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Understory - /ˈəndərˌstôrē/ - noun
Definition: The layer of plants that make up the space beneath the canopy trees in a Forest Garden. The understory includes short trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, vines, and ground cover under the canopy. It provides a wide variety of products while also maintaining soil fertility, reducing moisture loss, and protecting against pests. By integrating understory plants into your Forest Garden, the farmer can diversify the timing of harvests to provide more frequent produce while further increasing the total productivity and sustainability of their site.
Benefits of a healthy understory:
Reduces evaporation of water through the leaves and branches of plants, which conserves moisture in the plants and reduces water use
Protects from temperature extremes and fluctuations
Shields crops from winds
Suppresses invasive weeds, which tend to prefer open conditions and full sun
Supports a range of beneficial soil microbes that do not thrive in the open
Learn more about how to optimize the understory in Module 15 of the Forest Garden Training Manual.