We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

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Forest Gardening & Food Forests

Food Forests

Plants For A Future has its roots in permaculture design, where a key principle is that every element must have more than one function. In our view, a planting scheme designed for carbon sequestration should also meet other needs, especially for food. In the design for a Food Forest (Forest Garden or Woodland Garden) useful perennial plants are chosen to occupy the height layers found in a natural forest.

The origins of PFAF 30 years ago was in a research experiment at a site in Cornwall, UK, so when we embarked on the ‘Plants to Save the Planet’ project there were already thousands of species suitable for inclusion in temperate climate food forests in the PFAF database. The community which gathered around to support the original site all those years ago was made up from committed vegans, and food forests managed vegan-organically and strictly independent of livestock lend themselves to providing for vegans and others adopting primarily plants-based diets. When we looked at the species recommended in books on food forests and forest gardening by Dave Jacke and Martin Crawford, we found they were already present on our database.

Edible Plants for Temperate Food Forests

For food forest design we've suggested a number of plants that are useful in a forest garden. Rated good (3) to excellent (5) for edibility.

As well as being edible many plants have many other uses in forest gardens. You can view over 1000 food forest plants here. To do a more detailed search for food forest plants you can watch the 'how to choose food forest plants' video or read the detailed description.

Plants to Save the Planet

Plants For A Future (PFAF) started the project we now call ‘Plants to Save the Planet’ (PSP) three years ago. We realised that the plants information and search facilities we provide could be part of a global movement to shift public focus from issues concerning people and animals onto recognising the power and importance of plants. Since we started PSP we have extended our database of 8000 useful plants, adding around 700 species suitable for tropical situations. We have also introduced search terms, ‘glossary items’, to enable designers to identify plants which are most suitable for designs with the following aims: Carbon Sequestration, Carbon Farming and Food Forests.

Forest Gardening & Food Forests

When comparing a large cultivated field to natural woodland the woodland receives no intervention but produces lush growth and diversity of plants and animals. Yet the cultivated land supports very few species. The quality and depth of soil in a woodland is maintained and improved yearly whilst erosion and loss of soil structure plague the cultivated field.

Our emphasis is on growing perennial plants. The reason for this is the difference in the amount of time and energy it takes to cultivate and harvest crops. Annuals means the cultivation of the ground every year, sowing the seeds, controlling the weeds, adding fertilizers and attempting to control pests and diseases. It all seems so much extra work compared to planting a perennial and waiting to harvest its yield. Especially when you consider that even with all the effort put into growing carrots their yield for the same area of ground will be less than that of a fruit tree and will only last the one season.

Forest or Woodland?

For the title of this page we opted for ‘Woodland Gardening’ rather than ‘Forest Gardening’ although the two are interchangeable if you are researching information on this type of edible system. (In Britain woodland is normally considered to be a low-density forest including some open spaces with plenty of sunlight and limited shade that may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants. A forest can be viewed as having a higher density of trees with a largely closed canopy, provide extensive and nearly continuous shade.) A woodland garden can be any size and designed even for a small backyard. Literature on forest gardening also allows for smaller scale systems and is not limited to a closed canopy, as the term ‘forest’ may imply.

  1. Woodland Gardening Plants
  2. The Woodland Edge Garden exploring the productive edge of a woodland and similar habitats
  3. Pioneer Species discusses trees good for establishing a woodland.
  4. The Garden of Love describes a visit to Robert Hart's Forest Garden which inspired the whole PFAF concept. (Nederlands )


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