INFO SHEET: Making a food forest
by Russ Grayson, updated May 2020.
A cultivated ecology for home and community garden design
In designing our home or community garden we can increase the quantity and diversity of food it yields if we include a forest garden, sometimes called a food forest or an orchard.
The size you make your forest garden depends on the space available. It may occupy an area all of its own or it may be the model for your entire garden.
The forest garden will be of different structure and appearance in different climates. In cool temperate regions trees will be placed further apart so sunlight can penetrate the shrubs and ground covers between them. In the tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates, trees may be closer together. The understorey may be partly shaded, necessitating the planting of shade-tolerant plants.
We can think of our forest garden as having three vertical layers—the ground layer of herbs, vegetables, and low-growing shrubs, an understorey layer of smaller trees and taller shrubs, and a canopy layer made up of fruit, nut, and other trees. Because it uses the ecology of the natural forest as a model, our forest garden is an example of nature-assisted design, a cultivated ecology.