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Forest Gardening: An Introduction

Updated on May 21, 2011

the backyard food forest

Have you begun to feel that the time you spend watering and cutting your lawn is a waste and probably doing more harm than good? Tired of using poisonous chemicals to keep that lawn green and golf course ready?

Or are you longing for fresh fruits and vegetables?

Perhaps both appeal to you and if you have answered yes to one or both then it could be time to turn your yard into a food forest garden.

If you do undergo the transformation, you will be no longer be using your time and energy to maintain an unnatural ecosystem- the lawn- which gives you little in return for your efforts.

Instead, you will be investing that time, energy and dollars in an ecosystem that provides you and your family with fresh right off the vine, produce all the while, creating a backyard habitat that will attract, butterflies, bees and birds.

The backyard food forest meets not only you and your family’s needs but provides food and shelter for butterflies and songbirds, for example.

The inclusion of native plants and others, such as herbs, berries and fruit trees, in the backyard forest garden will form the layers of your backyard forest.

Your lawn wants to become a forest; it wants to follow Nature’s way and eventually become a forest but the constant maintenance that a lawn requires prevents this natural progression from taking place and creates considerable work for the homeowner.

As you move away from the lawn; from an unnatural and stalled ecosystem that wants to evolve but is constantly thwarted in its desire, you move from wasting your resources to investing them and stop using resources poorly and begin to invest so that one day you can reap the rewards of your work as you harvest, fruit, berries, herbs and vegetables fresh from you own backyard.

The role of the gardener is not to stall ecosystems and combat natural growth but to work with that desire and need to grow and guide the progress so that it meets the needs of all beings.

This way balance is maintained and the garden becomes a place of mediation between Nature and Civilization rather than a war zone.

You can start small. There is no need to overturn your whole backyard into a forest garden the first time around, select a sunny corner and work with dwarf fruit trees for example.

This is a process and you may proceed at your own pace.

If you are interested in converting your backyard into a food garden then the book, I’d suggest is Gaia's Garden:A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. It is published by Chelsea Green, 2001, and has a foreword by John Todd.


Part Two


Submit a Comment

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for dropping by

  • profile image

    Raederle Phoenix Jacot 

    8 years ago

    Good little post. I've been recently blogging about this topic myself on my raw food blog. It's always healthier to eat things fresh, fresh, fresh off the bush, tree or vine. Many raw foodists make the mistake of eating a bunch of dried fruit which defeats the purpose. And if you're going to garden to grow food, forest gardening is the way to go!

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Happy New Year, thanks for dropping by.

  • Greenheart profile image


    8 years ago from Cambridge

    Thanks Bob for the hub!

    I am sure nature will continue to 'guide' us,no matter what.

    We may not always like her 'input',how-ever!

    Happy new year

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are kind, thanks for dropping by.

  • Storytellersrus profile image


    8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

    Self sustaining living practices are so important. Thank you, Bob, as always, for keeping us on track.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    "I hope it inspires more people to seriously consider more self-sustaining living practices in general." hopefully, thanks for dropping by.

  • greg austin profile image

    greg austin 

    8 years ago from Canada

    I think that native wild gardens are so much nicer than artificial lawns in any event. I especially don't understand the 3 acre front lawns that some folks in the country spend hours and hours maintaining weekly (with environmentally unfriendly tractor lawnmowers, no less)

    Anyway, your forest idea takes the wild plant garden a step further, and actually is a positive move towards creating self-sustaining eco-systems that actually produce edible crops.

    Great that you are getting this idea out there - I hope it inspires more people to seriously consider more self-sustaining living practices in general.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    9 years ago from New Brunswick

    both, :-) thanks for dropping by

  • cally2 profile image

    Paul Callaghan 

    9 years ago from Paraparaumu, New Zealand

    Cool hub, funny enough I picked up Gaia's Garden at the library yesterday. And then found your hubs. Serendipity or search engines? Spooky :)

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Nature is a wise guide

  • Topaz profile image


    10 years ago

    This was a great hub you are getting back to doing it natures way. And that is the way that works. You have to get the right food out there for the birds bees and other insects before they will stop dying. They do just like we do a diet of junk food will kill and that is also the diet of many bees and birds.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, I have been teaching an online course called backyard permaculture using Gaia's Garden for several years now, it is an excellent book

  • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

    Zsuzsy Bee 

    10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

    Bob! Great hub again. I just love Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. I've owned it for a few years now and consider it one of my "gardening bibles".

    super duper hub regards Zsuzsy

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks and the birds and bees and their companions would indeed love this space.

  • cgull8m profile image


    10 years ago from North Carolina

    Nice tips Bob, this makes sense. we have lots of native animals and birds they would love such a space.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    dogs do enjoy lawns and that is one reason to have some lawn space.

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 

    10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    That is a brilliant idea, and keeps it natural more or less with nature.

    We have no back lawn, because we turned it into a vegetable patch years ago. The rest is taken up withbird aviaries and the swimming pool.

    I have to admit though. That our dog misses the lawn, we still have some out the front, so when we go visiting people with lush green lawns he has a ball. Racing around it and rolling in the lush green grass.

  • kerryg profile image


    10 years ago from USA

    Very interesting! There is some forest in rather poor condition on my property that I hope to restore sometime in the next few years, but I hadn't even considered turning it into a food garden, beyond adding a few berries and other fruits edible to both birds and humans. I'll definitely be reading more about this idea now!


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