inches up ) dispite a low of -32C. A small clump of Fargesia nitida survived as well. I also some how managed to get a needle palm to survive here last winter!
By now I am sure you realize I have way too many trees for such a small area. Again I wished to experiment with space and so far things are doing ok. I am prepared to have to eliminate trees if need be, but planted doubles of each just in case I need to graft some branches over ( two kinds of pear, two kinds of apple etc). I plan on doing this with my russian pears.
This year I need to fill in some spots with some small shrubs for food insects and nitrogen fixation as well as some low sun/shade ground covers to finally fill in all the spaces.
It sounds as if you've accomplished a ton! I'd love to see some pictures if you have the ability to post them - I'm always interested in other permies working in cold climates. I've been on my property two years, and feel like I could be accomplishing so much more....