Forests in nature are stable, productive, and biodiverse. The forest garden
emulates how forests grow, using the same principles. Forest gardens are not
necessary gardens in forests—one can be established in a small backyard—but
the model is the same.
The pioneer of forest gardening, Robert Hart, has identified the following seven forest
layers that combine to make a healthy forest ecosystem:
- Canopy: Trees and shrubs are the backbone of the forest garden. The canopy
consists of the tallest of these. Fruit trees are a great edible choice
- Understory (low-tree layer): Dwarf fruit and nut trees.
- Shrub Layer: Woody plants such as raspberries.
- Herbaceous Layer: Herbs and perennial vegetables.
- Vertical Layer: Climbing plants and vines.
- Ground layer: Groundcover creepers, no more than half a foot tall.
- Rhizosphere: Root plants such as carrots, beets, and Jerusalem artichokes.
While your forest
matures, your plants will change, just as happens in nature. To find species
native to your region, look in the native plant database at
The Wildflower Center.