In this week’s video, I take you on a tour of our food forest. But first, lets take a look at what a food forest is and what it does.
“A forest garden is an edible ecosystem, a consciously designed community of mutually beneficial plants and animals intended for human food production.” Edible Forest Gardens (p. I).
Probably the most complex permaculture element you can create is a food forest. Food forests (or forest gardens) mimic natural forests but replace native plants with appropriate food and support species. Species are often assembled in “guilds.” Guilds are similar to companion planting as the different species all have synergistic effects. However, not all of the plants will be food plants; some will be support species.
A forest garden imitates the natural processes of forest succession. For example, legume species are used as support species as they “fast track” the building of soils by providing nitrogen. Productive forests can be designed to include food, forage for animals, timber, and fuel even on small lots. A typical forest garden utilizes multiple layers just like a natural forest. These layers include a canopy layer (tall trees), subcanopy layer (dwarf trees), shrub layer, herbaceous layer (mostly perennials and self-sowing annuals), ground layer, root layer, and climbing layer. Fungi are sometimes considered an eighth layer. John Kitsteiner of Temperate Climate Permaculture even considers wetlands/aquatics as a ninth layer and it is definitely a component not to be discounted.
Food Forest Resources
Here are some of my favorite resources about forest gardens a.k.a. food forests.
Hemenway, Toby. Gaia’s Garden. In my opinion, this is THE book for someone just starting in permaculture and food forests.
Enjoy the tour!