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How To Create A Permaculture Food Forest?

Updated: Oct 18

An edible forest food garden is a method of food production. Learn how to build a low-maintenance, permaculture food forest garden with delicious rewards!


We noticed that growing perennial edibles would help us repair erosion issues and stabilize the terraced garden using permaculture design observations. This inspired us to change the setting into a community food forest rather than a typical garden of raised vegetable beds. It was enjoyable to do!


What is a Permaculture Food Forest?


A Food Forest is an edible food forest comparable to a forest edge, where various edible plants are planted.


Picture a forest where all the vertical layers grow together: large trees, small trees, shrubs, herbs, and ground covers. On edge, canopy trees grow inward towards each other. Smaller trees poke out beneath the canopy to catch the sun's rays. Shrubs, herbs, flowers, and ground covers blanket the sunniest edge.


When you stand at the edge of a forest, you may see a little bit of everything. Sometimes vines grow up the trees, and mushrooms grow beneath the tallest trees in the shade. These layers all stack together, ensuring sufficient sunlight for each. They form an interconnected ecosystem that is colorful, productive, low-maintenance, and relatively self-maintaining.


Humans don't have to prune or fertilize healthy forests, for example, a chestnut forest with tall canopy trees. Apple trees grow beneath the chestnut trees, and currant bushes grow under the apple trees as an understory layer. Various edible herbs and mushrooms grow under them, perhaps even grapevine trellises.


A Brief History of Food Forest


Human consumption of forest foods is an ancient concept. Ancient food forests have been discovered in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Colonists and anthropologists were unaware that the New World was colonized because they did not recognize the managed forests. Forests were seen as untouched by colonists because they appeared like untouched forests.


Of course, the hunter-gatherer societies of the early ages did not wander around aimlessly in search of sustenance. Instead, they knew which areas produced desirable foods or medicines and at which time of year they produced them, which informed their movement.


Planting trees and shrubs in a natural environment is a primitive type of forest gardening. Forest and prairie landscapes cleared away the overgrowth around them as they moved through them. Their growth and multiplication were therefore stimulated. They would not have spent much time taking care of this space. However, the plants of their choice would have been given an advantage over others.


Geoff Lawton discovered an oasis in the Moroccan desert dating back 2,000 years. In addition to fruit trees such as date palms, bananas, olives, figs, pomegranates, guavas, citrus, and mulberries, 800 people continue to work the land. In Vietnam, Lawton discovered a 300-year-old food forest where the same family has worked for 28 generations.


It is our responsibility to leave a legacy for future generations. We can create sustainably thriving perennial gardens by remembering these ancient tales. A food forest is a contemporary strategy for food production inspired by these stories.


An Edible Perennial Forest Garden provides many advantages.


In contrast to annual gardens, perennial gardens do not disturb the soil frequently. Organic matter accumulates in the soil as leaves fall and plants die back for the winter, restoring land, biodiversity, and habitat and producing an edible yield. Forests are one of the earth's most stable ecosystems. By copying forests in food production, we can reap all of their ecological benefits and food!


Orchards vs. Food Forests


A little orchard of about 30 apple trees can be envisaged as a consequence of planting a 0.10-acre site with it. Although it would produce a lot of apples, a single-species orchard is difficult for a home gardener to manage. The orchard may be a haven for pests and diseases that enjoy its variety of foods, leading to the need for pest management and disease control.


There are several problems with the conventional apple orchard structure. The single harvest opportunity of apples does not take advantage of the vertical space above and below the trees. If a disease or pest wipes out the apples, there is no reward for your efforts. Furthermore, if the apples are wiped out, there will be no fruit to eat. Every tree needs the same nutrients; if they deplete the soil, they will require imported fertilizer.


The Apple Orchard Converted into a Food Forest


Imagine planting a line of big nut trees on the northern boundary of the orchard (in the northern hemisphere). Alternatively, you could plant rows of apple trees interspersed with plum and cherry trees. For example, select fruit species that are economically valuable and straightforward to harvest commercially. For example, you may plant some bushes that produce nuts or berries in between the rows of fruit trees.


We could sow a range of herbs and flowers beneath and between all the trees and shrubs to help:

  • To improve the soil's fertility (by adding fertilizer and soil-building).

  • To lure beneficial insects (insect control).

  • To attract pollinators (for a better fruit set)

  • additional yields of flowers and medicinal/ culinary herbs can be gained.


An overgrown orchard


Creating a biodiverse ecosystem rather than a monoculture has reduced the risk of pests, decreased the amount of fertilizer required, reduced the maintenance required, and potentially increased and diversified yields. This diversity has increased system stability. Because families are unlikely to utilize 30 bushels of apples, this is good news in the backyard. It would be nice to have a variety of edible plants.


Have you ever thought about growing perennial edible crops for profit? You can use the food forest as a model for producing ecological food.


Read Next: How to Plant Trees In Your Backyard


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