“Creating a Forest Garden – Working With Nature to Grow Edible Crops”
So what is a forest garden? Maybe you are already an expert, maybe you have an idea of what a forest garden is or maybe you have never heard of one. In the words of Martin Crawford, a forest garden “is a garden modelled on the structure of young natural woodland, utilising plants of direct and indirect benefit to people – often edible plants”. Forest gardens are made of large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs, annuals, root crops and climbers. They are planted in a way to help each other grow and support each other’s fertility. Plants are also mixed to avoid larger areas of a single species.
“A forest garden is a carefully designed and maintained ecosystem of useful plants.”
You will find a wide diversity of plants in forest gardens. This way the ecosystem’s health is boosted. The soil thrives, as it is covered with plants all year round, and predators of likely pests are welcomed through the use of specific plants. It’s important to note that you don’t need a big patch of land to grow a forest garden – a small back garden offers plenty of space.
You can design your forest garden in accordance to what you would like to grow. This doesn’t have to exclusively be food. Forest gardens can produce fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, salads, herbs, spices, firewood, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, dye plants, soap plants, honey from bees… the list goes on.
Another huge advantage of forest gardens is their environmental benefit. They store CO2 in the soil and the woody biomass of the trees and shrubs. As the soil is covered in plants all year round, the soil is able to store a lot of water after heavy rains and is therefore greatly equipped to prevent flooding and erosion. They shelter buildings, which reduces energy for heating and they are just wonderful for attracting wildlife.
When starting to plan your own forest garden it makes sense to start with the trees and then work your way down to shrubs and lower plants. These are the layers of a forest garden and it makes sense to plant those layers at different times.