Working With Nature Rather Than Against It
A food forest mimics a forest edge that is planted with edible plants. Picture all of the vertical layers of a forest growing together: Tall trees, small trees, shrubs, herbs, and ground covers. Tall, canopy trees grow inward from the edge. Correspondingly, smaller trees peek out from underneath the tall trees to catch the sun’s rays. Shrubs step farther out into the sunshine, along with herbs, flowers, and ground covers blanketing the sunniest edge.
A typical forest edge can look a little busy. Sometimes vines grow up the trees and mushrooms grow under the tallest trees in the shade. All of these layers of the forest stack together, each situated for sufficient sun exposure. Intertwined, they produce a vibrant, productive, low-maintenance, and relatively self-maintaining ecosystem.
A healthy forest doesn’t need humans to weed or fertilize.
An example food forest might include chestnut trees as a tall canopy tree layer. Apple trees grow below the chestnut trees. Meanwhile, currant bushes grow as an understory layer beneath the apple trees. A host of edible herbs and mushrooms grow underneath, and perhaps even grapevines use the apple trees as trellises.
Swap out the selections above for your favorite nut trees, fruit trees, berry bushes, and herbs to make your own system.