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There are over two hundred known Forest Gardens in the UK. A forest garden is a low impact growing system that does not require the soil being turned over, ploughed and cultivated releasing carbon into the atmosphere but instead builds its own sustainable soil system that requires no manmade fertilizer. To produce a ton of manmade fertilizer its said that it can take one ton of oil and one hundred tons of water and excess fertiliser leaches from the soil. Instead you’re planting something once and its output increases, as it ages, whilst your input decreases.
There is currently conflict between food production and the environment as nitrates are leaching out in to water-courses causing poisonous algae to grow and flourish. Some food production areas are now designated as a ‘nitrate free zones’ in an attempt to kerb the problem. In addition the energy required to produce food with modern agricultural methods can require nine units of energy to produce one energy unit of food.
The analogy I use for the potential use of Forest Gardening for food production is this: at the moment it’s a little like wind turbines are to our energy production; it’s green, sustainable but is by no means our main source of energy production. However at some stage fossil fuel will dwindle and an alternative way will be needed to produce both energy and food, and at that point, wind turbines and Forest Gardening may well have a greater role to play.
The term ‘edible landscapes’ is a relatively new phrase that is becoming a familiar term like Forest Gardening. This is where landscaping designs are including edible nut producing trees such as Chestnut and Walnut and other food bearing shrubs and trees as this is a way of making what may well have been purely amenity land both aesthetically pleasing and productive.
Another benefit of a forest garden design is the increased diversity, leading to a much reduce risk from pests.