Food Forests

Food forests are one of the things that intrigues me about Permaculture.  Food forests have nothing to do with growing food in a forest.   They are  about growing food the way a forest grows things.  When we think about growing food, we think of  large plots of land with rows of plants.  Often the plants are all the same as in a field of pumpkins or wheat.  They are placed in full sun and watered and fertilized as needed.  But when you think about it, nothing in nature grows this way.  When you look at a forest, you see tall trees, shorter trees, bushes, ground cover and vines growing up where ever they can.  There is a tremendous amount of biodiversity and everything is sort of mushed in together.  It breaks every rule of modern farming and yet it works.  Though much of what grows in a forest is not food.  But could you grow food in this way?  Permaculture does and it is amazingly successful in all sorts of different climates.  Ands it is self sustaining…how amazing!

I won’t go into all the details about tall canopy, lower canopy, nitrogen fixers, etc.  The idea is that the plants work together, sharing the space, some replacing nutrients that others use, some attracting insects for pollination, others repelling insects that would harm the plants.  Fallen leaves and plant matter fertilize the soil.  And you select plants that feed the bees, the birds and yourself.  In that order.  I have been interested in planting food forests at Brookwood Shire for awhile now but I wasn’t sure where.

Until Bill broke his ankle and I became the official lawn mower.  Mowing lawns is a ridiculous task.  Unless you have sheep or goats or something that eats grass, it has no purpose.  I have been putting gardens everywhere but there is still lots of lawn in between.  All we need are paths to get to the gardens.  The rest of it unnecessary.  So as I mow, I have been thinking about how I can expand existing gardens and how I can create food forests around the existing trees…and what I would plant.

IMG_1639The first thing I did was to put down some cardboard around this Spruce tree.  I covered it with straw.  Much less to mow.

IMG_1640This Maple is near the Spruce could easily be part of a food forest.  I have placed a hose around the area I will cover.  I can add a dwarf fruit tree, come currant or boysenberry bushes and maybe strawberries or mint for a ground cover with some meadow flowers to attract bees and some comfry and lupines for nitrogen fixing and soil health.

IMG_1635These birches could be another food forest with similar plants.  These trees are all close together and these forests would leave paths between them..much less to mow.

IMG_1628A path’s width away is this cherry tree.  The bed could be expanded.  I have plants I could divide…I could add a berry bush or mint or herbs.  Again that would mean less to mow!

I am also looking at a spot near the girls’ run.  There are no trees there now, but a few fruit trees underplanted with berry bushes would be nice.  I may not get to all of it this summer.  But I will definitely start getting it ready.  Permaculture uses sheet mulching, so no digging is needed.  Just cover the area with compost, wet cardboard or newspaper and then layers of leaf mulch, grass clippings, compost, animal bedding (thank you girls!), peat moss…whatever you have.  Top it all with straw and let nature do the rest.  You can plant in it right away or you can wait until it has become soil.  

IMG_1695Luckily a friend of mine has a lot of cardboard she didn’t want.

IMG_1694And I got some straw and some more compost (I have used most of mine already) from a local farmer.  I have lots of leaves and LOTS of grass clippings.  So I am good to go.

It will be an ongoing project this summer I think.  I don’t know how far I will get, but I would much prefer to put my energy into creating gardens than into MOWING!

I will keep you posted.





About patti

I am a retired kindergarten teacher, tending a new kind of garden now, raising chickens and exploring permaculture. I live with my husband, Bill, my beloved dog, Fergus and my cat, Mighty Merlin. We have a small cottage and a tiny bit of land called Brookwood Shire. It is our sanctuary.
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5 Responses to Food Forests

  1. You realize that all the time you save mowing you will be spending making jam from all those berries you’ll be planting where the grass was. You’re not going to have long afternoons to do crossword puzzles when the lawn is gone (or reduced) but then I bet you don’t want to spend your afternoons that way! It will be a lot of work but your plan sounds ideal.

    • pattigail says:

      I guess I will have to learn how to make jam. Though with my luck the birds and the bunnies and the deer will feast on most of it. Which is STILL better than having to mow it! And I have all winter for crosswords, etc……😊

  2. wspines says:

    Great plan Patti,

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