Definition: A type of map that shows the profile of the vegetation growing across a field so that farmers may identify the vertical gaps where additional crops can grow to maximize the use of space.
Side View Maps in the Forest Garden:
Side view maps become a critical planning and optimization tool during the second year of the Forest Garden program. This is when farmers revisit their initial designs, observe what is currently growing on their land, and fill in remaining gaps to optimize productivity.
While top view maps (last week's term) are very good for filling in the horizontal space, side view maps give a farmer a better understanding of the vertical gaps in their field and how they can fill them. To help fill in those gaps, the Forest Garden Approach looks at 7 vegetative layers that farmers can fill out:
Canopy plants: can be fully grown fruit or nut trees, timber species, or pioneer species that grow quickly and produce shade. This is the tallest layer, averaging over 25 m in height.
Subcanopy plants: lower plants that benefit from shade of the canopy plants, including coffee plants or small trees such as bananas.
Shrub plants: large bushes or tall annual crops.
Herbaceous plants: shorter, often edible and medicinal plants.
Vining or climbing plants: plants that climb their way up subcanopy and canopy plants.
Groundcover plants: the lowest layer, laying the ground. They shade the soil conserving moisture and preventing soil loss, and can also be nitrogen fixing.
Underground or rooted plants: these include root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, tubers and onions. They can help with water infiltration by “tilling” the soil and may become nutrient pumps for the surrounding soil enhancing its fertility.