Food Forests are modeled on a natural woodland forest system, however they are created to serve the purpose of providing our needs; in this case food! They mimic the way forests functions as self-regulating systems. With help from us we can nurture and guide them to create abundant organic and productive systems.
A Food Forest can be implemented replace or enhance the notion of a traditional backyard, or larger scale orchard can be retrofitted to create a Food Forest
They typically consist of the 7 layers found in a natural forest:
1 – Canopy tree, the large over story
These can be a nitrogen fixing pioneer trees, providing mid-summer shade, and preferably preferably loosing theirs leaves during winter or chop and dropped (heavily pruned with prunings used as mulch) when precipitation is higher than evaporation. Initially many Legume trees are planted to support the fledgling system, however after a few years many are removed or have died off making way for the full expression of the productive capony trees in our case: Large fruit trees.
2 – Middle story; medium size trees including the Dwarf fruit trees,
3 – Lower shrub level, small trees including Blueberry, Gogi berry, Chilean guava.
4 – Herbaceous level including Comfrey, Mint, Lavender, Rosemary, Yarrow.
5 – Rhizosphere which is the below ground level comprising of Root vegetables and tubers.
6 – Ground Covers These protect the mulch and soil from drying out too much and certain species can fix nitrogen. They include Pumpkin, Nasturtium, Strawberry, Warrigal Greens.
7 – Vertical Layer: Are any climbers including Passionfruit, Kiwi fruit, Yam, Grape, and Choko, these can be trellised but often will be supported by the larger trees in the forest.
8 – Fungal Layer: This is the network that connects the trees via the fungal network, which serves as a communication highway of information and nutrient exchange. This layer is supported by the decomposition of woody material on the forest floor, and can also include edible and medicinal mushrooms.
Once established with full ground cover, these systems are very low maintenance only requiring harvest and the occasional pruning of the leguminous support species to allow in light, create mulch and make their fixed nitrogen available to the other members of the Forest. In temperate climates this is usually done at the start of winter when rain is more plentiful and to allow in light. Likewise in tropical climates this maintenance known as ‘chop and drop’ is done at the beginning of the wet season when precipitation begins to exceed evaporation. During the dry season the shade these species provide is paramount.
A food forest with it many layers and connections among these layers is a refreshing and life rich experience once established. They can serve to enhance a traditional backyard providing year round food, ambience and interest. Food forests can be integrated with a number of other elements such as animals: chickens and ducks, water harvesting features such as swales, and can serve other functions including as windbreaks and privacy screens.
Please contact Co-creative permaculture today to discuss the possibility of a Food Forest system on your property