David Jacke from Edible Forest Gardens, has put together a thorough and eloquent description of the Food Forest concept, covering the what, why, where, how and more. Here’s a short excerpt to whet your appetite for the full article.
What is Edible Forest Gardening?
Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodlandlike patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts. You can grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, other useful plants, and animals in a way that mimics natural ecosystems. You can create a beautiful, diverse, high-yield garden. If designed with care and deep understanding of ecosystem function, you can also design a garden that is largely self-maintaining. In many of the world’s temperate-climate regions, your garden would soon start reverting to forest if you were to stop managing it. We humans work hard to hold back succession—mowing, weeding, plowing, and spraying. If the successional process were the wind, we would be constantly motoring against it. Why not put up a sail and glide along with the land’s natural tendency to grow trees? By mimicking the structure and function of forest ecosystems we can gain a number of benefits.
Why Grow an Edible Forest Garden?
While each forest gardener will have unique design goals, forest gardening in general has three primary practical intentions:
- High yields of diverse products such as food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, ‘farmaceuticals’ and fun;
- A largely self-maintaining garden and;
- A healthy ecosystem.
These three goals are mutually reinforcing. For example, diverse crops make it easier to design a healthy, self-maintaining ecosystem, and a healthy garden ecosystem should have reduced maintenance requirements. However, forest gardening also has higher aims.