By December Ndhlovu
A Food Forest is a forest made of edible fruits, vegetables and herbs. A food forest garden is a forest of different types of edible crops and plants that are planted together in a cluster, depicting a forest. During the COVID-19 outbreak we have learned a lot as a people of this planet, we have become so much more aware of our health, wellbeing and healing than any time before. This pandemic, besides all the fatalities and causalities that came with it, it was somehow necessary for the environment to have such a break from human activities. It is a bitter and unbearable lesson but we really need this kind of a wakeup call since we are so detached from the environment, Mother Nature. Food forest gardens are more than just forests that give us food, they are a healing space, they invigorate and revive energy and they are sacred shrines that connect humanity with Mother Nature.
How to start a food forest garden?
To start a food forest garden one has to have land and also to have a clear picture of what type of food one wants to grow in that garden. Then the area to be planted has to be well prepared, composted and mulched with organic waste to improve soil nutrients and fertility. Before planting one has to do research and check if the type of food is suitable for your area to avoid wasting time planting something that is not going to yield product. When planting trees always dig a big hole and mulch with plenty of organic waste. After planting, mulching around the tree is necessary to keep the tree moist for a long time and also to increase and improve soil nutrients and fertility.
Choosing the right type of plants to be planted
Now the main important step is to identify the right crops to be planted in your region by researching so that one avoids wasting time and money on crops that are not going to yield any produce. Fruits, berries and nut bearing trees that can provide shelter and canopy for the smaller vegetable and herbs underneath. Depending on your region, trees like oranges, apples, elderberry, peach, avocados, litchi and mangoes provide good shade for protection from the sun’s heat. Under the trees one can plant herbs, vegetables etc.
Companion planting is planting different crops that are friendly and tolerant to each other. One can plant cucumber, lettuce, beans, etc. under the trees. The trees form important shade for the softer vegetables like spinach, strawberries and the like.
It is important to eat healthy food these days to ward off opportunistic diseases that are caused by weaker immune systems. Climate change and global warming has altered the usual weather patterns and climatic conditions to a robust, unusual and unknown weather and climatic patterns. So it is therefore necessary to know exactly the right type of crops to suit your current situation.
Taking care of the food forest garden
Food forest gardens are self-sufficient; they are able to take care of themselves without being attended to like an ordinary vegetables garden. As long as it is kept covered in thick mulch, a forest can sustain itself with minimum care needed. The mulch helps to retain water for longer while providing nutrients for the plants. It is therefore important for us to know the difference between plantations and forest as environmental activists because commercial mono-cropped plantations have negative effects on our environment, whereas the forests sustain and nourish the environment.