Forest as role model

Throughout history, man has interacted with nature, and of course often with forest as role model. Today, we have begun rediscovering several of the old methods of natural interplay. Ways that utilize cultivation areas more efficiently while becoming more ecologically sustainable.

Intercropping with trees

The methods are based on the fact that trees are in several ways intercropped with other crops and on pastures. Here, trees are used for several different purposes, such as giving crops, nourishing other plants and soil, for animal feed, wood, timber, as protection against pests, and as wind and sun protection. Thanks to the trees’ many functions, these intercropping forms create greater biodiversity and a more sustainable ecosystem at that place. In this chapter, I will describe some different methods that are in use around the world.

Silvoarable

The method “Silvoarable” means that trees are planted as windbreaks between different cultivation zones. Many varieties of trees are used – trees for timber and wood, for harvesting fruit and nuts, for pollarding fodder, or for a nitrogen-fixing purpose. The tree varieties are chosen depending on what you want to achieve. The trees can be planted either in rows or in clusters.

Silvopasture

Silvopasture is a method that builds on trees being planted in rows or clusters, around or on forage lands and pastures. Tree varieties and features are the same as with
Silvoarable.

Forest farming 

Forest farming is a method that means integrating the crops into the already existing forest landscape. Common crops grown here include mushrooms, nuts, root vegetables, fruits, berries, plants for bees, herbs, medicinal plants, and edible flowers – as well as trees that can produce edible crops. This way, you create both a food forest and a forest for timber, wood, and woodchips. Integrating different animals into the system is ideal as well.

Forest garden with forest as role model

Forest gardening is nature’s version of a permacultural system, which manages itself in almost every case.

As mentioned earlier, the difference between the forest cultivations and these forest gardens is that both forest and crops are planted from scratch in a forest garden.

In the forest garden, all conceivable forms of fruits, berries, vegetables, and herbs are grown side by side in the same type of ecosystem as in the natural forest. We can create our food forest by learning how the natural forest is constructed.

A natural forest consists of many different vegetation layers, which are:

  1. Overstory (canopy) tree layer – large and medium-sized fruit trees
  2. Understory tree layer – dwarf species of fruit and nut trees
  3. Shrub layer – fruit and berry bushes
  4. Herbaceous layer – herbs and perennial vegetables
  5. Vertical layer/Vine layer – climbing and trellised plants
  6. Ground cover layer – creeping groundcover plants
  7. Root-level – root vegetables
  8. Mycorrhiza level
  9. Water level

Plants within a forest garden

When choosing plants, it is essential to select these with regard to both the overall climate, the local conditions, and the needs of the plants and their interactions. This choice will increase nature’s own ability to help create the right environment. An adequately designed forest garden, with its immense biodiversity, has a broad and wide range of different habitats that in turn create many opportunities for abundant wildlife – both below and above ground.

Creating a forest garden with forest as role model

Using forest as role model when creating a forest garden takes time and requires a lot of knowledge, but I will guide you through the basics.

Planning so that the forest garden contains many different species – all with different conditional needs and that become harvestable at different times – not only provides food for a longer part of the year but also strengthens its’ protection against bad weather, diseases, and pest attacks.

In a forest garden, many jobs take care of themselves. Here, the nutrient supply occurs by all kinds of green plant parts falling to the ground, which then decomposes and is dealt with by the soil life. The absence of bare soil prevents soil erosion and evaporation. This environment also favours all forms of animals – from the tiniest insect to the largest moose – all of which add to the overall diversity. Additionally, all the soil nutrients come to use since different plants get their nutrients from different depths.

Building a forest garden requires a lot of planning before you can start physically building. It is essential to have the proper growth in the right place, both in the short term and in the long term. It is good to plan so that the same species do not end up next to each other to reduce the risk of spreading diseases.

The easiest way is to start by placing out the big trees by taking into account which thrive together and which ones need each other for pollination. Then, it is necessary to intersperse small trees and bushes in the same way while taking into account which can tolerate shade and which needs sun.

These facts may mean that you need to move some of the larger trees or that some areas may be better without these. The next step is to plan for herbs and groundcovers. There are undoubtedly some trees that will work as support for climbing plants.

An excellent way to get a lot of space on a small surface is to plant in waveforms, as is often the Permaculture case. It not only allows for more plants on the same surface, but it also provides more sun for ach plant.