There are plenty of powerful benefits to growing your own food, both for yourself and for your community. You may be interested for health benefits, the environment, sustainability, or cost-saving reasons. However, all of these apply regardless of which one is most important to you! In this article, we will show you how to start a food forest, whether you live in a small apartment or have a large plot of land.
It’s Better for the Environment
Establishing a food forest has a wide range of environmental benefits. One of those is that is increases your local biodiversity and provides a habitat for many species of insects, birds, and other animals. Another benefit is that it also helps capture carbon from the atmosphere and build healthy soil.
Benefits To Your Health
Working outside helps you stay active and improve your fitness levels. You’ll absorb more Vitamin D by spending the day in the sun and eat a healthier diet when it comes time to harvest your delicious produce.
Growing a food forest is a great way to connect with your community and have a positive effect on your neighbourhood. Spread the love by sharing surplus produce and educating others on the importance of local food production.
5 Simple Steps
Know Your Environment
Although it may sound simple, don’t overestimate the importance of this step. Take time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and learn about the native plants and animals that live around you. What natural features can you take advantage of, such as slopes, rock features, or areas that get more sun than others? For example, if you have a sunken area in your backyard, consider turning it into a natural pool for irrigation and rainwater collection.
Design Your Garden or Food Forest
The design process encompasses choosing the right plants for your environment and where they should go to benefit the whole garden. Research which plants thrive when planted together and how to attract beneficial insects that can help control pests. You’ll also need to know about each plant’s light, soil, and water requirements. Read this post to learn about the eight layers of a food forest and arrange your plants accordingly.
If you live in an apartment with a balcony or only have a small yard to work with, you can still apply these concepts on a smaller scale. One example; set up a trellis behind a large planter box so that you can grow a fruiting vine and herbs out of the same soil.
Prepare The Soil
Soil type and soil quality are crucial to the success of your garden. That’s why it’s always a good idea to test your soil before planting. Once you have a better idea of your soil’s composition, you can add any needed amendments.
Stay away from chemical fertilizers or applying too many synthetic amendments. Instead, compost your food waste and use it to build your soil quality over time. Adding organic mulch will also help suppress weeds and keep your soil moist without disturbing it so that worms and beneficial microorganisms can get to work.
Plant The Seeds
Plant your garden during the appropriate time of year so that your plants can establish themselves in the right conditions. Start with taller plants that take longer to grow, and make sure you space out your plants in accordance with their fully grown sizes. You should also consider the sun and water requirements that your garden will have when it’s fully established.
For example, will the apple tree you’re planting now overshadow your vegetable patch in a couple of years? If you’re working with a small space, use raised beds. This way, you don’t need to till the soil and can build the bed layer by layer with compost and mulching materials.
Maintain & Nurture
Use a resource-efficient, sustainable irrigation system, such as drip irrigation. Also consider rainwater collection systems that can be attached to your roof gutters and stored in large barrels.
When it comes to weeds, try to work with them rather than seek to eradicate every weed you can find. Many weeds are beneficial in terms of attracting pollinators and accumulating nutrients in the root zone for other plants to access. You’d be surprised how many common garden weeds are not only edible but are delicious too!
If you’re interested in creating your own food forest, you can make the process easier by purchasing one of our blueprints. Each of our Food Forest Landscape Blueprints is completely customized to your unique needs and environment.
In addition, you can join our cooperative as a partner and help support our mission of transforming neighborhoods all around the world into thriving, edible landscapes. If you would like to assist in installation, facilitate educational opportunities, sell food forest surplus within your community, or work with our designers to build food forests, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team and begin fostering a relationship with us!