Toby Hemenway, a permaculture expert and the author of "Gaia's Garden" -- a highly rated book featured to the right - explains how gardens can function as ecosystems, describing the basic parts of an ecological garden (soil, water, plants, and animals), and shows how to create backyard ecosystems through guilds.
Guilds are groups of plants that function as an ecosystem to provide produce for humans, create cover and food for wildlife, nourish the soil, conserve water, and repel pests.
Hemenway lists as a simple example of a guild the "three sisters" (corn, beans, and squash): corn stalks provide a trellis for beans, the beans supply nitrogen to the soil, and the squash leaves inhibit weeds and conserve water.
The essence of "forest gardens" is that they are arranged on forest principles with edible layers of self-sustaining perennials that would provide food, fuel and medicines, as well as support wildlife.
- Plant native trees that will eventually largely look after themselves
- Underneath, plant herbs and salad leaves, such as dandelions and nettle
- Cover the earth around the plants with bark chippings to mimic the self-mulching forest floor
- Layer and build plants up year on year (please refer to the below diagram). The seven layers are: roots, ground cover, herb layer, fruiting shrubs, dwarf trees, tree canopy and the high canopy (or vertical layer), all of which coexist happily within their own ecosystem.
GreenAndHealthy.Info strives to maintain accurate and up-to-date information; however, mistakes do happen. If you would like to correct or update any of the information, please send us an e-mail. THANK YOU!