Friday, December 25, 2009

What is an Edible Forest Garden?

This is a garden based on the principles of permaculture. Permaculture is many things, but the central theme is to build, or behave in a way that embraces nature rather than fighting it. We will be living in a place where, left alone, the pasture would revert to forest. That is the direction nature would follow in man's absence. So the idea is to build a garden that looks and behaves much like a forest. We will guide its succession from pasture, or "oldfield" to forest by planting trees, shrubs and herbs that will enrich the soil and enhance the habitat while also providing food for us. We have learned about forest gardening from a book entitled "Edible Forest Gardens - Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture" by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier. It is in two large volumes and is highly recommended.

We will focus on perennial plants that are adapted to our area.  Most people are aware of nitrogen fixers that take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to nitrogen in the soil that is available for other plants as food.  There are also dynamic accumulators, plants whose roots go deep into the soil and bring up nutrients that enrich the topsoil.  There are plants that provide nectar and shelter for insects.  These are all part of a forest garden.  We hope to have berries, grapes, fruit trees, salad herbs and vegetables available most of the year for us and the critters that live in the garden with us.

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