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Well, an interesting idea, certainly. New ideas always make us better gardeners; lasagna gardening, rain gardens, etc. I didn't understand the latter until I realized every bit of prairie I don't mow becomes a rain garden. Not that simple with forest gardening, but it's a neat idea.

Equally skeptical here, Susan. Bottom line: I don't want to have to rely on my own food-growing skills to survive. I like dabbling in food growing as a hobby ONLY. I believe that, while it may have some drawbacks, developing a more complex economy where people specialize is a better, healthier way to live.

No way I will be making flour from acorns.

Interesting definitely. The only part of this that I do is eat the serviceberries (before the birds). They will grow under my neighbours black walnut. I won't be making flour from acorns either.

I recommend that you check out the blog of Robert Straw in Wisconsin:One Straw: be the change. Very Informative and engaging. Lives with his wife and two children in a typical suburb and is turning his yard into a productive, ecologically thriving, creative adventure. Lots of knowledge addressing the questions you raise----- also has a great sense of humor!

I fail to see how this is revolutionary or major in any way. It's pragmatic gardening - planting what you can where you can and getting the most out of it (culinary, industrial, aesthetic, etc.). I guess I've been an "edible forest gardener" all along. I should set off on an attentionwhoring seminar circuit now.

Count me as a doubter. I would love to see more people growing there own food, but all of these 'movements' make it seem so complicated that lots of people get discouraged. Plus to be frank, all the pictures I've seen of these gardens so far, are fugly.

oops, their own food of course, instead of there own.

Very well done Garden Rant. I love it. This is exactly what I write about in my other blog "Earth's Internet" which deals with mycorrhizal connections working with all plants as it interconnects them for sharing various componants they all use for manufacturing their own fruits or seeds.

One of my posts was about my experience living in Idyllwild California where Apple trees and even Cheery trees were as equally productive as any orchard grown trees in full sunlight using flawed science-based chemical technologis brought to us from WWII's 'Manhattan Project' which gave us the so-called Green Revolution.

I have always planted my strawberries in a woodland garden setting and received as many or more berries than if I had them in the formal conventional garden setting. People forget that in nature they are a forest floor plant anyway, as are gooseberries, currants etc.

In 1982 when I moved to Idyllwild CA, I was hiking Strawberry Creek (named for the obvious reason) and noticed what I thought was a dogwood shrub. It wasn't as I found out a few years later. It was a Queen Anne Cheery tree. Apparently someone had been eating cherries years before as they walked the creek and spit the seed out, one of which got lucky. Over the years this tree produced countless cherries for which the Stellars Jays were grateful. Now there are several dozen trees in this area and under the canopy of massive old growth Ponderosa pines. They don't receive sunlight. So how do they manage ? Through the networked underground grid. Same with Apple trees in the same area, no sun, but productive anyway.

Thanks for this, it confirms what I've already known and been doing for years.

I've read a few permaculture books, and they all seem to suffer from the same affliction as many gardening books: "If you don't do it exactly like this, you are doing it wrong".

I get the point of "forest gardens" and permaculture, but, one size does not fit all. I think any movement has a few things we can all learn, but more and more, I tend to see these things as a way to sell books and workshops and conferences, etc.

Oh, and those acorns? Did anyone happen to mention how much water is required to get them to the point of edibility?

We have a substantial 'forest gardening' and permaculture movement in our area. I think it is very complicated and don't know whether someone on a suburban lot can do it - but I am going to look for an example or two. I do grow my own berries, which is about as close as I get to permaculture for food. Herbs, too.


I agree K.B. Folks need to taylor these concepts to their own local climate and environment. Joel Salatin has some great ideas and methods he uses for pasturized beef and pig raising, but the same techniques he uses won't work exactly with the same results in other areas and he readily admits that. When one buys a piece of land or some other property for farming or just gardening, you need to take that first year and get to know your own local habitat. Not all plants will work in the same setting, although over time you may build on a microclimate of woodland you create in the yard to do just that type of gardening being discussed here. However patience will be needed.Still the concept is a fun and exciting one.

I also know what you mean about the Acorn and water amount or quantities question. If you follow the link she gave on the preparations, you'll notice that all acorns are not equal. Some have more Tannins than others and they show this on that chart. I use to create a tannin free acorn mash all the time in Anza CA, but for the moment I couldn't tell you what amount of water I had to use. We did large batches of the ground meal and stored these in bags in the freezer. It produces a meal that has a sweet mild nutty flavour and used it for pancakes.

This may not have help much, but perhaps someone could add to the Acorn varieties they have used. We had Interior Live Oak and Black Oak which didn't require alot of leaching.



Most of the permaculture/forest gardening information I have seen has been long on rhetoric and short on data. There seems to be a tendency to extrapolate single data points into large scale output. For instance taking a single mature tree harvest in a good year multiplying that by number per acre and then comparing it to wheat. I have also seen a lot of criticism that revolves around solar output and photosynthesis maximization. If you live in a jungle then it works a lot better. Now that is not to mean that there isn't something to learn from permaculture. Ornamental landscapes can easily be adapted to still be ornamental and yet produce food and build soil.

One of my problems with these movements are the ardent believers who take themselves so very seriously. Let's be perfectly honest, there's a self righteous smugness with most of the green movements. I support a lot of these ideas and information, but I've also seen a lot of pseudo-science being touted as though it's objective peer-reviewed research--and that drives me crazy. I wish more people were skeptical before embracing movements. So, my hat's off to you for raising an eyebrow! :)

It's just a name. And it's nothing more than maximum pollinator habitat.

Via agriculture & ornamental horticulture endeavors.

Again, those Italians been doing it for centuries.

Been copying them for 23 years, since my first visit.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

My main hesitation: moving. Last I heard, a majority of Americans move every five years or so... not long enough to appreciate the fruit of a food forest. Also, there's real estate. As a unique new theory in gardening when most people are looking for a lawn and a few flower beds, I think you'd be bringing down the value of your home by following this technique as well.

Is that linked document from D.A. Bainbridge, because if not there are some direct word for word quotes from his published materials without quotation marks.

I like the idea. Personally, any garden without trees seems totally unnatural. I guess that's one reason I've never devoted significant space to vegetable gardening. I'd plant hazelnuts. They do well here. Hmmm....huckleberries, salal, salmonberries, Oregon grape, wood strawberries. I don't imagine I'd live off it exclusively, and I'd have to beat the chickens to the berries, but then again, if I let the chickens have the berries, I'm still eating them indirectly. I see a plan forming.

This seems too confusing to ever be widely used. If you can't adequetly describe a method with a few sentances, than I don't think it will stick. Permeculture still confuses me a bit even after reading up on it. If we ever want sustainable gardening practices to take off with the general public they also need simple and easy to understand. In many ways I think that is why companies like Scott's have a lot of succes.

Ah! If only there was a silver bullet to solving hunger and world peace!

Overall, I agree with the idea of growing plants in a habitat similar to what they evolved to grow in. However, the challenge I think it to make these landscapes or gardens attractive and not just "Oh, this is an example of forest gardening so it doesn't need to look pretty." Especially for residential implications

I approach the topic from almost the opposite end of the gardening spectrum as the author and most of the commenters. I find myself looking at gardens with so much concern for visual aesthetics that I find myself saying "huh?" I come from a rather pragmatic viewpoint such that if a component of my yard does not benefit my family, my animals, or other components of the yard, then I don't need it. I find the aesthetic aspect of gardening in the functioning of the system as a whole and don't particularly give a "compost" as to what it looks like.

Well, I have read that acorn flour will sustain life, but I also read that it doesn't taste very good--rather bitter.

It is hard to believe the dirt ecology can substitute for sunlight for orchard trees. I'd really like to see it. I'm not doubting--I do not know enough to judge this--but it interests me, as long as I do not have to turn my ornamental garden into this type of forest.

I really like the idea but, I feel alot like you do. I try to do this in my garden but, I do not have that much space to work with, let alone growing small fruit trees. I do on the other hand have some dwarf lemon and lime trees growing in containers and that is working out really well. I did not think that I would be able to keep them alive. Luckly, I was wrong. Keep up posted.

We have essentially been using a Forest Garden in Peru with Eco Ola. On our land at Eco Ola we grow numerous superfoods including a fare of the ancient Incans, Sachi Inchi, Camu Camu, Maca and an extraordinary Peruvian Cacao. Our farm is a scalable project, incorporating elements of organic permaculture and agro-ecology. We have been doing this for three years and it functions very well.

Further, Eco Ola's permaculture and agroforestry initiatives are also an integrated part of the surrounding community. We work together to assure the development of the local populace, many of whom are from the indigenous Yagua community and neighboring tribes. To remedy this instability, our contracts with our partner farmers exceed Fair Trade standards. To further understand the integrality of our work, please feel free to consult this recent interview with Mongabay. The piece will undoubtedly give you a greater sense of our ideals and operations:


Prof. Sabich
Eco Ola

Sounds like the usual bunch of crap

It's an appealing concept, but I don't know enough to judge it. I suspect that the proponents are overstating the potential, and would like to see some independent research testing their claims. I also think the proponents should consider promoting more limited applications of the concept that would seem less weird to the average US homeowner.

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