How to Grow a Medicinal Food Forest

Discover how to create a beautiful, diverse, high-yield, permaculture-style garden that mimics a forest ecosystem.
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  • Lectures 16
  • Length 3 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 6/2013 English

Course Description

Anyone with a patch of land can grow a food forest!  A food forest, or forest garden,  is a gardening technique that mimics a forest ecosystem but substitutes in edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  A medicinal food forest has the added benefit of producing medicinal botanicals. Fruit and nut trees comprise the upper canopy of the forest while below are berry shrubs, edible perennials, herbs, root crops and annuals. Companion plants are included to attract beneficial insects, build the soil, and provide mulch.  Together they create a sustainable forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with less maintenance.

In this course Michael Pilarski, permaculture and wildcrafting expert, teaches you how to turn your back yard into a food forest.  Filmed on site in Michael's back yard, this is not a classroom-based course.  Michael teaches the basics of food forest planting while planting his own medicinal food forest on 1/8 of an acre.  Does an 1/8 of an acre sound big to you?  Don't worry!  In this course Michael talks about how to scale what you're learning to your own back yard. 

Forest gardening is an ancient art and science that can teach you sustainable methods for growing your food and medicine.  As Masanobu Fukuoka once said, "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."  Forest gardening allows you to experience ecology first hand.  It provides you with a rare opportunity to live with nature and learn how to exist a little more sustainably. 

What are the requirements?

  • Basic gardening tools

What am I going to get from this course?

  • By the end of the course you will be able to turn your own back yard into a food forest. You will learn practical hands on skills like site preparation, soil amending, and planting specifics. In addition you will gain an extensive understanding of the history of food forests.

Who is the target audience?

  • Anyone interested in permaculture, organic gardening, and growing medicinal botanicals.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction to Planting a Food Forest

In this lesson, Michael offers an introduction to food forests. He talks about some of the basic ecological principles as well as the environmental benefits of food forests. You also get a sneak peak at what Michael's medicinal food forest looks like in the height of its summer bounty, 4 months after planting.


In this lesson Michael explores the history of food forests from ancient times to the present.  He takes us through the history of food forests through an exploration of some books in his library.  He begins with a look at indigenous cultures where food forests are still utilized today, talks briefly about the role of agroforestry, moves onto the evolution of permaculture, and lastly discusses several of the current leading authors and practitioners of edible forest gardening and restoration agriculture. 


In this lesson, Michael talks about his own upbringing and how he came to be a permaculture expert. 

Section 2: From Hay Field to Food Forest

In this lesson, Michael talks about how he prepared the site of his medicinal food forest for planting.  He shows how the site was turned from a hay field, into bare fertile soil.  Michael talks extensively about the benefits of keyline plowing.  In addition he talks a bit about his philosophy on the role of weeds and volunteers in a food forest.


In this lesson, Michael begins the process of planting his 1/8 of an acre medicinal food forest in Hot Springs, MT.  He starts with an explanation of tools, shows how he soaks tree and shrub roots before planting, shares his water inoculant formula, talks extensively about how to divide dug up roots for replanting, and gets started prepping for planting.

  • Water inoculants mentioned in this lesson:
  • Root Zone: Mycorrhizal fungi with beneficial bacteria
  • MAXSEA Soluble Seaweed Acid Plant Food
  • Liquinox Start Vitamin B-1

In this lesson, Michael begins with an in depth explanation of the soil amendments he uses for spot fertilization including how to adjust soil pH.  He shows us how he spot fertilizes in preparation for planting and gets started with planting berry bushes.  In addition he talks about his personal philosophy on soil amendments. 

Soil amendments mentioned in this lesson:

  • Composted cow manure
  • Fossilized humus
  • Green sand
  • Pelletized Rock Phosphate
  • Potassium-Magnesium (K-Mag)
  • Calcium-Phosphate (Cal-Phos)
  • Dolo Pro (Dolomite)
  • Kelp Meal
  • Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulphate)
  • Sulphur

In this lesson, Michael gets started planting potatoes.  He even tells a story about the ethnobotanical history of the potatoes he plants.  Michael shares his planting map and species list with us, and gets started planting rhubarb, multiplier onion, chives, garlic chives and french sorrel.  He continues his discussion about soil amendments and spot fertilizing and ends with a brief discussion on water needs. 


In this lesson, Michael begins the process of planting trees and shrubs.  He talks about each species, planting spacing, and overall design. 


In this lesson, Michael shows us how he made a low-cost, low-technology deer fence.  He talks about nutrient cycling and how the fence can be a “line of fertility”.


In this lesson, Michael talks about his preferred watering systems through progressive stages of plant growth.  He talks about methods to increase root growth and minimize water usage. 


In this lesson, Michael talks about how to scale a food forest up or down to fit the size of your backyard.  He talks a bit about how to design for productivity and personal preference.  He offers advice on how to get the most from your food forest and how to tap your local community for expertise and materials.

Section 3: Medicinal Food Forest Tour

In this lesson, Michael takes you on an in depth tour of his completed food forest. He talks about the theory behind why he plants where he does as well as the spacing requirements for different plants.


In this lesson, Michael begins your tour of his medicinal food forest, 4 months after planting. See his food forest in the height of summer bounty! He shows you every plant in the food forest and talks about how he will adapt plantings in years to come as the food forest evolves and changes over time.


In this lesson, Michael continues the tour of his medicinal food forest 4 months after planting.


In this lesson, Michael shows you his Hugelkultur bed about 6 weeks after planting. He talks about how he built it, what he planted in it, and shows us what is growing there.

Section 4: Conclusion

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Instructor Biography

Michael Pilarski, Permaculture

Michael Pilarski is a farmer, educator and author who has devoted his life to studying and teaching how people can live sustainably on this Earth. He has extensive experience in organic farming, seed collecting, wildcrafting medicinal herbs, plant propagation, horticulture, teaching, and international networking. Michael has personally worked with over 1,000 species of plants. He founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and has authored many books on forestry, agriculture, agroforestry and ethnobotany. Michael has been involved in the permaculture movement since 1981 as a writer, teacher and networker. He has taught over 20 full Permaculture Design Courses in the USA and abroad.

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