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Edible Forest Gardening:. Embodying wisdom, knowledge, and practice of the ‘eco’. chuckjwest@hotmail.com. What is an edible forest garden? . “An edible forest garden is a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants” (Jacke 2005)

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edible forest gardening

Edible Forest Gardening:

Embodying wisdom, knowledge, and practice of the ‘eco’


what is an edible forest garden
What is an edible forest garden?
  • “An edible forest garden is a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants”

(Jacke 2005)

  • “Forest gardens are long-term biologically sustainable systems for growing food and other products for a household or commercially.”

(Crawford 2006)

unlawning what we have lawned
‘Unlawning what we have lawned’
  • lawns in the US were estimated to cover 128, 000 square kilometres (about the size of England) making it the most extensive irrigated crop in the country (about three times that of corn).[1]
  • 50-70% of residential water is used to water lawns.[2]
  • The collective maintenance budget of this ‘crop’ was in the range of 29 billion dollars in 2002, or roughly 1,200 dollars/using household.

[1] Lindsey, Rebecca, ‘Looking for Lawns’ http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Lawn/lawn2.html, 8-11-05.

[2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn, 14-11-2006.

key patterns of a forest garden
Key patterns of a forest garden:
  • High Diversity of perennials
  • Multi-layered
  • Nitrogen fixers
  • Leaf mulch
  • Mineral Accumulators
  • No Till
  • Ground covers
  • Bee plants and predatory insect attractants
key qualities of a forest garden
Key qualities of a forest garden:
  • Self Maintaining
  • High yield (“Over-yielding”)

Figure 2-2

(Crawford, 2006)


In Indonesia 7% of labor inputs can account for 44% of the carbohydrate and 32% of the protein needs of the diet. In Hawaii a small home garden can provide 100% of the necessary vitamin A and C and 18% of the protein for a family of five.[1][1] Cooper, P.J.M., Leakey, R.R.B., Rao, M.R. and Reynolds, L. 1996. ‘Agroforestry and the mitigation of land degredation in the humid and sub humid tropics of Africa.’ Experimental Agriculture 32: 235-290.

key qualities of a forest garden10
Key qualities of a forest garden:
  • Self Maintaining
  • High yield (“Over-yielding”)
  • Self fertilizing
    • Zero external inputs necessary
    • Nitrogen fixers
    • Mineral Accumulators
Forest Gardening puts the emphasis on the whole as an interrelating ‘organism’ not as a collection of objects or individuals.
  • What are the wind patterns here?
  • What windbreaks already exist?
  • What areas are more protected?
  • What species make good wind breaks?
wind break food
Wind break/ food
  • Medlar
  • Sorbus sp
  • Lime- Tilia sp.
  • Nut pine
  • Damson/ Bullace
  • Sweet Chestnut
  • Hawthorn
wind break nitrogen fixer
Wind break/ Nitrogen fixer
  • Alnus sp, particularly
    • Italian (A. cordata)
    • Sitka (A sinuata)
    • Green (A. viridis)*
windbreak food nitrogen fixer
Windbreak/ Food/ Nitrogen fixer
  • Sea Buckthorn*
  • Eleagnus spp. (E. umbellata, E. ebbingei)

“All trees are multipurpose - but some are more multipurpose than others.”

-George Orwell

  • South face
  • East face/ West face??
  • North face
sunny position
Sunny position
  • Peach
  • Apricot
  • Pear
  • Fig
  • Almond
  • Butternut- J. cinerea
  • Heartnut- J. ailantifolia cordiformis
  • Walnut- J. regia
light shade
Light shade
  • Dessert apples
  • Plums
  • Quince
  • Chestnuts
  • Mulberry
  • Pine nuts
  • Hazelnuts
heavier shade
Heavier Shade
  • Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)
  • Medlar
  • Juneberry
  • Chinese Dogwood
  • Sour Cherry
  • Cooking Apples
  • Flow
  • Ground covers
  • Soil texture
  • Structure
  • Composition
  • Water retention/ Drainage capacity
  • pH – acidification of soil is one consequence of large amounts of rain
  • NPK

ART Forest garden soil analyses

Soil composition:

23% clay, 40% silt, 37% sand.

nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation

Heavy cropping fruits (chestnuts, plums, blackberries, apples, apricots, hazels, medlars, mulberries, peaches, pears), bamboos, and heavily cropped perennials will require extra nitrogen – 6-10 g/m2 of N per year.

(Crawford 2006)

  • Most soils contain plentiful potassium, but almost all is insoluble and only made available by weathering processes.
  • Heavily fruiting trees and shrubs will require extra potassium in the order of 7-14 g/m2/year of K (or 8-17 g/m2/year of K2O).

(Crawford, 2006)

urine nation
Urine- Nation
  • One pee has about as much nitrogen in it (5.6g) as a kilo of manure, a kilo of compost, or three comfrey plants cut 4-5 times/year
  • One pee has 7g Potassium. More than a kilo of manure (4.2g) or a kilo of compost (6.7g)
  • Phosphorous- about a third as much
nitrogen fixers
Nitrogen fixers
  • Alder spp
  • Eleagnus spp
  • Broom
  • Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens)
  • Sea Buckthorn
  • Bush Clover (Lespedeza bicolor)
  • Wax Myrtles
  • Black Locust
dynamic accumulators




Blood Wort


Salad Burnet

Wild lupine


Dynamic Accumulators
key qualities of a forest garden29
Key qualities of a forest garden:
  • Self Maintaining
  • High yield (“Over-yielding”)
  • Self fertilizing
  • Beneficial to the other- than- human?
observed effects on biodiversity
Observed effects on biodiversity:
  • Statistically valid difference in species composition between two sites
  • Forest garden had higher diversity of taxa, as well as higher indexed diversity.
Forest Gardening reminds us in subtle ways that we are not separate, we can be beneficial participants in our environments.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution



Healthy plants

High diverse yields

Directed succession

Self maintenance/minimum cost

Minimal competition

Existing site conditions

Minimal herbivory

Ecological health

Desired ecosystem components

Sustainable water demand

Ecosystem patterning

Self renewing fertility

Management activities

Figure 2-3



canopy density and design
Canopy density and design
  • Find out the size & shape of the trees you want (width x height)
  • Just 1-2 hours sun per day in summer can double the energy they get
  • Never plant canopy trees closer than their maximum potential width allows
  • A gap between trees (at maximum width) of ¼-½ of the tree canopy width, to give a broken canopy, will allow significant light through to lower layer
  • In general, put largest canopy trees at North end/side of site, smallest ones at South end/side
  • Incorporate any aesthetic objectives
  • Aim to raise canopy in time by pruning lower branches