The Forested Garden: What is a Food Forest?

The Forested Garden: What is a Food Forest?

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Forests are ecosystems with a diversity of plants, animals, and fungi. They were designed by nature to have perfect balance. A food forest is a version of this in which the different, balanced components produce food. When we understand how nature creates its ecosystem, we can model that with productive species to produce food sustainably, with minimum inputs for maximum outputs.

Forests have layers. At the top is the (1) canopy layer followed by (2) understory trees, (3) bushes and shrubs, and down to (4) herbaceous layers. Under the ground, there are (5) root yields, and at the surface, there are (6) groundcovers. There are also vertical layers of (7) climbers. These layers work to occupy all the space. In designing a food forest, we use those layers to work for our benefit.

For designed food forests, the plants change from climate to climate. In the subtropics, tamarillo functions as an understory, and also within this layer are productive trees, such as feijoa, guava, and citrus. Taro, coco yam, and cassava are root yields. There are also large herbs, like bananas. The food forest would also include large support species—ice cream bean, tipuana tipu, casuarina—that support the forest by cycling nutrients, as well as understory support trees, a la acacia, leucaena, cassia, and albizzia. Most of these support species will eventually give way to large, productive species: rose apples, mulberries, jackfruit, bunya pine, pecan, and mango. The system remains very stable when all the layers are occupied.

We can plant foods by cultivating the support species at the same time as the fruit trees, then managing the support species to shelter and boost the productive species. Or, we can start just support species, but we shouldn’t start with just the productive species because it would require lots of inputs and hard work to keep them healthy. Support species can be up to 95% of the mass in the early years, and most of them will be nitrogen-fixing species. We speed their life cycle up by managing the support species, pruning when there is more rainfall than evaporation. Over time, less mass will be from support species and more from productive plants until, ultimately, the forest is 95% productive species. This is how we stack in time as well as space.

So, we are manipulating the way a forest grows, particularly speeding it up, to work in our favor. We can pollard nitrogen-fixing legumes to allow sun in during rainier times and, then, through regrowth, supply shades in drier times. We can eventually cut these legumes lower and lower to yield their space to productive species. Finally, we can cut them to ground level and remove them altogether. This is how we more rapidly feed the soil with a fallen forest.

We can also use animals to help in the process. Larger grazing animals can graze to clear areas until we put in our small plants. Chickens and ducks can come through and prepare the ground. With established trees, chicken and ducks can return to clean the area up and speed the cycle of low-lying plants. We just have to keep an eye on the system and work the animals to a planned improvement in productivity.

Food forests work as a living ecosystem, both diverse and stable. The production of soil is constant and fertility constantly growing. The production is nonstop. The system will actually replicate itself over time. This type of garden can make us the most beneficial animal on the planet, all while supplying our own needs.

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About Geoff:

Geoff is a world-renowned permaculture consultant, designer, and teacher that has established demonstration sites that function as education centers in all the world’s major climates.

About Permaculture:

Permaculture is conscious, intentional design in which diverse, stable and resilient ecosystems are
assimilated to help people provide their food, energy, shelter, and other needs in a sustainable way, abusing neither the planet nor the humans relying on it. Permaculture focuses on a variety of topics, including agriculture, forestry, water harvesting, renewable energy, eco-building, waste management, animal systems, economics, technology, & community development.

Music Credits:
Song: “Emotional Documentary” | Artist: Melodex | Licensed by AudioHive
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#permaculture #foodforest #forestgarden


  1. Naresh Supekar on May 13, 2021 at 1:05 am

    Nice 🙏🏻🙏🏻👍🏻👍🏻

  2. Koen Kroon on May 13, 2021 at 1:07 am

    A system in perfect balance designed by nature? Nature has no intelligence. But God does

  3. Angelica Mendoza on May 13, 2021 at 1:09 am

    What adorable list of plants!!

  4. Karl's Food Forest Garden on May 13, 2021 at 1:09 am

    Thanks Geoff! I took your PDC in 2014 and have been designing and spreading the word every since! As one of my Permaculture friends once said, "designing a food forest is designing *like* a forest, not *in* a forest." I love this quote and have tried to keep it in mind for my own designs.

  5. Gardor on May 13, 2021 at 1:11 am

    This is the way.. this is the solution.. After watching a few alternative ways of living and finding out about food forests.. normal society just seems ridiculous…

  6. Melanie Allen on May 13, 2021 at 1:14 am

    I am inspired!! Thankyou..from Australia..😁

  7. Atmaram Khot on May 13, 2021 at 1:14 am

    Sir u r teaching a great lesson to the world, Great work.

  8. AYOG Agri-Venture on May 13, 2021 at 1:15 am

    Thanks for the insights

  9. Lara Ayoubi on May 13, 2021 at 1:16 am

    The best in permaculture 👍

  10. Sonia Tello on May 13, 2021 at 1:16 am

    I am converting a small plot of intensive
    olive trees with a food forest, what is the best way to move forward? should O keep the trees while growing the other species or cut them off? what book should I read for it? This is in Granada, Spain

  11. Bali Buku on May 13, 2021 at 1:17 am

    ive got so much to learn …thanks for the wonderful explaination

  12. Spaide man on May 13, 2021 at 1:17 am

    yup, but the capitalists don’t want u to succeed and independent, they need slaves.

  13. Alicia Valentyn on May 13, 2021 at 1:20 am

    Ducks 🦆 WOW!

  14. eladentopistevo on May 13, 2021 at 1:21 am

    How about mosquitos in these type of ecosysyems?
    Very interesting!

  15. Rohit Sethi on May 13, 2021 at 1:21 am

    This is the video and info I was looking for all these months.
    Many thanks sir.

  16. Kolap Yellow on May 13, 2021 at 1:22 am

    No land to make foood forest for me now – I want to do this in five years, Saving to get small land to build small food forest. This is exiting! thank you.

  17. Aurelia on May 13, 2021 at 1:24 am

    whats the use of the canopy layer? arent they going to block the sunlight?

  18. erin fredericks on May 13, 2021 at 1:28 am

    Tear down all the shopping malls and build food forests.

  19. Татьяна Козма on May 13, 2021 at 1:29 am

    Jeff. You are an inspirer, watching Your Works and Love for nature. You turn the thinking of mankind awakening to a new Life. Thank you and God bless you many years of life. Your learning, like mycorrhiza, sits in your head and pulsates all the time for development. Your simplicity will conquer the mind. Thank you.

  20. O'Donnell's Aussie Homestead on May 13, 2021 at 1:29 am

    Been watching you on my TV for quite awhile now that I’m watching u on my mobile im showing you some love and ringing that bell you gotta support Aussie and especially u as you are helping the world. Well done Geoff 🥰👍

  21. Increase Maximum Lifespan on May 13, 2021 at 1:30 am


  22. my comment on May 13, 2021 at 1:30 am

    If presented like this, it’s a ridiculous idea. You don’t have to grow trees in order to get nitrogen in the soil. It’s literally the cheapest fertiliser out there, so you just buy a couple of bottles and plant your fruit trees and spare the years of waiting. I really was wondering what Forest gardens are all about but if it’s this, then I’m out.

  23. khoa tran on May 13, 2021 at 1:31 am

    I understand that we need to grow the taller layer first then wait until it big and grow lower layer. Am I understand correctly?

  24. Hammam Al khateeb on May 13, 2021 at 1:34 am

    How can this work in desert areas with low rain rates ?

  25. Mr. Gigi on May 13, 2021 at 1:34 am

    I think, you are working too hard.

  26. Maier Mustafa on May 13, 2021 at 1:34 am

    Thank you sir, we are trying it, its first year, following you, learning from you, many more prayers for you sir

  27. RGRNature on May 13, 2021 at 1:37 am

    Great video, thinking about starting a small food forest myself. I have about 4 acres that is clear. About 4 acres that is forested. Thinking about starting a food forest on the part that is clear. And setting up a few systems inside the actual forest. Looking at growing several woodland herbs and mushrooms in the actual forest.

  28. Trump Lost LOL on May 13, 2021 at 1:38 am

    "Designed by nature"?? Nature does not design anything. Nature is chaotic. And you have some "dynamic balance" in nature that is constantly changing. Read "One Straw Revolution" and you will better understand nature. Permaculture is NOT a solution and is NOT natural. The only thing humans can do to survive is to "distort" nature "a little bit" in favor of the food they want to grow. We shall NEVER touch the rest. Let everything else grow naturally and everything will grow, including our food. With a piece of barren land, we have to grow everything. Let everything compete with each other. There is no design needed. Just grow everything. Some may eventually die, but some will survive. If you try to grow the so-called "productive trees" first, you will fail cause the productive trees will shade out all the low canopy trees before they can start growing. Imagine a forest being destroyed by fire. All the seeds that are underground will start to germinate and restart the forest. Everything will grow without any design.

  29. george dwyer on May 13, 2021 at 1:39 am

    Geoff are you a horticulturist ,you seem to be very knowledgeable as regards plants .

  30. Dennis Mehlsen on May 13, 2021 at 1:41 am

    I really like the idea behind the Food Forests. By now though I have learned to question what I hear – also what I see here. On that note, is Food forests primarily good for places where no production has been before or for gardens or ? I can’t help but think that ending up with food trees that is focused towards humans, must miss something regarding the animals or the diversity of other living beings. I don’t have anything to base this on except my skepticism of one focus. That being said, I look forward to try start thinking of my own little garden in layers – and diversity. Thank you!

  31. Rinjani Ranch on May 13, 2021 at 1:41 am

    Where can I find a listing of the various trees, shrubs and so on for my food forest in USDA Zone 7a? Prefer a list that separates the species by whether they are legumes or not. Most of the ones you’ve mentioned in the video grow in your sub-tropical climate but not here in north central Tennessee. Thank you in advance.

  32. Rinjani Ranch on May 13, 2021 at 1:42 am

    What’s very frustrating to me is watching videos from sun-tropical and tropical areas. Most of the fruit and plants I like grow in these areas, but not in zone 7A. If I could afford to relocate, I would in a heartbeat.

  33. Geo Theobroma on May 13, 2021 at 1:42 am

    I had this exact idea 4years ago and started planting it 3 years ago. More food than i know what to do with plus an animal sanctuary is the result

  34. Kyle Tomorug on May 13, 2021 at 1:43 am

    Love this.

  35. Rinjani Ranch on May 13, 2021 at 1:43 am

    Just discovered your channel being referred by Permaculture Pimp Daddy, Billy. I’m planning to watch and save all of your videos because, you have tied everything together so well. I’m in awe of the wealth of information your produce. I’m just getting started homesteading and was seeking guidance for what to do, grow, how to’s and was to you for making this available in video format. I learn and retain more than by reading. You’ve made permaculture make sense to me.

  36. Aamir Ahmed on May 13, 2021 at 1:44 am

    Highly inspiration stuff….Amazing story and idea

  37. Raghu Rama Rao Pattamatta on May 13, 2021 at 1:44 am

    Excellent Enterprising Emerging Evolving Ecological Endeavour 🎉🙏

  38. O'Donnell's Aussie Homestead on May 13, 2021 at 1:44 am


  39. EatYourBackyard on May 13, 2021 at 1:44 am

    What an amazing video, I absolutely loved it! I have developed a food forest in Florida and it is doing very well, getting ready to introduce chickens, already have bunnies for manure, red wigglers/worm tea, composters, now the chickens. This video really helped me, I have all my escapades in the food forest documented on my channel.

  40. s1r3n1971 on May 13, 2021 at 1:45 am

    1st. step in survival, I need to buy some land!

  41. Kiên VTS on May 13, 2021 at 1:45 am


  42. Richard Raistrick on May 13, 2021 at 1:45 am

    Inspriational stuff. Just discovering the concept and truly fascinated. Wonder how it would work up in Michigan.

  43. White Diamond Creative on May 13, 2021 at 1:46 am

    Thank you!

  44. Mikshikusthias Dayrit on May 13, 2021 at 1:47 am

    We need a president like him lols

  45. pmafep21 on May 13, 2021 at 1:48 am

    It’s amazing. I discovered permaculture in this pandemic and I’m looking forward to have my own food forest in a couple of years.

  46. Criadero Cristaloza on May 13, 2021 at 1:51 am


  47. khoa tran on May 13, 2021 at 1:52 am

    Is there a minimum size of land we should have to develop food forest?

  48. MD 63 on May 13, 2021 at 1:54 am

    Way too tropic- centric

  49. Sharon Velasquez on May 13, 2021 at 1:59 am

    I’m going to plant fruit trees in an area 46 by about 36 feet can you recommend some types of plants support plants that I can plant under them? I live near the coast of Oregon in the US. thank you

  50. gravediggy on May 13, 2021 at 2:02 am

    What about pests eating the food in the food forests ??? Mainly possums and fruit bats

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