Friday, April 9, 2010


I have always been fascinated by the concept of Companion Planting. Plant the carrot with the onion to repel the onion fly, and the onion with the carrot to repel the carrot fly; such a neat and tidy arrangement on a page as you read it. I even went so far as to design on a clean new page the best way to place all the plants I wanted to effect such benefit. It became very complicated because some books listed certain plants as good companions, but in others this was contradicted. And the only plants discussed were herbs and vegetables. My great interest of the moment is Food Forest Design, and so naturally I got to thinking about how this would work in a Forest Garden; particularly a Food Forest Garden. Here we are looking at a multi-storey design from top-story trees down to root crops, and this is where the challenge comes.

There seems to be a common struggle in trying to understand the concept of actually starting a Food Forest. Talk of the bio-diversity, multi-level guilds, sustainability, succession and ecology of a Food Forest and before too long you get quite a few nodding heads; but talk of actually going out there on your own piece of land and doing it, and all the theory makes the task seem too daunting to start.

Let me make a suggestion: Ask a few simple questions. Why do you want a Food Forest? What do you want to grow in your Food Forest? Food! Naturally! But what kind of food, and for whom? Is there livestock and wildlife you also want to cater for? When thinking of wildlife, would this include beneficial birds and insects too? Do you want your Forest to offer more than food? Perhaps you need a windbreak or frost barrier? Perhaps wildcrafting really interests you? Perhaps even an area drenched in fragrance that affords sanctuary from the crazy demands of this world. Brainstorm such ideas in order to surface what you hope to achieve.

When you have a good idea of where you want to go, simply ask yourself: What goes with what, and why? If you do this plant by plant it becomes less complicated. It’s all about relationships anyway, isn’t it?

Until next time,

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