May 19, 2014

What to consider when building a sustainable food forestCreating a sustainable garden where one can harvest the freshest produce is a dream of many students in an Austin culinary arts school. You might have always wanted to start one of your own, but never knew where to start. Here are a few factors to consider before you begin:

Understand what edible forest gardening means
Developing a food forest is one part art and one part science. You might think you can grow any combination of vegetation and it will become a full-fledged forest, but you would be mistaken. A food forest is a mini-ecosystem, with each plant playing an integral role in the health and development of the vegetation in its proximity. The science behind growing a food forest begins with you observing how plants forge partnerships with each other in nature. Try identifying the different growth patterns you see around you like how certain fruits, vegetables, herbs and mushrooms compete for resources while replenishing others. The art of creating a food forest pertains to the actual selection of plants you decide to put together once you determine how they work with each other. A beautiful and bountiful garden can arise with just a little bit of extra attention and care.

Identify where you can grow your food forest
Pretty much anywhere you find a clear patch of land can support a food forest. People have developed ones that thrive in tiny urban yards, municipal parks, suburban plots and countryside farms. You should be pragmatic, however, when it comes to how much land you will need. The amount of space you need should depend on the size and scope of your project. You might want a 10-tree orchard, but if you only have room for two, your food forest will never progress from the planning stages.

Remember, a food forest doesn’t necessarily have to be within an actual forest. It just mimics the way an undisturbed forest naturally grows food. Think of the term forest as a structural metaphor on which you base the placement and function of each plant in your garden. You might need to adapt to your immediate environment. Food forests can grow in shaded areas, but it would be wise to observe how the sun travels across your desired plot. Your garden will produce the highest yields if you plan accordingly.

A food forest can be extremely rewarding for people who have taken the time to plan its layout and who are dedicated to its maintenance. Understanding the factors described will help you begin your journey.