February 15, 2023

Vegetative Layers - noun

Definition: The seven vertical layers of vegetation found in a Forest Garden, starting up at the canopy, all the way down to underground/deep-rooted plants.

Vegetative Layers in the Forest Garden:

As Forest Gardeners revisit their designs, notably their side view maps, they will notice gaps starting to form in vertical spaces. To fill in those gaps appropriately, it is critical for farmers to identify where each vegetative layer is located and what species are most suitable. Here are the seven layers:

  1. Canopy plants: the tallest layer, averaging over 25 m in height, is often composed of mature, sun-loving hardwoods, fruit or nut trees.  
  2. Sub-canopy plants: shorter trees that thrive below the canopy, including small to medium sized fruits and un-pruned nitrogen-fixing trees that might be left to produce seed. 
  3. Shrub plants: small trees and shrubs that prefer some shade, like coffee and cacao,    
  4. Herbaceous plants: shorter, often edible and medicinal plants.  
  5. Vining or climbing plants: plants that climb their way up sub-canopy and canopy plants.  
  6. Ground-cover plants: plants used to protect the soil through conserving moisture, reducing erosion, and increasing fertility.   
  7. Underground or deep-rooted plants: root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, tubers and onions. Additionally, diggers and miners are deep-rooted plants that help with water infiltration by “tilling” the soil and can serve as nutrient pumps that transfer nutrients from deep in the soil up to surface through decomposition.   


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