The 7 Layers of a Food Forest


Happy Urban Farming Friday!


I keep hearing about food forests and the name itself is intriguing to me. So I dug into it more. If you're renting an apartment, like myself, you might not be able to create the entire 7 layers food forest burrito but you can probably walk away with a triple decker delight. 


So, what is a food forest? Basically, it's a low-maintenance garden that mimics the ecosystem found in the woods. If you've been on a hike lately you'll notice the trees, shrubs, ivy, ground cover, and flowers aren't plotted out with a perfect grow space of X inches apart. Their composition is naturally chaotic, sharing space and crawling in, on, and through each. Somehow, it ends with peace, harmony and the strongest plants left standing.  I learned that there are clicks in agriculture. Some plants "get along" better with others near by, they're besties (or companion plants). These do really well in a food forest environment, take for example the besties: hawthorn, blackthorn, pear, rhubarb, currants, globe artichokes, strawberries, and rosemary in the image below. 

The 7 layer food forest (Created by Robert Hart)- I can't read 7 layer and not think of burritos...

  1. Canopy layer consisting of the original mature fruit trees.

  2. Low-tree layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.

  3. Shrub layer of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.

  4. Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables and herbs- to be consumed in burritos.

  5. Rhizosphere or underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.

  6. Ground cover layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.

  7. Vertical layer of vines and climbers.

In a perfect world, I'd select and purchase my dream property in fertile Oregon or Hawaii that already harbored mature fruit trees and build this 7 layer fantasy forest, however, I live in Los Angeles and a fantasy condo on my street runs $1.4 million bucks. Can you image what a house with mature fruit trees would cost? So what can I do with this information besides Pin the crap of it on my Pinterest?  Improvise...


I have a patio/balcony:


Create Shade (edible or not)- I could use a sail, my awning, a pergola, or patio umbrellas. I could grow climbing fruit or veggies through the structure (i.e. pergola, awning, etc)


Make or purchase garden boxes that line the peri