"Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden."
What is an Edible Forest Garden:
"Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodlandlike patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts. You can grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, other useful plants, and animals in a way that mimics natural ecosystems. You can create a beautiful, diverse, high-yield garden. If designed with care and deep understanding of ecosystem function, you can also design a garden that is largely self-maintaining. In many of the world's temperate-climate regions, your garden would soon start reverting to forest if you were to stop managing it. We humans work hard to hold back succession—mowing, weeding, plowing, and spraying. If the successional process were the wind, we would be constantly motoring against it. Why not put up a sail and glide along with the land's natural tendency to grow trees? By mimicking the structure and function of forest ecosystems we can gain a number of benefits."
Dave Jacke (author of Edible Forest Gardens)http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/about_gardening
In any person's interest in an activity or hobby or vocation, there is usally that one "hook" that captures their attention and is the one main area of passion in that interest. The idea of a forest garden is the "hook" of Permaculture to me. Forest gardening was one of the first exposures I had to Permaculture, and it has still been a bit of an obsession to me. I love the entire idea of it. Recreating a sustainable Garden of Eden is a goal of mine on which I cannot wait to begin.
The Seven Layers of a Forest Garden
A very detailed and structured Forest Garden.
A less structured, but still very manageable Forest Garden.
Here are a great video on Forest Gardening with Martin Crawford author of Creating a Forest Garden:
Finally, to show the amazing sustainability of a Forest Garden, take a look at this 300 year old forest garden!