Introducing Forest Gardening - Beautiful, Productive, Edible Gardens

| 6/6/2011 11:40:02 AM

The forest garden at the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon UK

Forests are often some of the most productive and biodiverse habitats on our planet. Traditional people the world over have studied their forests and designed sustainable agricultures based on them. These can be found in the Amercias, Asia, and Africa as well as Europe. Robert Hart (1913-2000), who first pioneered the idea of temperate forest gardening in Britain, based his ideas on the tropical forest gardens in Kerala in south-west India. These are gardens based on the principles of the native forest ecosystem, but consciously using edible and other useful plants. Robert adapted this idea by substituting their sub-tropical plants with ones that could grow in England’s climate. For him, forest gardening was both a productive and low maintenance form of horticulture and also a way of gardening that embodied a peaceful and productive cooperation between human beings and nature.   

Robert’s work was adopted by permaculturists first in Britain and it has now spread all over the world. In Britain, there are now numerous example of forest gardens, large and small. These are designed and planted to mimic the structure of our natural woodland where all the vertical as well as horizontal niches are filled with plants – trees, shrubs and mainly perennial climbers, roots and ground cover – but these gardens all differ according to soil type, topography and personal preferences. What they share is the aspiration to be: 

 ·      biologically sustainable – to not need lots of external inputs 

·       robust – to be able to withstand climate change in the shape of unusual weather extremes 

·       productive – in terms of edible foods, medicinal herbs, fibres, spices, fodder, fuel wood, poles, basketry materials, mulches, games, sap for wines and other products 

·       ideally they should also be low maintenance after the initial work of designing and planting them. 

Bryan Aldeghi
6/14/2011 12:42:13 PM

This is such a great concept. The forest is an amazing place to grow and gather food. I don't have much experience with a forest garden, but we are used to going out and collecting the bounty that naturally occurs. One of our favorite recipes is using the common, invasive plant Garlic Mustard to make pesto. Here is a recipe for that: Always be sure not to collect more than 1/3 of your wild edibles from any one plant. Cheers!

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