Plants of the forest

One of my earliest memories of visiting my grandparents’ farm was playing on the dry stone wall, tossing stones around and just generally fooling around.

Then, looking down, I came across a small seedling sticking out the side of the wall, growing in nothing, with barely any soil between the stones.

Out of childish curiosity more than anything I decided to set it free from the heavy stones and leave it to grow on its own. That was 20 years ago…

Today, that seedling is this strapping young fellow on the image left – European Ash tree.

He has survived the droughts, heavy snows, pouring rains and sub-zero temperatures all by himself, without anyone taking care of him.

As I sit under his shadow today and plan my food forest I’m curious to find out how trees flourish without human intervention.

How come wild apples, plums and cherries from the nearby forest do so well while the cherry tree I planted in my orchard five years ago has died miserably? To understand this I needed to return to the place where the seed of this Mountain Ash tree came from and revisit my teacher – the forest itself.

Forests are our teachers

Just by my house, some 50m away is an entrance to a forest. I visit there often, it makes me feel relaxed, I enjoy the serene sounds of nature, the falling leaves, birds and other critters. Most importantly, I go there to observe and learn.

You see, given enough time every ecosystem ends up like a forest. This is the end point of an ecological succession; a point where the ecosystem becomes stable or self-perpetuating as a climax community and, without any major disturbances, the forest will endure indefinitely.

This is exactly what you want your own food forest to be like. To achieve a low maintenance abundance of fruit, nuts, berries and herbs you’ll want to create a forest-like system where fertility comes from various sources, where you’re greatly aided by fungi, where wildlife is your primary pest control, where soil holds water like a sponge, and where you have a high diversity of plants.

You want a carefully designed and maintained ecosystem of useful plants and emulate conditions found in the forest.

However, the problem is often that you’ll find yourself starting out with a bare field, a blank canvas and the overall plan can feel a little overwhelming. Sometimes even reading books such as Edible Forest Gardens can make things harder rather than easier.

While creating my own food forest, I broke down the plan into smaller, manageable steps. I want to make as few mistakes as possible and to be honest, I don’t have time to make them.

So today I’ll let you in on my process and I’ll also share additional resources that will help you go from that bare field to a fully-functioning ecosystem inspired by forests. Be sure to check them out at the end of the post.

Ok, let’s dive in!

1. What do you want from your food forest?

First you have to be clear about the ultimate goals of your project.

Why is this important?

You see, with a clear goal, everything becomes easier, you know where best to place your efforts and, most importantly, what are the priorities, what to focus on and what to postpone for the time being.

You have to think are you doing this because of: 1. being more self-reliant, 2. making an income, 3. producing healthy food 4. educating others 5. having a fun project for all the family

As you can see, each of these will require different considerations for your precious time and money. For example, if your goal is to create an income from your food forest, you’ll want to focus on researching which tree crops sell well locally and then think about how to grow them in the most efficient manner.

On the other hand, if you just want to be more self-reliant, you’ll want to think about how to create a diverse food forest with as many fruits, nuts and herbs as possible to fulfill your needs and stop being dependent on the grocery store.

Don’t overdo the thinking at the outset, but just be clear what you want from the beginning.

2. Explore, Sit Quietly and Observe, Analyse

Entrance to my nearby forest. My source of inspiration and many seeds & cuttings.

  • Explore your local forest so you’ll have an idea what will grow best in your area

Start with taking casual walks in your local forest. When designing a food forest you want to learn from the local ecosystem and try to emulate it. This is why such observations are important, this is how you discover what plants will grow best in our area.

You’ll want to look around and identify the plants that are thriving. As Mark Shepard would say: identify the perennial plants, observe how they grow in relation to one another, and take a note of the species. Later on, you can use that list to find commercial productive variants of the wild plants that you can grow in your food forest.

This step is crucial, because if you want to create an edible landscape that requires less work and maintenance, you need to grow species that are well adapted to your area, i.e. species that are volunteering to grow around your site.

If you have nature as your ally and use the natural tendencies of the native vegetation, then you’ll be doing considerably less hard work. This is one of the fundamental permaculture principles of working with nature rather than against it.

For example, when I walked in my forest I saw elderberries, hazels, hawthorns, lindens, cherries, apples, junipers, and the list goes on. So, guess what I’ll be growing in my food forest?

I’d also be taking seeds from those naturalized species and using them as rootstock for my plants. But that’s a lesson in itself, so be sure to read my post on growing trees from seeds.

  • Sit quietly and observe your site

Next, sit at the future site of your food forest, no matter if it’s 5 or 50 min, just sit there quietly. Brew yourself some coffee or tea and just be mindful of what is happening around you. Immerse yourself and study the wildlife, feel the breeze, listen to the sounds of the natural world around you. You can learn a great deal simply by sitting quietly.

One of my best ideas, and one that saved me a lot of time, came when I just sat down and observed my site. For years, I tried to get a wild hedge under control and year after year I was cutting it, but it kept on re-sprouting. This mindless management involved a great deal of work, as I always found myself battling against the hedge’s natural inclinations.

It wasn’t until one day, when I was sitting quietly looking down at the hedge, that I came up with an easy solution to the problem. I asked myself a simple question: How can I let nature do the work for me? As I observed the hedge more thoughtfully, I realized that some of the species growing there were actually useful, while with others, I had even planned to grow them there anyway.

If I just gave a head start to species I want there, they would eventually overgrow the ‘non-useful’ ones, and I wouldn’t need to mindlessly cut down everything each year. Sometimes we are just too much in working mode to come up with solutions that are actually a whole lot easier. Having the time to observe, think and ask the right questions helps us save money, time and unnecessary labor.

These moments of mindfulness help put things into perspective and reveal a wealth of important information about the site itself.

  • Do a site survey and make a basic map

It’s time to put on your permaculturist explorers’ hat and take notes about your site. You’ll want to ‘read the landscape’ and note down everything you can decipher about your water situation, climate, soil, slope, aspect, wildlife…

The landscape you see around you and its resulting ecosystems are formed from the interaction of climate, landform, soils and living things. Therefore, to better understand your site, you should analyze these elements, or parts of them, one by one…

At this point, you want to be actively involved and walk the site, conduct surveys and look at different natural processes. You can use modern technology (smartphones and desktop computers) to help you understand the weather patterns, terrain shape and water movement across the land.

You also want to get your hands dirty and investigate your soil’s texture, structure and biological activity. You can also perform some lab tests on your soil and experiment with some basic tests yourself. There are many things to explore. Help yourself and download my checklist below.

Download the free site survey checklist here!

Based on the information you’ve collected, make a rudimentary hand-drawn map or use Google Earth as a base layer and annotate the printout with your notes. You can even make multiple thematic maps for each of the landscape components you’ve analyzed.

From the map, it should be visible where the site potentials lay, and what you’ll need to design for.

3. Design – Create a layout and choose the plants

Illustration from Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway. Excellent reference when designing a food forest.

  • Choose a general layout – orchard, woodland, savannah

There are four basic layouts that determine the final look of the food forest: In their book, Edible Forest Gardens, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier suggest more options but I’ll round it down to the basics:

  1. Savanna type systems – alley cropping and silvopastoral system – examples: Mark Shepard/Grant Schultz
  2. Orchards – woodlands with regularly spaced trees – examples: Permaculture Orchard, David Holmgren
  3. Mid – to late succession woodland – this is what we are trying to emulate – examples: Robert Hart, Martin Crawford
  4. Closed canopy forest – end point of a succession – these are mature forests – example: “Your local forest”

Which layout suits you best depends on your goals and your site’s characteristics (climate, terrain, biome, etc.). Different systems require a different design approach, management, and maintenance….

Savanna-type or agroforestry systems are based on a keyline design and are much better suited for commercial fruit, nut and herb production. Usually implemented on a broadacre scale, this is a layout with equidistant rows that enables efficient machine harvesting.

The woodlands we call orchards are more of a hybrid system that you can use for both commercial production and home use. The layout also has equidistant rows, but permaculture orchards are usually implemented on a relatively smaller scale.

Mid- to late succession woodlands offer the opportunity for the most varied, interesting, complex, and productive patterns of trees shrubs and herbs. Although primarily geared towards home food production, you can implement this layout on your suburban backyard but also scale up to a farm scale.

  • Start by outlaying your infrastructure first

Start your design with the scale of permanence in mind and plan your water, access and structures first. It’s best to begin with these essentials because they will be the most permanent elements of you food forest.

This includes thinking about the most suitable places for your water tanks, irrigation lines and other water elements, as well as planning for the locations of access points, different buildings and fences.

Water planning comes first, as water is the number one priority for any permaculture system. The water systems that you develop in this stage will become permanent land features that other infrastructure components will follow.

Immediately after designing the water systems, consider where to put your roads and paths. Their placement will define your movement around your food forest for many years to come, so think long and hard about their potential locations. Once they’re in, it’s hard to rearrange them.

The pattern of the fencing will generally follow that of access, and you’ll be able to subdivide your food forest into different growing zones. By doing so, you’ll be able to manage and protect them separately if necessary. Finally, consider where to put different buildings, if any…

Good infrastructure design is essential in order to minimise maintenance, maximize productivity, and provide a habitat for beneficial animals.

  • Make a list master list of plants you wish to grow

Make a master list of plants – your desired species and others necessary to fulfil a certain purpose in your food forest. Think about ecological functions needed throughout the garden such as food production, the gathering and retention of specific nutrients, beneficial insect nectar plants, and ground cover for weed control.

Create a spreadsheet with each of these categories, do the research and list all the plants you want. Now, if there is a desired species that simply won’t work on your site, you can always find an ecological equivalent, i.e. an ecologically similar species that fills a similar community niche in comparable habitats.

For this you can use climate-analogous species. Based on the climate classification of your site, you can find almost identical climates across the globe, and then, by researching plants in those areas, find all kinds of interesting species you didn’t know you could grow.

However, growing plant species that aren’t native to your bioregion can be working against the natural tendencies of your site. You can make things easier on yourself and only focus your attention on what’s proven to work. Here’s what I mean…

Based on the inspection of your local forest in step 1, you’ll have an idea what species grow best in your area. These native and naturalized species are part of the already functioning and thriving ecosystem. All you need to do now is imitate that ecosystem on your site but use the more productive variants of these species.

Be sure to include these plants in your master list!

  • Create guilds from your master list of plants

This is the very core of forest gardening. You want to create effective polycultures that share the resources and mutually support themselves. But how can you choose the right combination of plants? Here are just a few of the recommendations from Edible Forest Gardens.

You can do your guild build based on what you know or guess about plants, their species niche, and how they interact. In this way you can also create novel plant combinations through your experiments.

You can create a random mixture. A lot of people will just select a group of interesting plants and throw them together and see what happens. However, while it is sporadically ok to do so to spice things up, if the whole garden is like this, it will probably result in failure.

You can also try to emulate a habitat and use a model ecosystem as a template for design, incorporating species directly from the model habitat. This model habitat could be your local forest.

This is, of course, the easiest way to win. Here, you’re not inventing anything new, rather you’re copying what already works in nature. All you need to do is observe how the native plants grow in relation to one another and imitate that in your food forest.

If you’re not sure where to start, download my free PDF with 5 Temperate Climate Guild examples you can copy and recreate in your food forest.

  • Do a patch design – define your planting areas and plant spacing

Design your patches one by one, a patch could be a row, a contour or a grouping of plants in one area. However you decide to tackle the patch design, the most important aspect is deciding on the planting distance.

If you followed the design process and started your design by choosing the overall layout, you should already have an idea on the distances between the patches. Now let’s look at how to space the plants within the patch itself.

The easiest way to determine this spacing is by using the ‘crown touching rule’ and placing the individual trees a crown’s diameter apart. For this, you’ll have to find the information on the size of the individual mature trees’ crowns and use that as your guide.

Usually, the biggest mistake people make is overly-dense spacing where tree crowns are interlocking. This is OK when you’re planting a screen or hedge, but otherwise this will put stress on the plants and limit their growth.

In his book, Creating Forest Gardens, Martin Crawford recommends adding 30-50% more distance around each woody plant if you want more sunlight for understory plants. Also, you want to plant wider than ‘crown touching’ distance when soil conditions are limiting, in order to reduce competition between plants for limited resources.

4. Prepare the site

Improving the soil on my site one patch at a time. Hugel swale seeded with mixture of red clover/perennial rye cover crop.

  • Adapt your site if necessary

If you’re not starting from scratch with a bare field, the chances are there is something already growing there and you’ll need to adapt your site accordingly. This means clearing unwanted vegetation and leaving whatever you find useful. You can use any available biomass for mulch, compost, wood chips, firewood, mushroom inoculation….

For example, I will be leaving some naturalised plums and using a wood chipper to create some mulch from the trees and branches I don’t need, plus I’ll be using the wood for my hugel beds.

  • Shape the earth to your advantage and optimize water retention

After you cleared the vegetation, you can start the earthworks for optimizing water retention on your site. This involves shaping the earth in a way that promotes water infiltration, distribution and storage.

Effectively, what you want is to do first is to slow, spread, and sink the water as it falls from the sky into the soil. The soil is the cheapest place to store water, and it’s the largest storage resource available on most sites. To do this, you can use two very famous techniques: keyline plowing/subsoiling and swales on the contour.

Following this, you want to have a way to capture as much water as reasonably possible and store it for dry periods. You can do this by digging ponds that will store the water and diversion drains that will collect and distribute that water when necessary across the site.

Whether you’re going to use one or both of these strategies depends on your site conditions: climate, terrain, soil, your context…I think one question on everybody’s mind is whether or not to swale it. For assistance, I would encourage you to look at this cheat sheet by Ben Falk if you’re in two minds about doing swales on your site.

  • Set up infrastructure and put down irrigation, pathways and fencing

Following the earthworks, begin with the most difficult, important or permanent elements of the food forest.

Start by putting down pathways throughout your site, they are important as they define your different growing zones and protect them from the compaction. You want to minimize compaction in the areas you’ll be planting soon after and having clearly defined pathways keeps you on track (pun intended).

A well built pathway can also act as a hard surface runoff and collect the water that you can then connect with your other water elements you built in the previous step. Integrate rather than segregate!

Fencing the site is the next important thing. I can’t recommend building a main perimeter fence and enclosing your whole site strongly enough. Importantly, there are security issues and protecting from theft or trespassing and, moreover, I hear a lot of people regretting not doing this type of a fence first in order to ensure that their trees get protection from wildlife.

You don’t want those deer, coyotes, kangaroos, sheep or rabbits nibbling on your seedlings.

Finally, if necessary, put down irrigation and install water tanks – you simply can’t overdo it when it comes to making sure there is enough water during the months of drought.

  • Build up your soil and improve the soil structure

It will come as a surprise to many, but improving the soil first rather that planting straight away saves time. This is because waiting for a year and simply conditioning the soil during that time and then planting in year two yields better results than planting immediately.

For improving the soil in this transitional period prior to planting, you can add soil amendments such as compost, compost tea, fertilizers or use cover crops, all with the goal of improving the fertility of the soil so that your plants get a decent head start. However, there is a caveat to this soil building…

Ideally, food forest soils contain a fungal presence ten times higher than that of bacteria. So you should aim to recreate those conditions.

In the beginning, you’ll be probably starting out from a bare field and you want to continually nudge your soil towards fungi domination. You can do this by inoculating the soil with fungi or cover cropping with green manure crops – Michael from the Holistic Orchard recommends red or crimson clover in preference as these two nitrogen-fixing legumes have a stronger affinity for mycorrhizal fungi. Finally, you want to spread woody mulch everywhere to feed the fungi in the soil.

For more info about improving the soil in your food forest read my Definitive Guide to Building Deep Rich Soils by Imitating Nature.

5. Source the plants and start planting

Here I’m taking some Juniperus communis cuttings in my local forest. I’m sourcing plants the cheap way.

  • Start a nursery or buy plants – your choice

Now that all the preparation work is complete, you can start planting. You basically have two options depending on the budget: grow your own trees (and shrubs of course) or acquire young ones.

If you’re on a tight budget, I would suggest growing most of your trees yourself. Actually, regardless of your budget, you shouldn’t stray from learning how to grow your own trees. This is one of the most important skills you can have as a permaculturist, and the chances are that sometimes the type of the trees you’ll need won’t be even available to buy.

Growing your own trees is like printing your own money. It’s actually quite simple and you don’t even need that much space. You can read all about it in my post on ‘How to set up a Small Permaculture Nursery and Grow 1000s of Trees by yourself’ and start your nursery today.

Another option is to buy young trees from nurseries. However, the trees will be more expensive, already grafted and probably already one or two years old. If you have the budget and don’t have time to grow your own trees or to wait, this is the way to get an instant orchard without the hassle of setting up a nursery.

  • Phase your project and plant in stages

Planting a food forest can take place in stages or all at once. However, being honest, you’re unlikely to do it all in one go. More realistically, you’ll be planting your food forest in stages and over the course of several years. As long as you already know the outline of your rows or patches, you’ll know where to plant. After this, it’s only a matter of slowly filling the space with plants.

The establishment in stages normally involves planting hedges and/or canopy trees in the first year or two, then later shrubs and a ground cover layer. Here is a recommendation from Martin Crawford’s Creating a Forest Garden book:

Windbreak/hedges and edges>>Canopy layer including N fixers>>Shrub layer including N fixers>>Perennial/ground cover layer>>annuals, biennial and climbers.

Depending on your layout, you can also add annual veggie production to this. At least in the beginning, there will be a lot of light and space available for you to use to grow your beyond organic vegetables.

  • Finally, put your plants in the ground

I won’t go into detail on how you should be planting, for step-by-step details watch the Permaculture Orchard documentary where Stephan explains how to plant a tree in great details.

In short, just make sure you dig a large enough planting hole, spread the roots and sprinkle in mycorrhizal inoculant or dip the roots in a mycorrhizal root dip if required, then refill the hole with the soil you took out.

In almost every instance, you should use sheet mulch after planting to control the weeds. Unless the soil is very poor, do not add extra materials to it. Most importantly, don’t forget to mulch with the right type of material, since you’ll be growing woody perennials you’ll have to feed the soil biology (fungi) with woody mulch.

Conclusion and next steps

Creating a food forest is a multi-stage process and you don’t have to go through all the steps outlined above in the exact order. The idea behind this post is to give you a framework for planning and planting your first trees. Aftercare and maintenance will be a subject for another post.

So these were the steps I follow when creating my food forest. I’ve been growing my food forest for a couple of years now but honestly, it’s an ongoing and never-ending project as I always like to expand to more land, plant more plants and experiment with different plant combination. With every new patch of land, I follow these exact steps.

I want you to do the same thing and start creating that low maintenance food abundance today, so I’m giving several bonus resources to help.

  • First, I’ve made a site survey checklist that you can use as quick reference when starting with a new patch of land.
  • Second, I’ve included a short tutorial on the exact design steps I used when planning the layout for my food forest.
  • Third, I created a PDF with 5 temperate climate guild examples you can copy and recreate in your food forest.

You can download all that goodness by signing up here.

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Some of the amazing polyculture that already exists on the site (photos from spring- summer)

Here’s a list of some of the existing plant species from this site.

TREES HERBS
Crataegus sp.
Hawthorn
Hypericum perforatum
Perfoliate St John’s Wort
Prunus cerasifera
Myrobalan Plum
Verbascum thapsus
Great Mullein
Cornus Mas
Cornelian Cherry
Veronica sp.
Speedwell
SHRUBS Cruciata laevipes
Crosswort
Rosa Canina
Dog Rose
Galium aparine
Cleavers
Rubus fruticosus var.
Blackberry
Bellis perennis
Daisy
Prunus spinosa
Sloe
Malva alcea
Malva
HERBS Vicia lutea
Yellow Vetch
Mentha longifolia
Horsemint
Medicago arabica
Spotted Meddick
Cichorium intybus
Chicory
GROUND COVER
Origanum vulgare
Oregano
Lamium maculatum
Spotted Dead Nettle
Ranunculus spp.
Buttercup
Clematis vitalba
Travellers Joy
Aristolochia clematitis
Birthwort
Hedera helix
Ivy
Vicia hirsuta
Hairy Tare
BULB
Plantago major
Greater Plantain
Ornithogalum sp.
Ornithogalum
Plantago media
Hoary Plantain
Muscari neglectum
Grape-hyacinth
Vicia cracca
Tufted Vetch
Corydalis bulbosa
Corydalis
Orlaya grandiflora
White Lace
Scilla bifolia
Alpine Squill

In all of the perennial polycultures I design, my intention is to retain all of the existing species and to add more edible/productive plants along with fertility/support plants to assist them. More often than not many of the plants already growing on your site will be edible, medicinal, attractive to wildlife and fascinating organisms that are well worth getting to know.

Soil Survey

Next we made a simple but effective soil survey to gauge the quality of the soil we are working with.

The soil test covers the below:
1.GROUND COVER – What is covering the surface of the soil
2.PENETROMETER – How easy is it to penetrate the soil
3.INFILTRATION – How quickly the soil drains water
4. DIVERSITY OF MACROLIFE – Quantity of visible soil organisms present on the surface
5. ROOT DEVELOPMENT – How the plant roots are distributed throughout the soil profile
6. SOIL STRUCTURE – How the solid parts of soil and the pore space between them are arranged
7. AGGREGATE STABILITY – How stable is the structural arrangement
8. EARTHWORMS – How many
9. LAB ANALYSIS – pH – the mineral content of your soil

Katrin, Andreas and Frances Making the soil test.

Apart from Lab Analysis, all of the tests can be carried out with materials you will likely have around you. This soil test, when repeated each year, is a great way to track the progress of your soil overtime and to see how your methods are increasing or decreasing the health of your soil. The tests were developed by Northern Rivers and you can find full instructions and more info here.

Cadastral and Topography Survey

After lunch we were back on site for the cadastral survey, to mark the perimeter of the design area and to make a topography survey in order to gain an understanding of the shape of the ground i.e where it slopes, high points and low points etc.
Cadastral – In this case the boundary for the garden was defined by existing features of the site, i.e, a hedgerow to the west, a main access path to the east, the property boundary to the south and an overflow swale for the main pond to the north. When marking the boundaries of the design we made sure to include a 1 m wide pathway around the entire area.

The corners of the plot were staked and we measured the distance between each corner with a measuring wheel taking note of each distance between each point in order to recreate the design on software later. You can also do this with a very accurate GPS (RTK based) and an orthophoto (an aerial photograph or image geometrically corrected such that the scale is uniform and corresponds to the GPS data).

A standard smart phone GPS and google earth do not provide anything of practical use at this scale. For a multi hectare plot they are adequate to gain a general impression.

Topography Survey – Next we embarked upon the topography survey

Using a transit level we established the contour lines on the site and measured elevation distance from the highest to the lowest point of the site.

We found we have a mild slope from the North to the South and towards the East. Given that we have an irrigation channel to the west of the garden this meant that we could arrange irrigation channels and planting patterns to take advantage of gravity to irrigate all of the plants on the site.

The irrigation channel design we choose determined the layout of our access which in turn provided us with a number of subdivisions within the plot.

That’s all for this post, and in How to Design and Build A Forest Garden – Part 2 – Creating, we will look at how we selected plants for the design, the rationale behind our plant placement , how we prepared the site for the work to begin, how we established the irrigation channels, pathways and planting zones for the plants, our planting out techniques and how to manage the garden.

If you enjoyed this post please leave us a comment and a like and even better share it with your friends on social media. The more our articles are shared the more likely they are to appear in search engines and the further we can reach people with our message and grow our project.

Registration for our April course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).

Design and Build a Forest Garden Course

Temperate Deciduous
Forests

Plant Life

Temperate deciduous forests have a great variety of plant species. Most have three levels of plants. Lichen, moss, ferns, wildflowers and other small plants can be found on the forest floor. Shrubs fill in the middle level and hardwood trees like maple, oak, birch, magnolia, sweet gum and beech make up the third level. Conifers like spruce, fir and pine trees can also be found mixed in with the hardwood trees in this biome. Sometimes the taiga and the temperate deciduous forest overlap.

Animal Life

There is great diversity of life in this biome. Insects, spiders, slugs, frogs, turtles and salamanders are common. In North America, birds like broad-winged hawks, cardinals, snowy owls, and pileated woodpeckers are found in this biome. Mammals in North American temperate deciduous forests include white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, porcupines and red foxes.

Animals that live in the temperate deciduous forest must be able to adapt to the changing seasons. Some animals in this biome migrate or hibernate in the winter.

Images
CC BY- 3.0 US

Garden

Garden
Garden
Description
Also known as Small Garden
Added in v0.01
Building Type Food and water
Upgradable No
Custom Yes
Variations Can be made various sizes
Attachments None
Uses Can plant & grow:
Blueberries
Coneflower
Aloe
Can grow all Mushrooms when built in caves
Stackable No
Buildable on Most surfaces
Top of House Boat
Custom Foundation
Custom Floor
Durability Moderate

The garden is a structure that allows the player to grow certain plants and mushroom. It was added in update v0.01 of The Forest.

Gameplay

While building the player can freely choose how large the garden should be. Very large gardens require an equally large flat surface, of which there are not too many to be found on the peninsula.
Building on a custom foundation or custom floor can make it easier to build a larger garden, though this will cost many more logs.

To begin, the player must collect seeds first, which are obtained by collecting blueberries, aloe, and coneflowers. The seed type can be switched with “R” and planted with “C”.

A garden can be used endlessly, but blueberry bushes must be cut first or they’ll block the spot they’re on. Since the empty bushes don’t wither away they could also be used as decoration.
Larger gardens can also grow more plants at once, but planting too much should be avoided, since the fully grown plants wither away after a certain amount of time.

Building

1 = 2+
Garden Log

Growing Blueberries

  • When collecting blueberries, there is a chance that the player will also get blueberry seeds. This includes blueberries collected from bushes grown in gardens.
  • Blueberries can only be planted in gardens. They will not fit in the wall planter.
  • The inventory can hold 30 blueberries at once. They do not spoil.
  • The inventory can hold 30 blueberry seeds at once.

Blueberry growing process measured in game days:

  • Day 0 – Seed planted in the ground, appearing as a little dirt mound. All plants look like this when first planted.

  • Day 1 – Plant will appear, but with no berries.

  • Day 2 – Plant will grow to a small size and have berries, but the yield will be low.

  • Day 3 – Plant will grow to a moderate size. If picked in this stage, the yield will be 3 berries.

  • Day 4 – Plant will be fully grown. This is the best stage to pick. The yield will be 9 Berries.

Growing Aloe Vera

  • The inventory can hold 10 aloe at once.
  • The inventory can hold 30 aloe seeds at once.
  • Growing Aloe is a great way to make herbal medicine, herbal medicine+, and energy mix+. The inventory can hold 5 of each type. Making a maximum of all three will costs 15 aloe.
  • Aloe is currently the only way to heal infection and food poisoning, making aloe one of the most sought after items in the game.
  • Aloe seeds can be planted in the wall planter along with coneflower seeds.

Growing Coneflower

  • The inventory can hold an unlimited amount of coneflower seeds.
  • Growing coneflowers is a great way to make energy mix and energy mix+. The inventory can carry 5 of each type. This will cost 10 coneflower to make a max of both.
  • Coneflower is quite common in the game, it is probably the least beneficial plant to place in a garden though it still has large benefits.
  • Coneflower seeds can be planted in the Wall planter along with Aloe seeds.
  • Coneflower grows rather quickly

Growing Mushrooms

It is possible to grow all types of mushrooms, which include:

Amanita Mushroom
Chanterelle Mushroom
Deer Mushroom
Jack Mushroom
Liberty Cap Mushroom
Puff Mushroom
To grow mushrooms, the garden must be built within the cave system. Mushrooms don’t work the same as other plants when growing. Instead of yielding more mushrooms that are planted, they duplicate next to each other. If you fill the garden with mushrooms, they won’t be able to duplicate. Ensure there is space free for the mushrooms to grow.

To build a garden inside a cave, you will need to bring logs into the cave. This can be done by simple holding the logs, and walking inside the cave while holding them. This does not work for drop down caves.

Gallery

  • As it appears in the Survival Guide

  • As it appeared in the Survival Guide

  • Medical plants garden

  • Empty gardens

  • Gardens

  • Garden on the Rocks

Update History

Version Changes
v1.0 Fixed berries not moving with bush in garden
v0.72 Gardens can no longer be built on dynamic structures

Log cabin,small cabin, gazebo, garden, bonfire, rock side platform, defensive spikes, tree platforms, floor platform, wood target, procedural roof all use new log model/texture type now

v0.66 Gardens in caves will now grow mushrooms instead of the other plants

Gardens created in caves now have the option to plant mushrooms instead of seeds.

v0.63 Custom sized garden added to the game

New building: Custom garden ! Replaces the legacy garden, amount of available grow spots based on its size. Ground with slope/holes will prevent from placing it really big

It is no longer possible to grow plants in garden while in caves

v0.62 (Multiplayer) Fixed dirt piles remaining in world if owning garden gets destroyed
v0.58 Fixed dynamic objects getting stuck underneath newly built gardens, causing player to be knocked into the air when walked over
v0.57c Fixed garden not showing any UI when owning a single seed type
v0.57 Fires, Drying rack, Armor mannequin, Skin rack, food holders, weapon rack, explosive holder, stick, rock and log holders, arrow and bone baskets, and gardens all have a new UI
v0.54 Fixed player able to get permanently stuck between gardens placed close together
v0.53 (Multiplayer) Fixed destroying garden blueberry bush not working after collecting all berries on host side
v0.49 switched garden icon positions and replaced rotate icon with switch one
v0.48 (Multiplayer) Fixed severe lag when client joins a game that has garden with planted seeds located far away from all current player locations
v0.47 Fixed garden rotate seed type icon remaining visible after planting max amount of seed
v0.44 Planting seeds in garden now uses the “Craft” button (use to be the “Take” button but was inconsistent with other feature that imply adding items in world, like food on fire)
v0.43 Fixed excessive distortion when damaging gardens

Clamped garden plants scale to prevent it from ever going into negative

v0.39 Garden now toggles to whatever seed type player has available, fixing issue of garden eventually getting stuck on a not available seed type without possibility to switch to another one

Fixed soil in gardens not casting shadows and darkened dirt piles to make them easier to see

v0.38 Fixed garden plant flashing big when planted before getting proper size
v0.35 (Multiplayer) Consuming blueberries in garden no longer removes the whole bush and instead each individual berry can be used as expected

Now saving which garden blueberry have already been used so that gardens no longer respawn at full yield after loading a saved game if previously consumed

v0.34 New item: Aloe vera seed (can be planted in garden and wall plant pot)

The player can now pick which seed type to plant in garden and wall plant pot !

New item: Blueberry bush seed (can be planted in garden)

New item: Coneflower seed (can be planted in garden and wall plant pot)

v0.33 Wall Garden image added to survival book

Fixed issue with garden preventing to load properly from a save if it had planted seeds

v0.32 Decorative wall plant pot add Similar to garden but has 2 grow spots and only grows aloe or coneflower
v0.28 Reworded information on Garden in survival book
v0.27 Fixed garden blueberry respawn bug
v0.26 Improved garden dirt material/texture

(audio) Added garden digging sound

New add seeds icon for garden

Fixed garden plants popping on too close even on high draw distance settings

Garden revamp: Seeds are now added one by one and spawn little dirt piles in the garden.

Improved draw distance on thrown explosives and on built garden plants

v0.21 (multiplayer) Gardens now replicate for players over network
v0.08 Fixed garden not working with seeds
v0.03 Gardens no longer float.
v0.01 Small garden added to the game.

Survival Guide

Sections

Building: Fire • Shelter • Food and Water • Storage • Custom • Utility • Furniture • Small Traps • Advanced Traps • Boats • Effigies • Family

Information: To Do List • Stats • Nature Guide • Notes

Plants and animals you might see in our parks

  • Australian brush turkey

    The Australian brush turkey, also known as bush or scrub turkey, can be found in rainforests along eastern NSW. With a striking red head, blue-black plumage and booming call, these distinctive Australian birds are easy to spot while bird watching in several NSW national parks.

  • Australian fur seal

    The largest fur seal, Australian fur seals are found in isolated rocky outcrops and islands along the NSW coast. They come ashore to form breeding colonies and can often be seen at Montague Island Nature Reserve.

  • Australian pelican

    The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.

  • Brown-striped frog

    One of the most common frogs found in Australia, the ground-dwelling brown-striped frog lives in ponds, dams and swamps along the east coast. Also known as the striped marsh frog, this amphibian grows to 6.5cm across and has a distinctive ‘tok’ call that can be heard all year round.

  • Common brushtail possum

    One of the most widespread of Australian tree-dwelling marsupials, the common brushtail possum is found across most of NSW in woodlands, rainforests and urban areas. With strong claws, a prehensile tail and opposable digits, these native Australian animals are well-adapted for life amongst the trees.

  • Common ringtail possum

    Commonly found in forests, woodlands and leafy gardens across eastern NSW, the Australian ringtail possum is a tree-dwelling marsupial. With a powerful tail perfectly adapted to grasp objects, it forages in trees for eucalypt leaves, flowers and fruit.

  • Common wombat

    A large, squat marsupial, the Australian common wombat is a burrowing mammal found in coastal forests and mountain ranges across NSW and Victoria. The only other remaining species of wombat in NSW, the endangered southern hairy-nosed wombat, was considered extinct until relatively recently.

  • Eastern bentwing-bat

    In colonies numbering up to 150,000, eastern bentwing-bats congregate in caves across the east and north-west coasts of Australia. These small Australian animals weigh around 13-17g and can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour. Eastern bentwing-bats use both sight and echolocation to catch small insects mid-air.

  • Eastern blue-tongue lizard

    The eastern blue-tongue lizard, one of the largest skinks in Australia, is found throughout most of NSW. When threatened, the eastern blue-tongue lizard displays its blue tongue in a wide-mouthed intimidating show. Not an agile animal, they feed on slow-moving beetles and snails.

  • Eastern snake-necked turtle

    Found across most of NSW, the eastern snake-necked turtle, also known as the eastern long-necked turtle, can be found in swamps, lakes and inland waterways. This freshwater turtle is carnivorous and lives most of its life submerged on the water’s edge, searching for worms and snails.

  • Eastern water dragon

    The eastern water dragon is a subaquatic lizard found in healthy waterways along eastern NSW, from Nowra to halfway up the Cape York Pensinsula. It’s believed to be one of the oldest of Australian reptiles, remaining virtually unchanged for over 20 million years.

  • Emu

    The largest of Australian birds, the emu stands up to 2m high and is the second largest bird in the world, after the ostrich. Emus live in pairs or family groups. The male emu incubates and rears the young, which will stay with the adult emus for up to 2 years.

  • Grey-headed flying fox

    The grey-headed flying fox is one of several threatened Australian animals and the largest Australian native bat, with a wingspan that extends up to 1m. Known to inhabit woodlands, rainforests and urban regions, these fascinating nocturnal mammals congregate in large roost sites along the east coast of NSW.

  • Humpback whale

    The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

  • Koala

    One of the most renowned Australian animals, the tree-dwelling marsupial koala can be found in gum tree forests and woodlands across eastern NSW, Victoria and Queensland, as well as in isolated regions in South Australia. With a vice-like grip, this perhaps most iconic but endangered Australian animal lives in tall eucalypts within a home range of several hectares.

  • Kookaburra

    Of the 2 species of kookaburra found in Australia, the laughing kookaburra is the best-known and the largest of the native kingfishers. With its distinctive riotous call, the laughing kookaburra is commonly heard in open woodlands and forests throughout NSW national parks, making these ideal spots for bird watching.

  • Lace monitor

    One of Australia’s largest lizards, the carnivorous tree-dwelling lace monitor, or tree goanna, can grow to 2m in length and is found in forests and coastal tablelands across eastern Australia. These Australian animals are typically dark blue in colour with whitish spots or blotches.

  • Long-nosed bandicoot

    A nocturnal marsupial and one of the smaller Australian native animals, the long-nosed bandicoot is found across eastern Australia. Populations in the Sydney region have dwindled since European settlement, leaving only endangered colonies in inner western Sydney and at North Head, near Manly. The long-nosed bandicoot has grey-brown fur and a pointed snout which it uses to forage for worms and insects.

  • Peron’s tree frog

    Peron’s tree frog is found right across NSW. These tree-climbing and ground-dwelling Australian animals can quickly change colour, ranging from pale green-grey by day, to a reddish brown with emerald green flecks at night. The male frog has a drill-like call, which has been described as a ‘maniacal cackle’.

  • Platypus

    One of the most fascinating and unusual Australian animals, the duck-billed platypus, along with the echidna, are the only known monotremes, or egg-laying mammals, in existence. The platypus is generally found in permanent river systems and lakes in southern and eastern NSW and east and west of the Great Dividing Range.

  • Red kangaroo

    The red kangaroo is one of the most iconic Australian animals and the largest marsupial in the world. Large males have reddish fur and can reach a height of 2m, while females are considerably smaller and have blue-grey fur. Red kangaroos are herbivores and mainly eat grass.

  • Satin bowerbird

    With vibrant blue-violet eyes and curious antics, the satin bowerbird is a favourite for bird watching and easy to spot as it forages for food in open forest. Relatively common across eastern Australia, in NSW they’re found in coastal rainforests and adjacent woodlands and mountain ranges.

  • Short-beaked echidna

    One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

  • Southern boobook

    The southern boobook, also known as the mopoke, is the smallest and most common native owl in Australia. With a musical ‘boo-book’ call that echoes through forests and woodlands, the southern boobook is a great one to look out for while bird watching.

  • Sugar glider

    The sugar glider is a tree-dwelling Australian native marsupial, found in tall eucalypt forests and woodlands along eastern NSW. The nocturnal sugar glider feeds on insects and birds, and satisfies its sweet tooth with nectar and pollens.

  • Superb fairy wren

    The striking blue and black plumage of the adult male superb fairy wren makes for colourful bird watching across south-eastern Australia. The sociable superb fairy wrens, or blue wrens, are Australian birds living in groups consisting of a dominant male, mouse-brown female ‘jenny wrens’ and several tawny-brown juveniles.

  • Superb lyrebird

    With a complex mimicking call and an elaborate courtship dance to match, the superb lyrebird is one of the most spectacular Australian animals. A bird watching must-see, the superb lyrebird can be found in rainforests and wet woodlands across eastern NSW and Victoria.

  • Swamp wallaby

    The swamp wallaby, also known as the black wallaby or black pademelon, lives in the dense understorey of rainforests, woodlands and dry sclerophyll forest along eastern Australia. This unique Australian macropod has a dark black-grey coat with a distinctive light-coloured cheek stripe.

  • Tawny frogmouth

    Found throughout Australia, the tawny frogmouth is often mistaken for an owl due to its wide, powerful beak, large head and nocturnal hunting habits. The ‘oom oom oom’ call of this native bird can be heard echoing throughout a range of habitats including heath, woodlands and urban areas.

  • Wedge-tailed eagle

    With a wingspan of up to 2.5m, the wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey. These Australian animals are found in woodlands across NSW, and have the ability to soar to heights of over 2km. If you’re bird watching, look out for the distinctive diamond-shaped tail of the eagle.

  • White-bellied sea eagle

    White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

  • Yellow-tailed black cockatoo

    The yellow-tailed black cockatoo is one of the largest species of parrot. With dusty-black plumage, they have a yellow tail and cheek patch. They’re easily spotted while bird watching, as they feed on seeds in native forests and pine plantations.

A short history of forest gardens

Forest gardens are probably the world’s oldest form of land use.They originated in prehistoric times along jungle river banks and in the wet foothills ofmonsoon regions.

Over time, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected and improved whilst undesirable species were eliminated. Forest gardens are still common in thetropics and known as home gardens in southern India, Nepal, and southern Africa; Kandyan forest gardens in Sri Lanka, huertos familiares in Mexico; and pekarangan in Java. These are also called agroforests or shrub gardens. Forest gardens have been shown to be a significant source of income and food security for local populations.

During the 1980s, Robert Hart adapted forest gardening for the United Kingdom’s temperate climate. His theories were later developed by Martin Crawford from the Agroforestry Research Trust and various permaculture practitioners including Patrick Whitefield, who wrote How to Make a Forest Garden in 1996. Forest gardens have now been created throughout the temperate world; in America and Australia they are often called ‘food forests’.

Climate change benefits

A well-managed forest garden will yield nuts, fruits, herbs and annual crops, and the reduced food miles of these crops means reduced CO2 emissions. Once a forest garden becomes established, it continues to produce food but requires little or no artificial energy input, no chemical fertiliser or pesticides, and minimal labour, all of which mean lower CO2 outputs.

The trees and soil in the forest garden lock up carbon, just like a natural forest system. 50% of wood is carbon and it is also stored in forest soil. As the trees grow and the undisturbed soil deepens, the amount of carbon locked up increases.

Because most of the plants in a forest garden are perennial and there is such a diversity of different species, they are relatively resilient to the effects of climate change; in seasons when one plant struggles, another will succeed. Trees also protect the soil from erosion by extreme wind and rain events. They provide shade with their canopy, and cool the air through transpiration, creating a local micro climate.

The Upper Canopy includes both pioneer and slow-growth species. The fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing, pioneer species quickly dominate the upper canopy while providing soil fertility, water retention, wildlife habitat, and eventually timber. The slow-growth species include a variety of late-succession nut and timber trees.
The Lower Canopy includes fruit trees, nitrogen fixers and nectary species ideal for bee-keeping. Many of these species are also long-term timber resources and provide excellent wildlife habitat.
The Vertical Layer includes many food-bearing species. However in a temperate climate some of these vigorous climbing plants can negatively impact the growth and yield of other species. Care should be taken when designing the vertical layer of your garden.
The Shrub Layer features shade-tolerant species with edible berries and fruits. Some of these plants also provide a valuable source of biomass, nitrogen fixation and habitat for wildlife.
The Herb Layer is most abundant in the early stages of succession. They provide many edible and medicinal resources for humans, while providing rich habitat for pollinators and pest predators.
The Ground Cover species protect the soil from erosion and reduce the need for mulch as a forest garden develops. Many of these plants provide edible and medicinal resources.
The Underground Layer provides an excellent source of nutritious, winter foods. Many of these plants penetrate the subsoil in search of minerals, nutrients, and water which enriches the soil for plants with less vigorous rooting systems.

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