Food Forest

Definition - What does Food Forest mean?

A food forest, or forest garden, is a type of garden plan that mimics forest growth patterns to ensure better yield, maximum light exposure, and simpler management while fostering greater biodiversity.

First popularized by author and farmer Robert Adrian de Jauralde Hart in his book Forest Gardening, the goal is to implement a system of land use that behaves like a forest ecosystem and is designed to yield edible harvests through sustainable and low-maintenance agroforestry.

Food forest gardening is part of the permaculture school of thought, in which people attempt to design earth-friendly systems that are put in place permanently, and work with little outside interference.

MaximumYield explains Food Forest

In a traditional in-ground garden, you have rows of vegetables planted in a plot. There might be fruit trees located in another area of the property, and there may be a separate herb garden, as well. A food forest, or forest garden, turns this traditional system on its ear.

In a food forest, vegetables, herbs, and fruiting trees are planted similarly to the way they would grow in the natural world. Typically, these types of gardens are designed with seven different layers, as opposed to the single layer found in a conventional garden. Those layers are:

  1. the canopy, which consists of fruit and nut trees
  2. the lower tree layer, where you’ll find dwarf fruit trees
  3. the shrub layer, where you’ll find things like blueberries and raspberries
  4. the herbaceous layer, where perennials, herbs, and leafy greens grow
  5. the rhizonosphere, where root crops grow
  6. the soil surface for cover crops
  7. the vertical layer, which includes vines

The food forest model flourishes based on the idea that natural forests do just fine without any sort of human interference. They produce ample food, grow well, and flourish without the need for outside management.

In a food forest, planting occurs intentionally, but then the garden is allowed to grow on its own, with each layer interacting synergistically with the other layers to enhance growth, ensure health, reduce pests, and more.

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