I have a suspicion there's a lot of gardening going on out there using permaculture techniques, but maybe much less happening as far as designing, planting, and maintaining a true food forest, or edible forest garden. The difference is this - a food forest, after some period of time achieves a state where it is mulching itself, fertilizing itself, pollinating itself, not competing with itself, working synergistically with itself, conserving moisture, buffering itself from temperature extremes, protecting itself from pests, and yielding high amounts of perennialfruit and vegetables. Gaia's Garden and Edible Forest Gardens both explain the forest ecology that must go into designing a food forest. A perennial polyculture that requires a gardener to provide all these services is just an old-fashioned orchard, with species mixed together. Even a few guilds here and there around the yard does not a food forest make.
So far, I have almost all of my trees and shrubs planted, but I still lack most of the smaller plants. Therefore I am the one doing all the mulching and weeding, and most of the watering. So, I really only have an orchard at this point. But my plan is to continue moving the system toward a food forest over the next year or two, then I may need another 2 or 3 years after that for the trees to get big enough to start supplying enough leaves and nutrients to be able to call it a food forest. I hope it will "pop" as Toby Hemenway describes it, in only a few years. I realize the idea of a totally self-maintaining food forest, with no human intervention, is a very lofty goal, and maybe not even possible, but it is the goal nonetheless, and the amount of human intervention should decline as the system matures, theoretically, if it is designed well.
So, here's my question - who is trying to achieve a real food forest, or already has achieved one that has "popped"? I'd like to start a list. Perhaps it would be good to start a new category on this forum entitled "food forest".
Lets just say that to qualify, the design must have at least 5 of the 7 forest layers, and have large numbers of nitrogen fixers and dynamic nutrient accumulators. It needs to have at least 10 tree-centered guilds, unless the consensus is some other number.
Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
I have a forest garden hat is 5 years old, one that's three, two and a one year old. And expanding into the forest each year. The older one has popped as you say and Is producing well. I'm eating blackberries and finishing up on the greens and such from winter.
Each area has at least 30 species in a 20x50 ft area.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
I started my forest garden last spring. I have about an acre total with a house, a pond (soon to be more), a long swale at a strategic place, 2 bee hives and a chicken coop attatched to a shed. To the old apple tree, 1 medium sized sugar maple, 2 large ashes, 1 large silver maple and about 10 mature black locusts (many young black locusts have been encouraged), multiple staghorn sumac (small native pioneer tree you can make pink lemonade out of) and 2 large flowering quinces (they have started spreading and forming a small hedge) I have added a persimmon (soon to be 1 more), 2 carpathian walnuts, 1 white and 1 weeping mulberry, 2 standard prune plums, 1 standard peach (1 volunteer peach has been encouraged) 1 standard and 1 dwarf apricot, 2 semi-dwarf pears, 3 pawpaws (had 4 but 1 died and I have several stratified seeds floating around the garden waiting to germinate), 3 aralia spinosas (a medicinal, edible, beautiful, beneficial insect attracting understory tree), 2 hazel/filbert hybrids, 3 beach plums, 2 wild elderberries, 4 blueberries, 4 black, 2 red, 1 white and 1 golden currant (soon to be 2) 3 jostaberry, 3 spineless blackberries (multiple wild blackberries and black raspberries have been encouraged within reason), 2 autumn olives, 1 siberian pea shrub, 3 indigobushes, 2 kiwis, 4 roses, 2 grapes (multiple wild grapes have been encouraged), 3 schizandra chinensis (i think one of them died though), 1 maypop (getting a cutting of another soon) 2 different individual groundnuts (apios americana) some jerusalem artichoke, hollow joe pye weed, ironweed and native asters have been encouraged as native nectar sources and beneficial insect attraction) , st. Johnswort, comfrey, horseradish, burdock, lead plant (n fixer), 4 kinds of mint, mayapple, wild ginger, aralia racemosa, arrowhead, water lily, irises, yarrow, nettles, watercress, pampass grass... and a whole bunch of wild herbs and flowers that we let be (we don't mow much.) I'll be adding a lot more to the herbacious layers over the summer.
It hasn't quite "popped" yet, but by next year I think it will be, and there are parts of it that look and feel magical already.
"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin
This will be my second year. I have continued to add grapes and fruit trees and nitrogen fixing trees. It feels like I have passed the halfway point in development. I know what seed mix I will be putting down in the fall, and it just feels like it is coming together.
I have several "degrees" of food forests here. Before our housefire we had highly established self mulching food forests, but those were removed after the fire with only one tree surviving, and one established one that was not moved or destroyed. The one surviving tree was a crabapple we placed in a bed at the west end of our house. It is planted with lilac, grapes, privit, sweet pea, daylilly, hostas, siberian iris (not a lot of food items in this particular one). The other established tree was a large self seeded apple that is underplanted with hosta, daffodill, daylily, sib iris, solomon's seal, violets, helianthus, burdock, and ferns...also not a lot of food itself.
Since the fire we have been planting food forests also, but these are young. The oldest of these and most mature is a curved row of pear trees at different ages, 2 are 18' tall, 1 is about 10 ' tall, and 3 were planted this year and are under 3' tall (one branched). Below these are established comfrey, daylilies, woodbine vines, siberian iris, aegopodium, coreopsis, thornless black berries, etc. There is a fruit cocktail tree that is about 12' tall that is planted with rose, hibiscus, cotinus, lilac, daylillies, hosta, siberian iris, clematis, and others. There are several small peach trees and a Halls Hardy Almond that are under planted with alberta spruce, old fashioned rose, hibiscus, continue, lilac, tall phlox, daylilly, comfrey, coreposis, columbine, hosta, and others. There is a plum tree that is in a bed with amur maples, ash, autumn olive, spruce, grapes, aegopodium, lilac, elderberry, daylilly, siberian iris, sweet pea, liy of vallye, hosta, bleeding heart, etc.
There are 2 baby hickory nut trees interplanted with a creeping bush I don't know the name of, autumn olive, dogwood, hosta, evening primrose, daylilly, siberian iris, aegopodium, etc.
There are 3 sweet cherries, they are under planted with barberry, autumn olive, strawberries, spireas, roses, foxgloves, hostas, daylillies, siberian iris, alberta spruce, aegopodium, ribbon grass, miscanthus, peony, bearded iris, and many other plants.
There are 2 sour cherries under planted with asparagus, rhubarb, comfrey, bearded iris, (moved out jersalem artichokes), oregano, grapes, and also summer crops of annual vegetables like squash, melons, root crops, beans,gooseberries, honeyberries, herbs, etc.
There are 4 other apple trees underplanted with multiplying onions, thyme, oregano, sage, chives, yarrow, asparagus, potatoes, squash, raspberries, comfrey, etc.
There are 2 sweet chestnut babies, under planted with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, hollyhocks, juneberries, squash, beans, melons, yarrow, etc.
There are 3 pear trees that died from rabbit damage but 2 are coming back from the grafts under planted now with some herbs and annual crops , Hansen bush cherries, grapes, etc.
There are 2 apple trees that are selfseeded in our woods and are planted among alder, ash, aspen, maple, oak, and the forbes that are wild in the woods and one at the end of our pond that grew out of an alder bush and is being redone right now around it.
there are 5 trees in the Juglone family (black walnut, butternut, carpathian and 2 heartnut) and they are variously under planted with lots of things, mostly comfrey, roses, coreopsis, miscanthus, sweet william, lychnis, daylilies, sib iris, persimmon, seeded in paw paw we'll see if they grow, lots of other plants.
2 apricots (babies) under planted with jerusalem artichokes and forbes right now, baby comfrey plants.
There are 6 hazelnuts trees under planted with baby mulberry, daylilly, comfrey, jerusalem artichokes, siberian iris, and several annual crops.
There are also 4 wild plum trees that have not yet been under planted
And those are just part of our beds we have established..so far..but the most advanced ones.
Bloom where you are planted.
You know it is dark times when the trees riot. I think this tiny ad is their leader: