Edible Forest Gardening
What the Heck Is an Edible Forest Garden?
That is a fair question! It is the art and science of arranging plants together in a forest setting so that they are mutually beneficial to one another, forming their own ecosystem. If planted properly, they can be basically self-sustaining, and provide a bountiful crop year after year.
In such a garden you can grow nuts, fruits, vegetables, herbs and other useful plants, and because they are mutually sustaining, they will provide you with years of crops with little or no care.
The theory behind it is called polyculture, which refers to many different plants growing with multiple layers of vegetation in one area. This theory is the exact opposite of most gardening done in the modern world, normally called monoculture, or unnaturally large plantings of only one species.
Why Grow an Edible Forest Garden?
There are three main reasons for growing such a garden:
· High yields of diverse products
· The garden will be self-sustaining
· The creation of a healthy ecosystem
On a more ethereal level, we refer to a quote by Masanobu Fukuoka, who once said: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” In other words, growing a forest garden puts us back in touch with nature the way nature was originally designed. Rather than tearing down an ecosystem to plant one crop, we are creating an ecosystem to provide multiple crops for many years, just as nature always has done.
A video about Living Simple
Where Can You Grow an Edible Forest Garden?
The quick answer is practically anywhere, but generally they are best grown where the natural vegetation is forest, and in particular deciduous forest. In the United States you could easily grow one of these on the East Coast, the areas around the Great Lakes, and from the Rocky Mountains westward to the Pacific Ocean.
It is fairly important to note that forest gardening is not gardening in a forest as much as it is gardening like a forest. You do not need an existing forest to start one of these, and you do not need a lot of land to do so either. An adequate forest garden can be created in a 30x50 foot space or over several acres, making it suitable for city-dwellers as well as rural residents.
How to Create an Edible Forest Garden
Remember, the point is to emulate nature. As with any forest, layers are important, from the highest canopies to the ground, all work together to form a healthy ecosystem.
The table below will give you some ideas for which plants and trees to grow in your forest garden.
A Perfect Variety
Edible Flowers, Roots and Bulbs
Shrubs, Herbs and Vines
Siberian Pea Shrub
Many of the plants and trees grown in an edible forest garden are high in nutritional value and have a high yield of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and anti-oxidants.
It has been found the perennials are more nutritious, on average yielding 2 to 3 times more Vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, iron and protein than annual vegetables and plants. They are the super plants of the world and as such should be included in any garden for health benefits.
An edible forest garden offers variety, and variety is the secret to proper nutrition.
How about you?
Would you consider having an edible forest garden?
So Why Don’t We See Forest Gardening on a Large Scale?
Simply stated, forest gardening requires manual labor. Machines cannot be used in forest gardening because the entire area is a garden. Large tractors would do more damage than good, crushing parts of the garden while cultivating others. Man must be directly involved in forest gardening and that means large-scale gardening, which is what is needed to feed a community, is not practical for communities of any size.
However, on an individual basis, forest gardening is the best of all worlds, lending itself to small-scale efforts and providing maximum benefits.
Edible forest gardens are the epitome of Living Simple! This is getting back to basics at its most fundamental level. This is growing your own food, taking care of the environment, and taking care of yourself and your family. This is pulling away from large-scale and adopting small-scale, and in the process re-discovering something about you as a responsible member of this planet.
A Reading on Living Simple
- Living Simple: A Manifesto For Change
The beginning of a series about changing our lives; in this article the author discusses his reasons for writing this series and the steps he has taken.
For more on edible forest gardening, these books are recommended:
“How to Grow a Forest Garden: by Patrick Whitefield
“Gaia’s Garden” by Toby Hemenway
“Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally” by Robert Kourik
“Plants for a Future” by Ken Fern
“Edible Forest Gardens” by Dave Jacke
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)