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Water elements in your food forest

Louis De Jaeger

2 jul. 2024

How to integrate water into your food forest?

Based on your analysis of humid and dry zones and the relief of the terrain, you determine whether earthworks need to be carried out to improve water management. First you determine where (swimming) ponds or pools will be located. Slightly sloping bank zones on the south side ensure that animals (and people ☺) can warm themselves well in the sun.

How do you keep your (swimming) pond clean?

To keep the water clear in a natural system, you do not use chemical products such as chlorine for swimming pools, but plants that filter the water. The bacteria that live near the plant roots eat all the impure particles and feed them to the plant. Choose hydrophytes (water plants) that live underwater and helophytes that live in moist areas that are prone to flooding. A nice extra is that many aquatic plants are edible and therefore fit perfectly in the food forest.

Watch out for invasive plants

One important note when using edible aquatic plants is that some plants can behave very invasively. For example, they can escape from your food forest via waterways and pose a danger to native species in nature reserves. So be critical and alert as a food forager.

Which aquatic plants are edible?

  • Water mint ( Mentha aquatica )

  • Water lily ( Nymphaea alba )

  • Cattail ( Typha latifolia )

  • Cinquefoil ( Comarum palustre )

  • Swan flower ( Butomus umbellatus )

  • Calamus: ( Acorus calamus )

  • Japanese hollowpipe ( Equisetum japonicum )

  • Water pepper ( Persicaria hydropiper )

Eutrophication and landslide

When planning water features in your food forest, make sure that you do not plant deciduous trees on the side of the dominant wind direction, otherwise most of the leaves will blow into the water. If this is the case, the water is always enriched with nutrients. This phenomenon is called eutrophication. The richer the water becomes, the lower the species diversity will be. Organisms eat the leaves and use a lot of oxygen, causing the oxygen content in the water to become too low. The result is that pond animals and plants can die. Eventually, the organic matter will build up and the water will become cloudy. Bank vegetation retains organic material, causing the pool to silt up and therefore become silted up. If you do not maintain your pool or pond, it will turn back into a swamp or land over time. This is a great example of natural succession, but it may not be your desired result.

Would you like to learn more about food forest design? Then read 'Design your own food forest' by Commensalist founder Louis De Jaeger or book a no-obligation phone call with one of our Commensalists.

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