This week's blog post - What is a Food Forest? (And How to Get Started) is all about the basics of food forests.
The post focuses on walking you through the concept of a food forest through a simplified structure with less layers than often discussed.
Later I will be releasing additional posts on food forests that will cover food forests in more detail and in more depth. But this post is really focused on what a food forest is, why you would want to grow a food forest, and the basics of how to grow a food forest.
Here is an outline of the post:
- The Basic Structure of a Forest.
- Benefits of a Food Forest.
- How to Start Your Own Food Forest
I’m not going to cover all that here but let’s dive into the basics of how to start a food forest. But make sure to check out the full blog post and the cheat-sheet which has a sample guild structure for fruit trees and 2 example guilds for apple trees.
Time to Design/Plant a Food Forest
If you want to start your own food forest you need to first determine where to put it, how big to make it, and what you want to grow. This may seem obvious but sometimes it is easy to skip past the basics.
There is a fine line to walk between location and what you want to grow. Some plants like annual vegetables are better to plant if your food forest is in zone 1 or 2. But if you are focused on self-seeding annual vegetables, perennial vegetables, nut trees, and in general crops that you harvest mostly all at once then zone 3 or even zone 4 is likely a better choice location wise.
If you only have one location to plant a food forest let that guide what you end up planting there. Don’t forget the guidelines around permaculture zones. But that might mean you don’t grow what you originally wanted to.
Also, if this is your first food forest try to keep it small at first. You can always expand it later on as you get the hang of it.
Once you have a location picked out and you know what you want to grow it is time to determine the number and size of fruit / nut trees you want to plant.
After that I like to pick out berries and other shrubs to go around the trees. These can provide their own harvest or provide support (nitrogen fixing, mulch producers, etc.) for the other plants.
It is always a good idea to include nitrogen fixers. In fact at the start you can have more nitrogen fixers than you ultimately want and overtime remove them as the rest of your food forest gets going. But I always like to have a few nitrogen fixers even once the food forest is established.
Also, make sure to include some non-woody (herbaceous plants) around the shrubs. Mix in some good shade tolerant plants, some groundcovers, etc. These can be edible, medicinal, or support plants. Flowers are great for bringing in pollinators and beneficial insects that will help your trees.
Don’t forget that a forest often has logs, snags, rockpiles, etc. that provide great habitat for wildlife. Your food forest in my view won’t truly mimic a natural forest without some of these habitat features. I would try to add at least one to each tree.
Top it all off with a good mulch layer and your food forest is off to a great start!
Now obviously this is a fairly simple outline and designing a food forest can get much more complicated. You could add in swales, hugelkultur beds, etc. But this is enough to get you started and would be vastly superior to a traditional orchard.
Are You Going to Start Your Own Food Forest?
This is 1 of 2 food forests I’m currently working on at my place. I still got a lot of work to do but already the 2 food forests are adding a lot to my homestead.
Make sure to visit the full blog post to get more information all about food forests. I share some of my wild tips and more to help you get started with your own food forest.
Food forests really are one of my favorite permaculture ideas and I’m excited to see my own grown and change overtime. Plus, I’m getting ready to design a large food forest for my day job that will ultimately be open to the public as a learning area.
I hope you will consider starting your own food forest if you have not already. Food forests really are a fantastic addition to any homestead.
I would love to hear what you think about food forests and if you have planted one or are going to plant one on your homestead!
Weekly Blog Post
Related Blog Posts
- Plant Once With Perennial Vegetables
- 11 Self-Seeding Vegetables to Save You Time and Money
- How to Work With Nature to Rewild your Homestead (And Why You Should Do It.)
Follow me for more posts all about homesteading, working with nature, and growing your own food: @wildhomesteading
And check out my blog - www.wildhomesteading.com for weekly in-depth posts on working with nature to grow your own food and start/build your homestead.