While food forest sounds like some sort of fantasy world you dream about while on a diet, in reality, it’s much different. A food forest is the answer to a lot of issues modern workers are facing today.
With the awareness of global warming and its consequence becoming apparent people are searching for solutions that are eco-friendly and sustainable to help cut down our footprint on the planet. One answer people come up with is growing your own food, this will help reduce your carbon footprint as you will be buying less produce from the shop along with giving a boost to your local eco-system.
The key to all this is efficiency there can be no room for plants that do nothing in your forest, everything in it will pull its weight somehow or someway.
So What Actually Is a Food Forest?
So a food forest is basically creating a self-sustaining miniature forest that produces food in your garden. The reason it’s like a forest is because you replicate the way the forest works. To do you hand select species of trees or plants that will benefit each other. Slowly adding more and more until you have a balanced eco-system.
A good food forest will have several layers as recommended by the man who coined the term, Robert Hart.
A canopy layer
A low-tree layer
A shrub layer
A herbaceous layer
A ground cover
A ‘rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension
A vertical layer
These seven layers combined together to create your very own system that can support insects birds and wildlife and most importantly your own food!
The Canopy Layer
So the canopy layer is the top layer of your food forest, this layer will consist of larger mature fruit trees.
A Low Tree Layer
So this layer is my personal favorite and It’s going to consist of your small nut and fruit trees. The most popular ones that spring to mind are peaches and apricots which are always a great addition to any yard.
The Shrub Layer
With this layer, you will be planting all sorts of useful shrubs for a variety of reasons. You will need to decide a culmination of fruit, flowering, and wild-life attracting shrubs to create a nice balance Shrubs are available in huge diversity so narrowing it down favorites can be challenging at times but I still recommend blueberries or blackberries!
The Herb Layer
So this one can do wonders in the kitchen. This layer despite the name is where you have your typical flowers and above ground veggies. Apart from veggies, you can also grow plants with medicinal properties and all your favorite culinary herbs.
The Ground Cover Layer
Now with this layer, there is a bit of the overlay with the herb layer. In this layer, you are looking for your low ground covering plants that produce fruit. For example James Prigioni the food forest god uses strawberries as they stay low to the ground and they provide a natural mulch during the winter. But most people just use woodchips are its way easier and lower maintenance.
The Root Layer
With the root layer, your aim is to create a good system of root veggies to help support your soil. some examples of these are things like ginger or potatoes.
The Vine Layer
This layer will sport vine based fruit producers like grapes and tomatoes. Since these plants climb upwards they don’t take as much space and won’t be competing with your creeper layer.
By using a combination of all the layers above you can create the ultimate garden which is self-sustaining and provides you with more food than you will ever need.
Wait but you didn’t talk about permaculture?
The reason I left this til last is that a food forest is the perfect example of permaculture!
Permaculture is the development of a system that is self-sufficient and is sustainable, not only is a food forest self-sufficient and sustainable but it also gives tons of extra benefits like a huge amount of produce and it does wonders for your sense of wellbeing.