A farmer in the southwest region of England has, for two decades, been growing 500 different types of food. Referred to as “agroforestry,” the garden of Martin Crawford is wild but tamed.
What we think of as normal in terms of food production is actually not normal at all. Annual plants are very rare in nature, and yet most of our agricultural fields are full of annual plants. What’s normal is a forested or semi-forested system.Martin Crawford
Here, the word ‘system’ is important, because whereas normal farmers look to isolate certain parts of natural systems for complete control (a tactic which has become unfathomably successful thus far) Crawford’s garden’s success depends on it holding it’s own as a fully functional and complex ecosystem.
These could be food producing crops, but also what he calls system plants, ones which aid in nitrogen distribution or mineral accumulating, or others which attract pollinating species that eat pests.
Asides from this, he grows utilitarian plants, which includes those used in basket making, weaving fibers, medicinal plants, and plants meant for fine timber as well. He even has fruit bushes spliced into existence in Cold War-era Soviet laboratories
It can seem a bit overwhelming, there’s just so many different species. You shouldn’t let that stop you from beginning a project because you don’t have to know everything to begin with, just start, plant some trees, and go from there.Martin Crawford
Eventually though, agroforestry systems become so big, and so perennial, as to naturally eliminate most of the work one associates with farming or gardening. Since everything is there to stay, there’s no need to till and re-till the ground, add manure, fertilizer, or nitrogen.
The canopy will hold moisture in the undergrowth, meaning that eventually, you won’t really need even to water your garden.