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Please show me your food forest... pictures, pictures and more pictures!!!

 
pollinator
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First I want to thank Lori Ziemba for asking the question yesterday in a different thread.... Please explain a food forest to me. I've been reading posts after posts for months now trying to understand exactly how to do it. I'm planting lots of semi-dwarf fruit trees, I've got the room to do it but I'm just a little confused! I'm putting 6-8” of leaves in a wide circle around all my trees as mulch which will get wider and wider as the trees grow. (Really good idea here in high desert country!) As I water them the leaves will break down and turn into awesome dirt. (Or soil or humus or whatever you people like to call it, the good stuff!) So how can I plant stuff in it? Especially annuals? I need to keep putting down more leaves constantly all year and I don't want to disturb the roots! So, thank you so much Lori for asking the question.

I want to thank Trace Oswald for finally explaining it in a simple way that I can understand. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And I especially want to thank William Bronson for showing us a picture of one kind of food forest! I'm kind of old and a little bit slow on the uptake and pictures help immensely. So can all of you please show us pictures of your different food forests! Your assistance on this matter would be greatly appreciated.
 
steward
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It's very difficult for me to grow annuals in a forest. Seems to me like food forests are most abundant, and easy to maintain, when they contain predominately perennial species.
walnut-self-feeding-nut-harvester.jpg
food-forest-canopy-thailand
Squirrels harvesting walnuts from the food forest.
 
pollinator
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I started 3 years ago collecting all possible trees with fruits, nuts or any other way edible, honey producer, edible nitrogen fixer and posted their start and actual size in this post.

https://permies.com/t/139668/permaculture-projects/long-dream-Thailand

the collection continues...
 
Debbie Ann
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Hi Folks,
I thank you for your responses and I looked at the bit of info you provided. I saw some pictures... can you tell me which ones included a food forest? I'm still confused. And maybe what was in it and how you created it? I'd really like to see what 'food forests' usually look like from actual people who have made them. I'm beginning to think this might be another..... waste of time! Thanks.
 
See Hes
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Debbie Ann wrote:Hi Folks,
I thank you for your responses and I looked at the bit of info you provided. I saw some pictures... can you tell me which ones included a food forest? I'm still confused. And maybe what was in it and how you created it? I'd really like to see what 'food forests' usually look like from actual people who have made them. I'm beginning to think this might be another..... waste of time! Thanks.



It all begins with Planting a tree and I have found that due to modern times with internet you can get almost every tree from around the world as long you check which climate it grows.

Planting a food forest and show it in a picture is very difficult because of the dimensions.
Pictures only show a fraction of what really is it all about...

I drove once over an elevated highway in Taiwan to visit a Farmer who started a food forest 15 years ago.
That was the best full view shot so far..

A Food forest is created by planting heaps of trees and if possible too dense.
Then let the trees do the fight and see what comes out in the next 15 years. The survivors will give the best fruits..
That's why I posted my collection, its literally the begin of a food forest..
20200513_073911.jpg
food-forest-garden-canopy-trees-Thailand
 
master pollinator
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My (replacing my front lawn) food forest is really in the beginning stages so pictures are not very impressive yet. I have young fruit trees that I've planted with taller shrubs and shorter bushes and a few low ground covers though the lowest level of ground cover is fighting it out with the old lawn that just keeps invading.

I also have my established 50~ year old forest of native trees and native understory plants that I am trying to be a good steward of and increase food production from at the same time. With that area I'm working on diversifying the plants at the edge since currently it's mostly invasive blackberries (which produce a ton of fruit every year but get out of control and kill my other plants).

I think videos are the best for showing food forests because then you can kind of move around with the camera to see the different layers . You'll want to find people in your climate to really see what's possible. If you search "Arizona food forest", you'll find enough video to watch for weeks, if not longer. I found this one, for example, https://youtu.be/dLfLgbVZ9XI and in her description, she shares a detailed Google doc of all her plant varieties which would be helpful.

I'm a very different climate than you so, though the principles are similar, the specific results will be very different. Even so,  this lady's YouTube channel from Portland, Oregon, "Parkrose Permaculture", is a great example to see a small scale food forest.  As she walks around you can get a good sense of the layers and the abundance: https://youtu.be/v-Nxrrr8MRs
 
Jenny Wright
master pollinator
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This is a book that I've found very informative. I especially like its descriptions of different types of forests in different climate and how the different specific plant varieties work together.

"Integrated Forest Gardening" by Daniel Halsey
Screenshot_20220522-010631-2.png
integrated forest gardening book Daniel Halsey
 
Jenny Wright
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I was looking through my pictures and found this one from this winter. You can zoom in and see the dormant trees and bushes sticking out from the cardboard.

We planted most of these about three years ago I think, maybe 4 years. The fruit trees (apples and pears) haven't given us much fruit yet as they were very small but the bushes and shrubs (goumi, Autumn olive, blueberry, currants, jostaberries) have been doing very well. Grapes are growing on the fence in this picture. In another area are raspberries.

I have rhubarb as a lower ground cover in one area that isn't very happy. But I remembered you asked about annuals and I've had really good luck growing squash and pumpkins around the bottom. I just cut a hole through the cardboard and plop them in. Sunflowers did well also. This year I'm going to try out some different annuals (like tomatoes and peppers) in the gaps. You don't really have to disturb the soil- just stick a spade in the ground, pull it to the side to create a little slot, plop the annual in, and push the dirt back in place. Minimal disturbance! Another idea is whenever you pull up a weed you didn't want, you can stick a seedling or some seeds in it's place after you pull it up.

Back to my food forest- the long term plan is to add more low growing plants that will work as mulch instead of the cardboard. For our climate, we think lingonberry and cranberry will do well, along with some ground raspberries, and a couple of native ground covers. I have strawberries taking over one area of the lawn as well so I'll probably move some over to this section too.

On the other side of the fence, closer to the road, will be more flowering bushes and plants for pollinators, and plants for filtering the rain runoff that drains there. But first I have to finish removing the thick layer of plastic mulch the previous owner put down πŸ™„ which is covered by at least six inches of dirt and weeds (I've got about 2/3 of it left).

20220110_152748_HDR.jpg
Dormant winter food forest (only a few years old)
Dormant winter food forest (only a few years old)
 
Jenny Wright
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And here's a really bad picture of my naturally occurring (mostly) native forest. Can I call it a food forest? There's a ton of great stuff in there. I just have to learn how to use it all.

Upper story is mostly Douglas fir with some alders, a few big leaf maples, and lots of wild (but edible) cherries. Next is vine maples and hazelnuts. Then comes the salal, Oregon grape, huckleberry, gooseberries and wild roses. Next layer down are hundreds of little annual plants I've haven't gotten close to identifying all of them- ferns, nettles, fungi, etc. And last is the trailing Pacific blackberry that carpets the ground (like an alpine strawberry version of blackberries πŸ˜‹).

I'd like to replace the giant Himalayan blackberries that are too thick in some areas with some nut trees and some more fruit bushes.

When I look at that and compare it to my front yard, I feel kind of embarrassed calling my little front yard strip of trees and bushes a food forest. But the backyard forest is my model and inspiration for the front yard, just on a smaller dwarfing fruit sized scale...
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naturally occurring (mostly) native forest garden
 
master gardener
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Food Forest and Forest Garden mean different things to different people. In my view the classic is the type of Forest Garden that Martin Crawford has created in Devon UK:

Food-forest-garden-layers-Martin-crawford

I made this picture for the World Domination thread.

Like most other people my Food forest garden is a work in progress and is at different stages in different part of my property. I have what I call the "fruit jungle" which does not have a mature canopy layer:

food-forest-garden-fruit-Skye-UK

I have planted apple and cherry trees and they are now starting to flower well and fruit, and the monkey puzzles will get really tall in time. It's a bit lacking in climbers too. I think they are one of the more challenging aspects, since they can be too much of a good thing. Here the wind isn't kind to climbers either, and without an adequate canopy, you will be reliant on frameworks you make yourself or let them scramble. I do have a few Hablitzia that seem to have managed to survive under my willow fedge which shelters the garden.

I consider my polytunnel a sort of Forest Garden too:

food-forest-garden-perennial-polytunnel

Obviously I am limited for canopy layer, but I do have an Apricot, and the climbers are well represented in this photo! I'm having to replace the cover this spring, so won't have all the annuals I normally have.

This is my "secret garden" under construction:

food-forest-garden-construction-Skye-UK

I call it my secret garden because all the planting is unusual edibles, like hosta and solomons seal. I seem to have failed to establish a lot of the plants I wanted though, so it's still very much under construction. The canopy layer here is mature sycamores, which are not ideal! they cast too much shade, however they do give much needed shelter and the site has a bit of sun from the east.

Finally my tree field:

food-forest-garden-foraging-Skye-UK

This started off as a sheep field - just closely cropped grass. I evicted the sheep and planted trees mainly for firewood, but some more interesting trees that might provide crops like hazels and crabapple. Once they were all planted the other native plants also started to grow, so I have pignut (conopodium majus) and sorrel as well as lots of more medicinal wild flowers. Once the trees started to give some shelter I have been back planting with more edibles. Mostly soft fruit as this does very well here (raspberries and currants), but also some baby monkey puzzles, which I may or may not live to see crop. I am reluctant to plant plants which are too cultivated in this area, and I still try and keep it fairly natural in appearance, just mowing the trackways. I do have some patched with segregated cultivation - blueberries in raised beds and my natural farming area. But mainly this is for foraging.

I haven't planned things in detail on paper. I have an overall scheme, and then a list of plants I want to try and grow, and then just create it in situ. It will vary so much according to your climate, soil and latitude, as well as other aspects of your site. There is no right way to make a Forest Garden, or should I say no wrong way!



 
Debbie Ann
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Wow, Jenny Wright and Nancy Reading.... you are both awesome!! Thank you both so very much! And your gardens and yards and forests and polytunnels are so beautiful! And the secret garden is so cool! Thank you for showing me the pictures and explaining what you started with and how you are going about creating these fantastic places!

I had never heard of a food forest before I joined Permies last year. And I quickly wondered.... can I grow a food forest? I have trees and I grow food! So, I read a whole lot of posts here about food forests but mostly it was people who were planning one or had just started one and wanted advice on what to plant. There really weren't a lot of pictures of a food forest evolving. I only clicked on one video but it was an actual forest. (The next day when it is too windy to work outside I will spend some time online searching out more videos). But so many people talked about planting annuals, vegies, even root crops 'under' their trees. I didn't get it. Why would you disturb the roots of the tree? You could do a lot of damage! Why wouldn't you plant stuff near the tree or in the shade of the tree? I guess I was taking them too literally!!  I even went back to some pretty old posts trying to find some that updated their post a year or two later with pictures to show how it was going or to explain what worked well or not so well. Didn't find much. And what are the pros and cons of a food forest? I'm sure there must be some yin and yang to it. There always is. I have been very frustrated.

So I really appreciate the time and trouble you took to reply to me!! And I want to thank Trace Oswald and William Bronson again for their input. I finally understand!

I think I finally get it now. And I think I might have been creating a food forest for the last 11 years! Which kind of blows my mind! Because I did it totally by accident! And Ass Backwards!!! I am feeling so at peace right now. The happiest I've been in a long time.

Thank you all again. And happy gardening.
 
master pollinator
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I'm on a new property, so this food forest is only a couple years going.  It is much larger than this.  Mine is a large L shape covering an acre or so in this spot.  

The first picture shows a  young apple tree guild.  The very badly deer-eaten apple tree is in the center of the picture.  A ring of daffodils surrounds the tree, and a large ring of comfrey.  In among the rings are herbs, mint, onions, chives.  The back left of the picture is a cherry tree that just began producing last year.  Straight back directly behind the apple is another cherry tree that has young cherries starting this year.  The "sticks" you see everywhere are false indigo bush just starting to leaf out.

The next guild is an apricot.   Inside the wire is a goji.  There is a rock pile behind the tree for snakes.  The one "belongs" to my wife, so most of the surrounding plants are flowers and random things she likes, roses, hostas, day lily.  I snuck in a few walking onions and some herbs.

Next is a persimmon guild.  The tree itself is tiny and you can't really see it in the mix.  This one has lots of comfrey, cone flower, onions, strawberries and alpine strawberries, hosta, mint,a dozen other things I can't remember right now.

The last picture is part of the same area from further back.  You can see the real forest in back, and how much more open the food forest area is.  The left is that apple guild, and to the right is the persimmon guild.  Throughout the picture are several more cherry trees and bushes.  The food forest continues all the way to the back of the picture and then wraps around to the right for quite a way yet.

This food forest has apricot, peach, pear, apple, persimmon, paw paw, cherry, plum, autumn olive, black and honey locust trees, and I'm sure others I'm forgetting.  There are multiple varieties of all of those.  The only climbers I can remember right now are hardy kiwi.  Lots of nitrogen fixers, pollinator plants, berries, and all sorts of plants that are there just because I like them.  I couldn't possibly name them all.

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pollinator
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I have a thread under guerrilla food forest here.

I created a page with pictures to document the progress so far from 2015 on.

https://sites.google.com/view/theguerrillafoodforest/home
Backyard-chicago-food-forest-garden
 
Jenny Wright
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Decidedly not an expert but here's some of my pros and cons of food forests...

Cons of a food forest-
*Neighbors might think it's messy. We got a load of dark black fine bark to mulch with a couple of years ago and it made all the plants really pop out. My neighbor came over to say, "Hey! Looks good! I see you got new trees!" Nope, they've been there for a couple of years. πŸ˜‚ They just blend into all the rest of the green around them. (Just have to add, I have amazing wonderful neighbors on my whole street, even if they do have golf course lawns.)

*It's harder to get rid of aggressive plants you don't want. Our existing lawn keeps creeping back in and making it hard to establish less vigorous low plants. But you can't just weed whack the whole thing. I've accidentally cut back some blueberries and currants and gooseberries, even while watching out for them.

*Lots of hidey places for mice and voles who can damage hardwood growth.

*Harvesting is not as simple as if you have a monoculture where everything is ripe at that same time. (But this actually a pro.)

Pros
*Get a lot more food out of a smaller area compared to traditional methods. And more diverse food that you can eat for longer because different things are ripening in different seasons. I can eat fresh fruit daily from my yard from June to October.

*That also means more food for wildlife, especially pollinators.

*Habitat for lots of animals, especially predators and pollinators.

*More pollinators means better pollination of your fruits.

*More predators means less pest pressure on your plants

*Helps conserve water by keeping water in the soil with living mulch.

*Helps protect plants from swings in temperature and crazy weather.

*The diversity of plants also means you are protected against a pest or disease or weird weather wiping out all your crops in one blow. I had a disease kill a pear tree last year. The other trees and plants around it are fine and the other pear tree I have is fine as well since it is on the other side of the yard.

 
Jenny Wright
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Jd Gonzalez wrote:
I have a thread under guerrilla food forest here.

I created a page with pictures to document the progress so far from 2015 on.

https://sites.google.com/view/theguerrillafoodforest/home


Where are your trees planted? It looks like a school maybe?
 
Jd Gonzalez
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Jenny Wright wrote:

Jd Gonzalez wrote:
I have a thread under guerrilla food forest here.

I created a page with pictures to document the progress so far from 2015 on.

https://sites.google.com/view/theguerrillafoodforest/home


Where are your trees planted? It looks like a school maybe?



Yes, in a school court yard next to the cafeteria.

https://permies.com/t/50843/Guerrilla-Food-Forest#1366634

Unfortunately, due to renovations, it'll be destroyed.
 
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Here is my urban forest garden.  I labelled the big stuff if you can read my writing!  For orientation, I took this photo facing due north.

For canopy trees, I have the mulberry with tire swing at northwest corner of the yard.  Neighbor's spruces overhang my yard, and there's an oak in yard to the west that drops some leaves and acorns on us.

Smaller trees are the pawpaws just south of mulberry, a cherry tree in center of yard, plum tree trained as a fan in southeast corner, a hawthorn off screen by garage, and two newly planted columnar apples.  For shrub layer, red and black currants, figs, black raspberries, Witchhazel, forsythia, and a rose bush.  Vines are the grapes growing on a trellis and on western fence,  and apios/hopniss trellised in northeast part of garden.

Groundcover include strawberries, purslane, geraniums, creeping Charlie.

Perennials I could not label include ostrich ferns (edible), milkweed, peonies, lots of different allium crops, and many flowers.

I have two annual beds, one in the southern part that gets afternoon sun, and another at eastern edge of the mulberry branches that gets morning sun.
20220523_172809.jpg
Backyard-chicago-food-forest-garden
Backyard
 
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My great-grandfather started planting something very similar to a food forest several decades ago. Sadly, it was neglected for a while, but now I'm trying to restore it. Overall, it looks like a very small forest with a few clearings.

The canopy layer has quince, plum, cherry, apple, sour cherry, pear, mulberry and cherry plum trees. There are also three large Carpathian walnuts, which provide most of our nuts, and a small black walnut I planted from seed a few years ago. I'm also trying to grow pecans, but so far only one seedling survived, and pecan nuts are pretty hard to find around here.

The second layer has edible shrubs and bushes which tolerate some shade: hazelnuts, currants, juneberries, honeyberries, blackberries, raspberries, aronia and elderberries. There's also a patch of Alpine strawberries, and some wild garlic (Allium ursinum) in more shaded areas.

Most annuals and sun-demanding perennials like grapes were actually planted in the clearings, not in the ”forest” itself, although beans and potatoes seem to tolerate some light shade, while squash can grow very well at the forest edge. In one of the clearings, the ground is almost completely covered by creamy strawberries (Fragaria viridis) and musk strawberries (Fragaria moschata).  I think comfrey was first planted in the garden for its medicinal use, but now it's also growing vigorously in many places.

The property is on a sunny south-western slope, which definitely helps many plants adapt to shady conditions better. On the other hand, the soil tends to dry out faster, and drought is often a problem in late summer and early fall.
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Juneberry in the food forest
Juneberry in the food forest
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Quince
Quince
 
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I was lucky enough to be able to be a little lazier with it. I have access to a patch of unclaimed forest which was already in a relatively healthy condition & just started adding to it. Albeit, my goal is more focused on using this patch & some other nearby, small bits of land as a hub for reintroducing native species & allowing them to spread throughout the entire area than just using it for food, but there is a lot in here I could eat, if I wanted to & still might try to learn to rely off of. I'm going to attempt to learn canning this year & then try to get some recipes for thins to do with my wild crop, so I'm wasting as little as possible.

Prior to working on this, the area already contained Hickory, butternut, hazelnut, Juniper berry, black raspberry, blackberry, Dewberry, strawberry, false solomon's seal, Mulberry, mayapple, gooseberry, eastern redbud, sourwood, black locust, Wild rose, chokecherry, meadow garlic, toothwort, salsify, wintercress, nannyberry, basswood, sassafras, maple & grapes. Now, I've also been able to add black Cherry, Wild Plum, solomon's seal, sand cherry, buckeye, groundcherry &, possibly, a few other things. I'll just throw the pics up that I put on my other thread of the actual forest part at the beginning of the month.
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pollinator
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Here's my latest food forest tour video (May 1st, 2022), covering several acres with hundreds of trees:

Part 1 (zone 5 inwards to zone 3 - native forest, walnuts, chestnuts, mulberry, and oaks) - https://youtu.be/_MYNtEFpaz4

Part 2 (zone 4-3 - oaks, chestnuts, stone-fruit, pome-fruit, mulberries, cherries and much more) - https://youtu.be/vZXbserquxA

Part 3  (zone 3 inwards to zone 1 kitchen garden, blueberry key-hugel, nursery, inner food forest) - https://youtu.be/w8nNXg0PHoI
 
Jenny Wright
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I just watched this excellent video explaining food forests by Geoff Lawton.
 


The part with the ducks though had me shaking my head ... I do wish ducks or other birds would clean up some of my overgrown areas. Unfortunately I've had turkeys, ducks, geese, and chickens in my woods and all they do is tear up the good stuff and leave behind dirt, Himalayan blackberries, and thistles. People suggest goats but they would definitely eat all the things I want to keep. Sorry for the side rant! πŸ˜†
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 1049
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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Jenny, Sepp Holzer would likely suggest pigs for blackberries and thistle, as they root up the whole plant. They are also much less predator prone.
 
Debbie Ann
pollinator
Posts: 227
Location: Sedona Az Zone 8b
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Wow, I am so glad that I asked for this. I thank you all for sharing your wonderful pictures! And you all explained a lot. Can I have some more please??? It can't hurt to ask. Happy gardening everyone.
 
pollinator
Posts: 228
Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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Hi Debbie Ann!  We started with 3 city lots, horrible unfertile dirt and grass.  Slowly over a decade we have fully gardened the whole.  I started with a simple annual mandala while I planted black locust trees from seed, willow from cuttings  and several dwarf fruit trees.  The North side has the tall locust and willow (now upwards of 20 feet tall I would guess).  The original mandala has a central burgundy leaved peach that I just grafted almond and apricot onto (new endeavor...we shall see how she go) surrounded by lots of mints, lemon balm, yarrow and some space for annuals.   We have a small area we have left wild near the south fence.  We collect water from garage roof for dry spells (always the week after annuals go in...).  We had a hoop house which collapsed in snow last winter.  We are rebuilding a greenhouse/meeting space/ aerial yoga space.  The last beds we put in this year have sambucus nigra surrounded by strawberry, plantain and buckwheat with potato and sunflower in the beds in front.  We are herbalists do we grow a lot of what others consider weeds.  We gave a lot of Russian Bocking  comfrey for chop and drop...and the ever present thistle for building compost.  We do truck in compost and pick up many bags of neighbours leaves and get free wood chip drops from local tree service.  The dirt is now soil.  β€
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