Backyards are often neglected, managed as lawns or transformed into beautiful landscapes where you can relax with family and friends. But, did you know that you can transform your backyard into a food forest? A backyard food forest consists of fruit trees, bushes and sometimes vegetables. It does best with perennial vegetables and fruits that produce food for many years to come.
Principles behind designing a food forest
Do not be too restrictive
The current hype surrounding benefits of organic gardening, mean that most gardeners will restrict their gardening to organic products. Though it is good, it is also advisable to diversify your forest garden by including other types of gardening such as; forest and permaculture gardening. Explore and get inspired by the different gardening disciplines.
Layering is essential
The main forest gardening principle is the fact that you can maximize your space through layering no matter how small it may be to get as many yields as possible. For instance, you can use vertical space below and above the ground to gain more harvest than you would have if you relied on foods that grow at ground level. Use root crops, herbaceous plants, ground cover crops, small trees, shrubs, vines and canopy trees. With such an arrangement, you can take advantage of the small space you have and enjoy long-term food production.
Symbiosis does not mean self-sustaining
Despite the size and location of your yard, you must manage it accordingly. You must care for the yard by pruning trees and managing your crops to ensure that you maintain optimal yields over the years. If you find managing your food forest tasking, you could let it pass but expect reduced yields because your crops will not be at their best to produce maximally.
Understand sunlight is crucial
This principle is important and must be adhered to when layering for the crops to thrive. You must know which plants thrive under shade and which ones thrive under direct sunlight. So, start by understanding how the sun falls on your backyard and design your food forest with spacing and crop requirements in mind. It is advisable to start with many annuals in your first years before the canopies, small trees and shrubs mature and provide shades to crops that need it. But, you must understand that as your food forest matures, some crops will be shaded out.
Just like all gardens, you must ensure that the soil is rich with essential nutrients for your food forest to thrive. Do a soil test to determine what to add before planting and after planting, water the crops and ensure that they have enough nutrients.
There is more to starting a food forest than the above principles. You need to research and determine your area’s native fruits and vegetables. They are easy to manage because they can withstand your region’s environmental challenges without relying on chemical sprays that are highly discouraged when practicing organic gardening. You could also seek advice from neighbors and friends who have invested in food forests before.