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Food Forest and Forest Garden Planning, Design and Development


The forest garden is the ultimate, perennial Permaculture system. Wayne Weiseman of The Permaculture Project LLC has written an indepth manual of forest gardening and plant guilds, published in 2014 by Chelsea Green Publishers.

A high yielding planting regime, perennials need not be planted each and every year, they produce a larger percentage of biomass than conventional farms and gardens, and, by nature, they are diverse and complex ecosystems in their own right, restoring health and balance to the landscape.

The Permaculture Project LLC looks for opportunities to develop and design this abundant and beautiful system by integrating it, seemlessly, into your preexisting landscape.

Here is excerpt from Wayne Weiseman’s book, “Integrated Forest Gardening”

“By understanding the intrinsic genius of these Permaculture principles and methodologies one can utilize them as essential and fundamental trigger points in order to organize thoughts into a high yielding guild design.

Permaculture is a comprehensive system. What we mean by yield, encompasses not only the plant world, but the built environment, the waste stream, energy systems, animals, water, landform, all in all, life in all its trappings. All of these systems contribute to the development of a plant guild. The energy and materials embodied in structures, plants, animals and humans placed in the landscape create dynamic relationships and functions of exchange and the instigation of a never-ending cycle of biological life.

Just as mycorrizhae form a net in the forest soil, that can extend for many miles, and ties the forest together into a communication network par excellence, a plant guild, through its functional relationships, does the same. Root exudates, ingestion and excretion of organic matter by soil fauna, chemicals needed to support plant life, circulation of carbon, nitrogen, water and oxygen, all of these are tied to the production of biomass in the guise of root, stem, leaf, flower and seed in a never ending, cyclical process that is always changing, metamorphosing, sprouting, expanding, contracting into seed and recycling material into new life, until death gives birth to new life again.

By designing plant guilds that are thoroughly embedded in a bioregion and ecosystem, by paying attention to climate, landform, water, soil, historic and ahistoric considerations, understanding basic chemistry, biology, physics, by calculating the requirements of plants from sunlight to structure we create the conditions for plants to thrive in and supply us with our needs as human beings.

Commonly used practices of interplanting, companion planting, and polycultures mimic the natural relationships in nature. Decades or even centuries are needed for natural ecological systems to go through levels of succession until the plant species are balanced by number, position, and proximity. All throughout the process multiple species may occupy the same space over time. The soil and plant resources develop as the soil is modified by the species passing through. Ecological and Permaculture designers can accelerate the successional process by choosing plants for their designs that will fulfill all the needed ecological functions in a given niche. The niche is a space that has specific characteristics and conditions that will only sustain specific plants. As the first pioneer plants add organic material and nutrients over seasons and generations in the niche, the niche changes.

Designing for a niche allows us to customize the plant list we will use in the current and specific ecological conditions. We adapt the fulfillment of our human needs by using plants that will naturally thrive in the site we have chosen. Site-specific plants will use less resource, require less
maintenance, and have a better chance of surviving unforeseen stressors of weather and predation. Nature allows plants to start growing if the seed has sufficient germination resources. However, for a plant, perhaps a small shrub, to grow to maturity, it requires a specific set of long-term ecological conditions. Plants compete for space, light, water, and nutrients, as species come and go. The resources are partitioned and once a plant space, a niche, is occupied, additional plants must fit into the remaining available niches.

In the field, full Sun turns to partial shade under tall grasses. Established plants with wide fibrous surface roots share soil with deep tap-rooted plants. A thin Chicory plant can emerge from the dense shade of short broad leaves and climb into the sunlight, barely casting a shadow. Plants fill every space and jostle for vital services until a balance is achieved, a balance that swings more like a pendulum as waves of species occupy the land.”