The food forest is the heart and soul of the permaculture. According to project food forest, a food forest (also called a forest garden) is “a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. Food forests are three dimensional designs, with life extending in all directions – up, down, and out.”

Typically there are 8 ‘layers’ to a food forest which allow for a greater number of plants to grown in an area without competition for resources such as water, nutrients and sun. 

over story food forest

1. Canopy – large fruit and nut trees. At Monticello Gardens we use the following canopy trees: Pecan, walnut, chestnut, mulberry, oak

2. Low tree layer – This includes smaller fruit and nut trees such as: Citrus, peach, hazelnut, almond, loquat, apple, pear, persimmon, olive

blackberries monticello

3. Shrub layer – bushes and berries. Bluberry, raspberry, gojiberry. At Monticello Gardens we are blessed with about 5 acres of wild, delicious blackberries. This layer also includes guava, Barbados cherry and miracle fruit.


4. Herbaceous layer – This is the layer that contains all the medicinal and culinary herbs: Such as rosemary, mint, lavender, oregano, sage, chamomile, tarragon.. this list is really endless 🙂

pine cone ginger

5. Rhizosphere layer – Roots. This layer includes root vegetables such as carrots, beets and turnips. In the Monticello Gardens food forest we do however prefer perennial roots such as sweet potato, ginger and turmeric.

strawberries Monticello Gardens

6. Soil surface layer – Ground cover which is either self-seeding or spreading such as comfreys, lemon balm, mints, creeping thyme, oregano, sage, but also strawberry.

climbing layer food forest

7. The climbing layer – Vines. At Monticello Gardens we are lucky to have a particular abundance of climbing vine such as: kiwi, morning glory, runner bean, passion fruit, honeysuckle and muscadine grape.

underground layer

8. Mycelium – the underground level. This is natures world wide web an infinitely intelligent information system. Vital to the soil, the mycelium breaks down organic material, making its raw materials available again for use in the ecosystem.

Have a listen to Geoff Lawton..