How to Design a Backyard Forest Garden

Learn how to design a lush forest garden right in your backyard with seven layers of vegetation including tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground cover, vines, and root crops.


| June 2014



The Seven-Layer Garden

This backyard forest garden is comprised of seven layers, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem.


Illustration by Elayne Sears

Many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As award-winning author Toby Hemenway demonstrates in Gaia’s Garden (Chelsea Green, 2009), it's fun and easy to build a backyard ecosystem by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions. In the following excerpt, learn how to use permaculture landscape design to create a lush seven-layer forest garden.

Buy this book from Chelsea Green: Gaia’s Garden.

The Seven-Layer Forest Garden

It’s time to look at forest garden design. A simple forest garden contains three layers: trees, shrubs, and ground plants. But for those who like to take advantage of every planting opportunity, a deluxe forest garden can contain as many as seven tiers of vegetation. As the illustration shows, a seven-layered forest garden contains tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground covers, vines, and root crops.

Here are these layers in more detail.





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