Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a food forestry workshop with Richard Walker, put on by Permaculture BC. It was a two day weekend workshop packed full of information. While I was unhappy with the venue (echo-filled gymnasium) and type of workshop (lecture style, of which i am not a fan as I tend to fall asleep or fidget incessantly) I was rather pleased with the content and with Mr. Walker himself. He is a man who has been experimenting with food forests for over 25 years, before there was even officially such a notion, and is considered Canada’s expert on the subject. I was also rather pleased that much of the material covered was familiar to me as it meant I am on the right path in my studies.
For those who don’t know of food forestry, it’s a concept which involves many layers of plants in a garden or property instead of a traditional garden space with one plant in one layer spread out. You can have as many as 8 layers in one space, which increases your yield quite substantially. These layers could be:
Canopy layer (nut trees)
Small tree layer (fruit trees)
Large shrub layer (saskatoon, cornelian dowood)
Small shrub layer (blueberry)
Herbaceous layer (herbs, medicinal plants)
Ground layer (prostrate herbs)
Root layer (Tubers, roots)
Vine layer (Akebia, kiwi)
You can use endless combinations of plants to suit your locale and climate, however there are certain ones which are a little more tried and true. For an introduction to food forestry and permaculture, I highly recommend Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, and for a more more specific textbook, Edible Food Forestry by Eric Toensmeier and Dave Jacke.