Edible forestgardens as a special kind of agroforestry and how we can adopt to moderate climate – Example of a thirty-year-old forest garden in Central Europe
Edible forest gardens are arranged gardens for the modern hunters and gatherers. These forest gardens have been developed on the earea of the equator and represent the primary kind of soil cultivation in some regions. Well known examples are the so called Home gardens of the Chagga at Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru in Tanzania / East Africa, or the Spice gardens in the highlands of Kandy in Sri Lanka. The difference to traditional agroforestry systems such as silvo pastures and grain fields with rows of trees in between is, that the focus of edible forest gardens is subsistence farming and this is based on a high level of biodiversity.
Forest gardens like those in Tanzania or Sri Lanka do have cash crops such as coffee or spices, but their focus is on providing their owners, who usually also live directly in these forest gardens, with everything they need. An edible forest garden is intended to provide food, spices, medicine, animal feed, timber and firewood for its residents. At the same time an edible forest garden can also generate income from a large number of different products. In general food forests are runned on a smal scale quite intense, with a multiple layer system. The focus is also on a permanent soilcover by plants.
An edible forest garden is a kind of permanent agriculture in a multi storage system. These for Fruit tree communities with berrys, herbs and others are planted in our latitudes. Starting with the tuber and root layer, living mulch layer, mushroom layer, herbs layer, lower shrub layer, high shrub layer, clumpers layer, lower tree layer, high tree layer, canopy layer and the vertical layer. To these levels can also be supplemented pets, which are living on the ground or in the trees. Basically, the levels of the tropical rainforest serve as a model for a forest garden. Due to the smaller amount of light than in the tropics, you have to pay attention to temporal and spatial staggering.
In order to act against a climate catastrophe, we need permanent systems with a high CO2 binding and permanent soil cover. Forest gardens are ideal for this, as they buffer the climate locally and also ensure the food security of the population. Biodiversity ensures stable harvests; it is not the single yield that counts, the total yield counts. Fuel can be reduced to a minimum and agrochemicals can be avoided. With just a little higher input of working hours, a much higher yield can be achieved. The diversity of the forest gardens also has an positive impact on the ecology and also offers nature a habitat. Soils in forest gardens do also have the possibility to absorb heavy rain much better and thus prevent flood disasters.
Since 30 years we are successfully establishing these ideas of home garden or edible forest gardens in our temperate climate in Central Europe. The Austrian Forestgarden Institute has various examples of forest gardens, agroforestry and a mixed example. Our oldest forest garden covers an area of more than 4,000 m2 and has a very high biodiversity. In addition to old European cultivated fruit varieties, there are also exotic species such as Papau (Asimina triloba) and Chinese vegetable tree (Toona sinensis), but also numerous wild herbs.
In another area, in a wetland, we do have adopted the strategy of Chinampas, a permanent huegel culture in the marshland, as a management strategy. There we are cultivating aquatic plants such as calamus (Acorus calamus). Just last fall we created 200 running meters of fruit tree strips on a new area, surrounded with 400 running meters of hedgerow. In between these strips of fruit trees and supporting species, we will cultivate in order of companion planting, vegetable for winter storage.
Our main focus is on biodiversity, preservation of old cultivars, perennial cereals and perennial, alternative protein sources, processing of raw materials, educational work, exchange and training, as well as international cooperation.
Follow me on a short trip through our 30 years old forest garden in Austria
IBAN: AT97 2032 6000 0003 4785
Austrian Forestgarden Institute
Stadlhof 47, 4600 Wels
phone: +43 650 76 314 28