Instead of clearing the natural environment, we can restore and mimic woodlands where there is an abundance of plant life that can provide us with a variety of food.

This is referred to as edible landscaping, a food forest, or a food garden. In conventional farming, woodland is aggressively cleared so that rows and rows of the same species of plants can be planted. These are prone to pests and therefore require harsh pesticides and herbicides which denude the soil, and then in turn require the further use of harmful chemical fertilizers.

A food forest is a garden full of plants and trees of different sizes that support each other in an ecosystem, just like in your local forest. The difference is however, that these plants and trees will provide you with food. Food forests are diverse and have a mixture of tall trees for nuts, smaller trees for fruits, shrubs for berries, bushes for herbs, small plants for vegetables and even plants such as potatoes and ginger under the ground. This is what is called ‘layers of the food forest’. A forest will even have vines growing up the trees that provide grapes and other fruits.

Many trees and shrubs will take many years to establish and provide food, but once they have, they mostly require little effort to maintain and can provide you with harvest at different times of the year due to the diversity.

In nature soil is built up year after year until even old buildings are covered. That’s what gives archaeologists jobs right? But has that happened to your house, local farm, park or back garden? No! Thats because most people are fighting nature, adding chemicals and removing biomass. Let’s use nature to make our food, it’s cheaper, it is more healthy and it is better for the planet.

A food forest can be small or large and is planted in guilds. Each tree planted will have a few other carefully selected plants next to it that will provide shade, attract bees, repel pests, attract predator insects, fix nitrogen and provide biomass for mulching which feeds the tree and prevents weeds. Over time the guild changes but most of the plants provide food. Animals like chickens, goats or pigs can be added to eat weeds and waste fruit which will instantly convert biomass into manure, providing natural fertilizer.

Book our services to integrate permaculture principles into your farm or homestead

Book our services to integrate permaculture principles into your farm or homestead

Zach Loeks teaches soil science as a Faculty Member of the Forestry & Environmental Technician Program at Algonquin College (Pembroke, Ontario)

Zach Loeks teaches soil science as a Faculty Member of the Forestry & Environmental Technician Program at Algonquin College (Pembroke, Ontario)

Educator of Root Cellar Design, Yestermorrow Design Build School (Waitsfield, Vermont, USA)

Educator of Root Cellar Design, Yestermorrow Design Build School (Waitsfield, Vermont, USA)