Forest Gardens - The Garden of the Future?

Forest Gardens - The Garden of the Future?


Forest gardens replicate woodland ecosystems that provide food, fuel, and medicine, support wildlife, and could boom in popularity as the climate changes.


Toby Hemenway, a permaculture expert and the author of "Gaia's Garden" -- a highly rated book featured to the right - explains how gardens can function as ecosystems, describing the basic parts of an ecological garden (soil, water, plants, and animals), and shows how to create backyard ecosystems through guilds.

Guilds are groups of plants that function as an ecosystem to provide produce for humans, create cover and food for wildlife, nourish the soil, conserve water, and repel pests.

Hemenway lists as a simple example of a guild the "three sisters" (corn, beans, and squash): corn stalks provide a trellis for beans, the beans supply nitrogen to the soil, and the squash leaves inhibit weeds and conserve water.


The benefits of forest gardens:

    • They are self-maintaining. They don't need weeding, watering, digging, or feeding and can be left to look after themselves for weeks or even months. They are disease resistant.


    • They are productive. They reduce your weekly food bill by providing you with free, organic produce grown in your own backyard


    • Eco-friendly: They are organic and wildlife-friendly.


    • They can be implemented in any outdoor space, whether it be the backyard of an inner-city terrace or the grounds of country estates.

How do I Get Started?

The essence of "forest gardens" is that they are arranged on forest principles with edible layers of self-sustaining perennials that would provide food, fuel, and medicines, as well as support wildlife.

  • Plant native trees that will eventually largely look after themselves
  • Underneath, plant herbs and salad leaves, such as dandelions and nettle
  • Cover the earth around the plants with bark chippings to mimic the self-mulching forest floor
  • Layer and build plants up year on year (please refer to the below diagram). The seven layers are: roots, ground cover, herb layer, fruiting shrubs, dwarf trees, tree canopy and the high canopy (or vertical layer), all of which coexist happily within their own ecosystem.



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