Forest Gardening Overview

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Forestgarden2Forest gardening is a food production and land management system based on woodland ecosystems, but substituting trees (such as fruit or nut trees), bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in a forest.

In part based on the model of the Keralan home gardens, temperate-climate forest gardening was pioneered by the late Robert Hart on his one eighth of an acre (500 m²) plot at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire.

Robert began the project over thirty years ago with the intention of providing a healthy and therapeutic environment for himself and his brother Lacon, who was born with severe learning disabilities. Starting as relatively conventional smallholders, Robert soon discovered that maintaining large annual vegetable beds, rearing livestock and taking care of an orchard were tasks beyond their strength. However, a small bed of perennial vegetables and herbs they had planted was looking after itself with little intervention. This led him to evolve the concept of the "forest garden".

Based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct layers or "storeys", he used inter-cropping to develop an existing small orchard of apples and pears into an edible polyculture landscape consisting of seven levels.

Forgard2-003Woodland gardening A key component of Hart's system was the plants he selected. Most of the traditional crops grown today such as carrots are sun loving plants not well selected for the more shady forest garden system. Ken Fern had the idea that for a successful temperate forest garden a wider range of shade tolerant plants would need to be used. To this end, Fern created the organisation Plants for a Future which compiled a plant database suitable for such a system.

Plants for a Future adopted the term "Woodland Gardening". The Agroforestry Research Trust has a 2-acre (8,100 m2) forest garden, next to the Schumacher College in Dartington, Devon. It makes heavy use of ground cover plants to restrict the growth of weeds. There has been some criticism as to whether the home gardens system developed in the tropics are a suitable design for use in a temperate climate.[citation needed] [edit]In the 21st Century Forest Gardening was furthered significantly by the work of Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier with the publication of the two volume set "Edible Forest Gardening" in 2005.

Forest Garden plots are to be found in various research trials such as those at The Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute http://www.crmpi.org/Home.html, community farms and gardens like Montview Neighborhood farm http://www.montviewfarm.org/, and in small yards throughout the temperate world.

A number of studies have looked at forest gardens in the humid tropics, and they can be a significant source of minerals and nutrients, as well as providing income and food security for the owners. Traditional examples Forest Gardens appear in many different societies in the wet tropics and go under various names including: Home gardens in Kerala in South India, Nepal, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania; Kandyan Forest Gardens in Sri Lanka; huertos familiares, the "family orchards" of Mexico; and pekarangan, the gardens of "complete design", in Java.

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