An edible forest – sounds great. Every time I hear this term I think, “yeah, I would love to create an edible forest in my garden.”
So what does an edible forest actually mean? This question popped into my head as I was watering a part of my garden that I have some shade loving plants in.
Along this fence line, I have tried to grow leafy greens and they haven’t done well. Although we did have a bumper crop of snowpeas in this space years ago. I have left this area alone for a while after the lettuce debacle. Some curry plants went in as I had loads of cuttings. Because of the lack of sun in this area, they aren’t doing as well as the curry plants that are in sunnier areas.
I took a moment to observe the area along the fence line. There was loads of leaf litter from the tree on the other side of the fence. This tree’s overhanging branches created shade and I knew the soil was full of tree roots. This is what got me thinking about a forest environment.
I then had a little daydream of a space filled with fruit trees, herbs and veggies. Standing in the middle of it, you wouldn’t be able to see the sky because the canopy is thick like a rainforest. It was a productive space that needed little maintenance.
Then back to reality, I looked at my overall backyard space. OK, it wasn’t the garden of eden forest of my dreams but there were a few fruit trees. One of these had been overgrown by Ceylon spinach , which is my trusty edible green. There were a few herbs and not many veggies.
Googling ‘edible forest’ brought up these words: ‘self-maintaining’, ‘let’s nature do the work’, ‘highly productive’, ‘perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants’. I had to look up the term ‘perennial polyculture’, which means multiple crops in the same space in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems – Thanks Wikipedia!
This concept of an edible forest fits into my plans with wanting to include more perennial food plants to create a low maintenance garden. Letting nature do the work sounds great. It is also perfect for the shaded area along my fence line.
The next step for me will be to plan and design this edible forest. There are existing fruit trees in my garden that have been neglected and could use some TLC. I need to be careful where I dig and plant in the top third of my garden as I do have underground irrigation here from my waste water treatment system (I have put a fork through one of the pipes before).
I will take time with this plan and design. I will further research the edible forest concept. I will also research which plants will be suitable for my climate. I will hold back impatience through this process as I know this is what will occur – I can be an impulsive gardener and plant out without thought.
I’m hoping that by getting the planning and design right that I will create the edible forest of my dreams. What I found funny is that after having this edible forest thought pop into my head, my permaculture course content for that week was… you guessed it: food forests!
How about you? What are your experiences with edible forests? We would love to hear them. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Would you like to know more about creating your own edible forest? Then check out this article – it’s awesome.