The Forested Garden: What is a Food Forest?

– What is a food forest? Well, we're all quitefamiliar with forest, and forest as an eco-systemwith great diversity of plants, animals, and fungi allharmonizing together and inter-reacting in many, many niches and layers.

Designed by nature, maintained as a system in perfect balance.

Well imagine that, as asystem that produces food.

The majority of the elements in that system being productive.

That's a food forest.

So by understanding hownature designs forest systems, so they're self maintaining, self replicating, we can model that systemwith productive species.

So that we can produce foodin the most sustainable way, with the minimum amount of input for the maximum amount of output.

Anywhere in the world, that's a food forest system that we can actually design and work with in long-term, and permanent situations.

All forests have layers, so you start off with a canopy layer, that'sthe top of the forest.

Then you have understorylayers, and under those, you have bush and shrub layers, going down to herbaceous layers, which are non-woody plants.

And then, you have a root yield.

You have plants that actuallyhave large, starchy roots.

And then on the ground, you have ground covers, and you also have avertical layer of climbers.

Now all forests have those layers.

In the tropics, you canhave emergent palms, and understory palms.

And you can have slightvariations in different climates.

But you have a basic set of layers that occupy all the space.

When we design a food forest, we put that layering system into action to our benefit, for production andmaintenance through function.

Here in the sub-tropics, you have tamarillo as an an understory.

And you have taro, and cocoa yam, and cassava as a root yield.

That changes from climate to climate.

Then you have understory productive trees, like feijoa, guava, and citrus, and large herbs like bananas.

And then you have support species, like the ice cream bean andthe tipuana tipu and casuarina.

They're large trees, but they continue to support the forest by cycling nutrient.

You also have understory nitrogen fixers.

Like the acacias, and the leucaena, and the acacia, and albizia species.

They're all really good, fast functioning, fast carbon pathways that fix nitrogen and can be chopped to the ground for mulch as the space that they're occupying can be taken up by the productive species.

Here we have rose apples, mulberry.

We have large legume trees, and we have large fruit trees.

So you have jackfruit, thelargest fruit in the world.

We have bunya pine, a very large nut.

But we also have pecan, which is a nut tree herethat's also deciduous, loses its leaves in winter.

Then we have your classic mango, as a large overstory tree.

These are all space occupiers in a system that's incredibly stable when all the layers are complete and occupied.

We can plant food forestsby planting support species at the same time as the fruit trees, and managing the support species to shelter and boostthe productive species.

Or we can just plant thepioneer support species until we get a stable canopy.

But we don't want togo the other way round.

We don't want to startwith a productive species and work hard with lots of input to keep them in a healthy state.

The support species do the work for us.

It can be up to 95% of themass in the early years are the legume trees andthe mulch producing trees that produce the biomass.

We prune these, and these treesshed nitrogen to the soil, because they have relationships, they're classic pioneers.

And most are nitrogen fixing species, in other words, they haverhizobium bacterial partners in the soil that take nitrogenfrom the air in the soil, and bring it into their plant bodies.

And they then eventually die, and that nitrogen is added to the soil.

Now we can speed that process up.

We can sacrifice thosespecies with good timing after we've put theminto relative placement.

So over time, the species we sacrifice open up opportunities forour productive species.

They shelter and supportand provide the fertilizer, the soil conditioning, and the hummus.

So we stack the system in space, but we prune in relation to time.

So we wait for the time of year when there is morerainfall than evaporation.

After the period where it'sbeen dry, and the evaporation is higher than rainfall, there we need shade.

And we leave the shade up.

But as soon as the rainfall gets heavier, and higher than the evaporation, we can start to cut and openup light avenues and space for our productive speciesto take up the gap.

Now over time, when weget to establishment, we've got less and less massin pioneer support species, and more and more mass inthe productive species.

And we end up with the reversal of mass.

We have 95% productive, and only 5% in support.

So we don't just stack inspace, we stack in time, and we speed up the process.

These legume support treeshave been cut off as pollards may look a bit harsh, but theyvery quickly start to regrow.

You can see here, littleshoots coming everywhere.

And they're all the same.

With the regrowth, weget a beautiful shade.

Now that's handy in the hot time of year when we got a lot ofevaporation over rainfall, and it's actually a nursecrop for your fruit trees when they're young.

Later on, we may cut them more regularly, and keep feeding the soil.

And eventually, we may cut them out.

A lower cut, that'llshoot a few more times.

We'll keep adding thatmulch, and eventually, we'll cut them at ground level, and not allow them to grow leaves.

So they actually die out.

It's our choice.

We're actually manipulating the forests so that it grows in our favortowards productive species.

We change the way it grows in our favor.

So here you see the pollard regrowth.

And in just a few months, in the subtropics, you can gain all this wood.

It might be once a yearin a temperate climate, once every six months, everythree months in the tropics.

You're working with the cyclesof the forest within climate, so you're feeding the soilwith the fallen forest, and you're designing theway the forest falls.

We can use animals to helpus establish food for us.

We can graze with largeranimals, then they have to be out of the way, because we'reputting the small plants.

We can put in poultry, chickens and ducks, and they can prepare the ground.

And then later on, when the trees are up, we can bring in maintenance cycles of chickens and ducksto speed the system up.

And that way, we can use our animals to gain an advantagewhile they're productive for us at the same time.

I'm sitting in a food forestthat's been recovered by ducks.

This section here waswell out of maintenance and had quite a lot oflong, clumping grasses, and unwanted plants we call weeds.

We've put a fence aroundit, a temporary fence, electric fence, but wehaven't even electrified it.

We put in 100 or so Mascovy ducks.

In just over three weeks, they've totally changed the area.

They've ate most of the green material.

They've flattened out the grasses.

They've manured the ground, they've conditioned the soil, and it's ready for replanting with the support species and interplants, and fruit trees where there's gaps.

Taking this time advantage, this process of dynamic event, we can now jump in, and putin a whole assembly of plants that'll bring it to a diverse, interactive stability.

And possibly go rightthrough to maintenance without ever needing thisevent to happen again.

This is taking time advantagefrom an animal interaction to a replant, which we can do anytime we slip up on our maintenance.

Just three weeks ago, the ducks were here.

Now it's recovered.

We've planted in the supportspecies and extra fruit trees.

We've established extra ground covers, and we've got a little foot path surrounded by woodprunings, branch prunings right the way through on contour.

It's on its way, and it's probably going into a permanent stablesystem from here on in.

Food forests functionas a living eco system.

And they are so diverse, and so stable.

And there is nothing likethis in modern agriculture.

Nothing as diverse, nothingas stable, nothing as fertile.

The production of soil is constant.

The fertility is constantly increasing.

The diversity of production is nonstop.

So with a food forest system, you have a system thatself replicates over time.

There are no systems that produce as much per square meter for thesmallest amount of input.

This is a system that is proven.

Even in urban agriculture.

Many people have heard my quote, “You can solve all theworld's problems in a garden, ” but what a lot of people don'tknow about that quote is, I'm referring to food forests.

They will work anywhere.

And these systems give uspermanent security, worldwide.

We just need people torealize that if we all move in this same direction, we cansolve all the worlds problems in our food forest gardens, and supply all our needs without causing any damage whatsoever.

In fact, we, humanity, can be the most beneficialelement on this planet.

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