Forest Gardening That You Can Enjoy

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80-forestgardenA forest garden is a tiny imitation of a natural forest designed to achieve the utmost economy of space and labour. Like a natural woodland it has three layers of vegetation: trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Once established it requires minimal work and provides fruit, nuts, salads, herbs and other useful plants and fungi.

Many gardens contain the same thing as a forest garden, but usually each is grown separately as a orchard, soft fruit area, vegetable patch and herb bed. What distinguishes a forest garden is that all are grown together on the same piece of ground, one above the other. This makes much better use of available resources because more niches are filled. So the potential yield is clearly much greater.

A forest garden will almost certainly yield less top fruit than a simple orchard, less berries than a pure stand of soft fruit bushes, and less vegetables than a simple vegetable garden. But it will produce more in total than one of the single layer plantings.

"From a town patio to a large rural area, it's our chance to restore some balance to the Earth and restore our relationship with nature."

"Make medicine your food, and food your medicine."

There are three main products from a forest garden: fruit, nuts and leafy vegetables.

Shop-bought fruit may look brilliant, but that visual perfection is a sure sign that it has been sprayed over and over again to prevent the slightest blemish. A typical commercial orchard may have been sprayed 15 times or more during the growing season, including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, and the fruit itself sprayed again in storage. Much of this spraying is purely cosmetic and has nothing to do with increasing yield.

The fruit we buy in shops is almost all imported. Even the apples and pears that used to be grown in Britain are now mostly from overseas. By the time the fruit gets to us what vitality it ever had in its chemically cultured orchard is largely gone. In the past anything that was edible and green, cultivated or wild, was liable to be included in salads. John Evelyn, writing in 1699 listed 73 plants that were commonly eaten raw in his day and added that many more could have been included. The level of diversity sounds remarkable. But it is our simplified twentieth-century diet which is unusual.

Wild plants are on average much higher in protein, vitamins and minerals than conventional vegetables. They may also contain a variety of organic substances which are good for our health in ways which present-day nutritional science is not aware of. Most of the produce of a forest garden, whether fruits nuts or salads, can be eaten raw. Most of us would probably benefit from having a higher proportion of raw food in our diets.

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