Fundamentals of Forest Garden Design

In a world where sustainable and regenerative practices are vital to our future, forest garden design emerges as an eco-conscious approach to cultivating edible landscapes. Inspired by natural ecosystems, a forest garden lives within the layers and diversity of a forest. Let's embark on a botanical journey into the 6 fundamentals of forest garden design.

  1. Understanding Forest Layers: At the heart of forest garden design lies the natural forest layers. From towering canopy trees to shrubs, herbaceous plants, ground covers, and root crops, each layer plays a vital role. Understanding these layers allows for the creation of a self-sustaining and resilient ecosystem, where every plant has its niche.

  2. Plant Guilds and Companionship: Forest gardens thrive on the concept of plant guilds, where plants have a tendency to grow together. Selecting plants that have mutually beneficial relationships, such as nitrogen-fixing trees alongside fruit-bearing shrubs, enhances overall productivity while minimizing the need for external inputs.

  3. Edible Diversity and Perennial Crops: Forest gardens are a treasure trove of edible diversity. By incorporating a wide variety of perennial crops, from fruit and nut trees to perennial vegetables, the garden becomes a year-round source of nourishment. This diversity not only enriches the diet but also contributes to the resilience of the ecosystem.

  4. Wildlife Integration: A thriving forest garden is not just for humans but also for local wildlife. Designing spaces that accommodate pollinators, birds, beneficial insects and animals creates a balanced and biodiverse environment. Wildlife integration not only enhances the beauty of the garden but also aids in natural pest control, pollination and seed diversity. 

  5. Sustainable Practices and Regenerative Design: Forest garden design goes hand in hand with sustainable and regenerative practices. Implementing techniques such as mulching, rainwater harvesting, and organic gardening principles ensures that the garden remains in harmony with nature. Regenerative design focuses on improving soil health, promoting biodiversity, and minimizing environmental impact.

  6. Seasonal Planning and Succession Planting: Strategic planning for each season and incorporating succession planting ensures a continuous harvest throughout the year. By understanding the life cycles of different plants, forest gardeners can maximize productivity and optimize resources, creating a dynamic and ever-changing landscape.

The fundamentals of forest garden design is to harmonize with the environment. By embracing forest layers, creating plant guilds, fostering edible diversity, integrating wildlife, adopting sustainable practices, and planning for seasonal changes, a forest garden becomes a sanctuary of abundance. As we delve into the art of designing edible forest landscapes, let's celebrate the beauty and functionality of a forest garden.

Forest Gardening The Botanical Journey
This is a photograph of our orchard garden that has been productive throughout the winter months. Rather than clearing the native plant species and creating clean farm rows of edibles, we are working with the natural terrain by adding fruit trees and bushes alongside Yaupon, Beautyberry, dewberry vines and wildflowers. The pollinators are numerous and diverse. I am also learning which edibles are left untouched by the deer and grasshoppers; lettuce, chard, kale, onions, radishes, beets, cilantro, carrots, tomato plants, artichokes, asparagus, persimmons, pears... still a work in progress. Our first spring, there is much to discover in the first year.


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