The benefits of a food forest stem from its 3 main characteristics: A food forest mainly grows perennials, fills all plant niches, and takes full advantage of vertical space.
Here are the main benefits of growing a food forest:
Biodiversity and Resilience
Food forests are diverse as they allow the mixing of different types of plants. You can plant sun-loving plants next to shade preferring plants. This creates a natural symbiosis that is beneficial to all the plants in your food forest. This results in plants that exhibit higher resistance to pests and diseases and higher productivity.
You can plant climbers, root crops, and edible groundcover like strawberries. Nitrogen-fixing plants such as lupines are beneficial in improving soil quality and supporting the growth of other plants. The diversity of your food forest will lead to a bountiful harvest.
By filling all plant niches, a food forest reduces issues with weeds and pests. Groundcover plants prevent the growth of weeds.
The result of a food garden is abundant, diverse harvests that need fewer inputs and less maintenance compared to a regular garden.
Natural control of pests
You do not need to use chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides on your food forest. The combination of different plant types creates a conducive environment for natural predators to thrive and thus eliminating the threat of destruction by pests. Food forests are therefore beneficial to the environment as they support surrounding ecosystems.
It can be a solution to traditional farming methods that require the use of chemicals that damage soil, water, and air quality.
The high diversity of plants creates a good home for predatory insects. The forest ecosystem, with plenty of food sources host predators that will get rid of any pests threatening the integrity of your food forest.
A food forest naturally attracts birds and other large predators, which is a form of natural pest control.
Food forests allow high-density planning which ensures high yields. Biodiversity ensures a continuous food supply annually.
In a food forest, you create a system of perennials, which eliminates the need for yearly replanting. You will water less, dig less and therefore the food forest will support more life than a regular garden. It does not require constant soil disruption, which makes it good for building biodiversity.
Further, it increases your harvest as it allows maximum utilization of vertical space. In a regular garden, you can only plant along the ground, which leaves a lot of vertical space unused. A food forest allows you to plant vertically, combining tall trees, with high fruit and nut yields along with vines, and providing shade for shade-tolerant species.
Food forests are resilient against pests and weeds and will thus be dominated by your preferred crops throughout the year. Mulching and dead matter from vegetation combine to improve soil quality and enable faster growth. You can harvest at any time of the year without affecting the productivity of your food forest.
A food forest allows you to have a small area packed with a lot of food, compared with an expansive regular garden.
Food forests do not require fertilizer or maintenance
Food forests, just like regular forests are self-mulching. They cover the soil in their own dead plant matter in order to retain moisture. The high plant density assures an accumulation of a high volume of fallen leaves, which add to the nutrient quality of the soil.
Decomposers in your food garden break down organic matter, helping to boost the natural composting process. You will therefore not need to fertilize your plants or add animal compost to improve growth. You get a plentiful harvest with little maintenance work needed on a food garden. You don’t need to clean up to much, other than a bit of pruning.
Nitrogen-fixing plants in the food forest have bacteria in their roots that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that is easily absorbed by plants. Their presence in your food forest means that your soil will remain nutrient-rich and accommodate a wide range of crops.
Food forests combine plant diversity with the natural ecosystem of a forest to support the growth of food crops. They are low maintenance, resilient, and highly productive with the capacity to cater to the nutrient needs of a large part of the population.
You use a limited amount of space, with very little labor required. Food forests are beneficial to the environment and a great way to sustainably grow food.