Forest Gardens 101
Graham Burnett - Wikipedia
May 6, 2014
Forest gardening is an ancient gardening method which combines edible trees, bushes, vines, herbs, and perennials to create a beautiful, completely edible garden which is very low maintenance.
A forest garden requires less work, almost no weeding, and much less water than a "normal" food garden does, which makes it very nice for busy edible gardeners.
First developed in tropical gardens dating back to prehistoric times, horticulturist Robert Hart adapted the principles to temperate climates in the 1980's.
If you look at an edible forest garden, you could say that it has seven layers:
- The canopy (or top) layer has tall mature fruit and nut trees.
- The "low-tree" layer has smaller, perhaps less mature fruit and nut trees. Dwarf trees fall into this layer also.
- The "shrub" layer consists of fruit bushes like currants, pomegranates, and berry bushes.
- The "herbaceous" layer contains perennial vegetables and herbs. These can be of any size, from a small lettuce plant to a huge rhubarb or artichoke.
- The ground cover layer uses edible plants that grow horizontally, such as strawberries, creeping thyme, or wintergreen.
- The underground layer is composed of those plants which are grown for their roots, such as sweet potato, turnip, or carrot.
- And last but not least is the vertical layer: edible plants such as tomatoes, grapes, and peas, which climb upwards!
If you put edible plants into all these layers, you can produce a tremendous amount of food in a relatively small area of land.
Most of the typical edibles used in forest gardening are ones which can tolerate at least partial shade (for obvious reasons), but in very hot and dry areas, this growing arrangement is ideal.
The taller plants help shade and cool the smaller ones, moisture is kept in the area, and the combination of plants confuses and distracts most pests.
Permaculturists use the forest garden frequently in their designs.
Environmental scientist Jonathan White, who developed the ecological gardening method
, has basically created a forest garden without the trees, making it suitable for areas with low light conditions or tiny urban yards where trees would be out of the question.
So how would you design a forest garden? The same way as you would any other --
- measure your area,
- plan where you want each plant to go,
- decide on the color and shapes of your plants as they change through the seasons,
- plan out your garden areas for size and shape,
- add in paths, irrigation and drainage (if needed),
- then select the plants which are best for your area.
I go over all these things in my Tasteful Yard Design course
in a step by step manner, helping you to create the edible garden which is right for you.
I have described just the bare bones of how forest gardening works. If you have more questions or specific things you'd like answered about it, please let me know!
I just recently found out about this course on Udemy on Food Forests that you might like:
Toby Hemenway is one of the leaders in permaculture studies, so this should be a great course! Return to the Members' Area main page
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