‘Forest Gardening’ (an aspect of ‘Agroforestry’) is the cohabitation and interaction of plant species that are edible, medicinal, or of some other use to humans, the ecosystem or to support other plants. This system generates its own sustainable fertiliser by growing those species that can produce nitrogen and make it available to other plants. Some plant species grown will attract beneficial insects. It integrates aspects of horticulture and forestry. The main focus is on perennials such as trees, shrubs, herbaceous, ground cover and climbing plants, which produce nice tasting and interesting seasonal food, including nuts, seeds, top fruit, soft fruit, tubers, flowers, berries and leaves, although annuals like Sweet Corn and Quinoa (a grain forming crop) can also be easily incorporated. Forest Gardening can include birds such as geese and ducks and can also be used to develop conservation areas.
The term Forest Gardening (a term chosen by others before me) does not initially give away too much about the subject as you don’t actually need a forest to create a Forest Garden. The principles can be applied in a 2 metre by 2 metre plot although with a smaller plot you would not be able to operate all seven layers found in a full size garden of up to 2 Hectares.
It’s best visualised as an orchard with some trees taller and some plants shorter than apple trees while other plants use the trees as climbing structures. It would usually be a lot more informal in its lay out.
Your plant range will be governed by your climate. Here in the UK we can grow all sorts of plants that derive from temperate climate zones, from
China to Chile and all manner of places in between. So by using the productive plants that grow best at your latitude wherever you are in the world, you can create your unique Forest Gardening experience.
The original concept came from observing the jungles in the tropics and how nature’s bio system sustained the indigenous people.