What is an Edible Forest Garden?
An Edible Forest Garden is a tended, food producing system designed to imitate a highly productive natural ecosystem. It is synonymous with permaculture gardening.
- Edible: The Edible Forest is designed to support long lived food producing plants including trees, shrubs and perennials.
- Forest: The design of an Edible Forest Garden imitates an open canopy forest, also known as an early succession or transitional forest. In addition to food-producing plants, the design incorporates supportive plants that fix nitrogen, extract minerals, support pollinators and other functions. Consideration is also given to micro-climate and sharing of resources such as light and soil. All of these elements need to be brought together in a way that most closely mimics a self-supporting natural system. This plant system is often referred to as a guild or a polyculture.
- Garden: A Edible Forest Garden needs to be tended. A natural forest needs no tending but produces little food. A vegetable garden requires a lot of work but produces a lot of food. The Edible Forest Garden aims to let the planned synergy of its ecosystem do much of the work of producing food.
Why grow an demonstration Edible Forest Garden?
It is the hope of the McWater's Park Gardeners that our garden will inspire and support many people to grow Edible Forest Gardens in their own yards. Growing one's own food improves health through exercise and nutrition. It saves money now and buffers against hard times in the future.
Specifically, many small local Edible Forest Gardens can buffer against future energy insecurity. Our current agricultural system uses more energy from fossil fuels than the energy contained in the food produced. This net energy loss is compounded by the packaging, processing, waste and fuels used in food transportation to stores and homes. In the end, the energy available in the food on the table is only one tenth the of energy used to produce that food. As the cost of oil increases, this becomes less and less tenable. Food growing systems that use less energy and that can be established locally need to be explored. Edible Forest Gardening is a less common and evolving but promising option. Edible Forest Gardening requires an up front investment of time and materials so it is difficult to pursue commercially but home owners can readily plant a forest garden in their yard, be it small or large. We intend to use tools and techniques that are inexpensive and easy to imitate at home as well as propagate plants suitable for this kind of growing for community members.
We love to garden and hope to spread this joy while increasing the food security of our community.