New Food Forestry Book by Mother Earth News Blogger Pairs Ecological Design with Silviculture

Food Forests for First Timers is a humble, grassroots offering of gardening teachings from a working horticulturalist.

Reader Contribution by Joshua Burman Thayer
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Photo Credit: by yaquina

Food Forests for First Timers is a humble, grassroots offering of gardening teachings from a working horticulturalist. Mother Earth News blogger Joshua Burman Thayer’s easy-to-read how-to guide introduces permaculture principles as it acquaints readers with each layer of the food forest. The simple instructions on best ways to design organic home gardens and landscapes are invaluable for anyone seeking ways to become more self-reliant and resilient while re-envisioning living spaces to provide year-round crop harvests. 

Here is a sample of Joshua’s insights from the book, in his own words:

Plants, like people, thrive in community. As an ecological designer who works with permaculture strategies, I appreciate how nature evolves its plant communities so each member benefits from its associations with the others. That’s valuable knowledge to bring into the garden.

  1. Russel Smith’s luminary 1950 text, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, showed the way that our living spaces can be designed to provide yearly tree crop harvests. When our earth is remembered as a living and responsive plant campus, we activate along with this planet’s inherent abundance.

Permaculture is a way of design that links resources, use, and harvest into a connected whole. Although it is a complex system of design, permaculture is perfectly suited to community-scale production. By taking into account the local microclimate conditions, permaculture asks how many harvests and functions can be simultaneously realized from one plot of land. It challenges you to shift your focus from machine-centric gardening to plant- and home-centric gardening.

Illustration Of Permaculture Wet And Dry Guilds

An illustration shared from the book shows sample permaculture guilds.

Credit: courtesy Joshua Burman Thayer 

Like anything worthwhile in life, managing your food forest requires preparation and sustained effort all year long. As you get into the rhythm of seasons, always thinking ahead, maintaining your tools and facilities, caring for the land in your stewardship, you will be rewarded with a bounty that will sustain you and connect you to a community of fellow plant lovers.

If you don’t have a garden yet, you can begin to feed and enhance the soil biology of empty plots by sugar-shaking coffee grounds on soil anywhere. Try taking your spent grounds around the corner to deposit on a receptive neighbor’s shrub or tree. If you’re working on a large project, see if your local coffee shop will let you pick up bags of spent grounds. Shops are usually very willing to give them to you for free.

I have included many great books and resources in the appendix section of this book. May this document spark a dialogue around local food opportunities and ways to design edible options into our landscapes — for biological abundance and food resilience.

Food Forests for First Timers is available in eBook and paperback.

Cover of Book Food Forests For First Timers

Photo courtesy Joshua Burman Thayer

Joshua Burman Thayer is a landscape designer and permaculture consultant with Native Sun Gardens.. Find him at Native Sun Gardens and read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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