Designing and Building a Forest Garden

**************************************************************************************************************This page is currently in draft phase as we add more information and organize a bit. In the mean time we highly recommend the following resources on the subject:

  • Gaia’s Garden by Tobi Hemenway
  • Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge & Steve Gabriel
  • Edible Acres youtube channel

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A forest garden, sometimes called a food forest, is not growing food in the forest, it is growing food like the forest. Forest gardens integrate diverse elements into multiple layers of design to fill all available niches, harvest all available sunlight and water, and create stable systems that generate productivity as a result of, not at the expense of, overall ecosystem health.

While food is certainly an important part, it is by no means the only function of the forest garden. Forest gardens can also provide us with abundant medicines and materials for building and crafting everything from shelters to furniture to toys, tools, and more! They can provide us with the energy we need to keep our shelters comfortable in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. Forests clean the air and water, keeping us healthier and less prone to disease. Communities centered around forest-based systems tend to exhibit greater social cohesion and less depression and anxiety. Forests sequester huge amounts of carbon, helping to slow and eventually reverse the trends of global warming and climate change. They are also incredibly resilient and more likely to survive such climate catastrophes than conventional field agriculture.

While it may be called a “forest garden”, a more accurate term for the phenomenon that we are describing and attempting to build would be a “forest-based community”, or a “forest-based society”. Food is surely a central feature of any community or society, but the idea is bigger than that. It is about learning to coexist within the community of life, not as a master to conquer and control, but as an equal to live and prosper within.

Field agriculture is the foundation of our modern global civilization, and nearly every problem from wealth inequality to disease to climate change can be traced back to this method of agriculture and the underlying philosophies about the role of humans and human civilization on this Earth that make such a mode of agriculture possible.

The techniques described here are designed to both practically change the material conditions of this agricultural paradigm, and to simultaneously undermine the ideological basis that allows such a paradigm to exist in the first place. By changing our ideologies, we change our practice. By changing our practice, we change material conditions of existence. By changing the material conditions of existence, we change ideologies. It is a dialectic, and the best place to start is here and now; so go ahead get started!

 

Food forests are generally organized into the following layers:

Considerations (microclimate)

  • Path
    • Need to be able to access anything that needs to be harvested
    • Want to maximize access while minimizing path
      • mandala
    • Create edges
  •  Sunlight
    • slope
    • buildings
    • sizes and orientations of planted elements
  • Wind
    • slope
    • buildings
    • sizes and orientations of planted elements
  • Water
    • slope/contours
    • runoff from roads buildings
    • storage
    • drainage
  • Other
    • people/animal traffic
    • pollution
    • noise