Thursday, October 06, 2005

Forest Gardens

Sustainable communities require a sustainable source of food. A forest garden is a diverse collection of useful plants arranged in multiple layers much like a natural forest: canopy trees, smaller trees, shrubs, herbs, groundcover, root crops and climbers. Forest gardening was popularized in Britain by Robert Hart, although indigenous peoples throughout the tropics have been utilizing similar gardens for centuries.

Replicating a natural ecosystem, a forest garden is perhaps the most ecologically friendly way of gardening because it works with nature rather than against it. Once up and running, it requires almost no digging, cultivating, weeding, and sowing like that of a conventional garden. The main task is simply picking the fresh, organic, nutritious food.

Ideally all plants in the garden have multiple uses, which may include: food, medicinal uses, dyes, fibers, oils, attraction of beneficial insects, fuel, fodder, building and craft materials, creating shade or windbreaks, habitat for wildlife, and producing soil building nutrients or mulch.

With sufficient diversity and careful design, forest gardening is self-sustaining by being self-fertilizing, self-watering in large part, low maintenance, and naturally pest resistant through the use of mutually beneficial plants or guilds. In general, it is the most ecological, efficient, beautiful, and most productive per unit area of any type of agriculture.

Recommended sources:
Forest Gardening in Ohio

The Natural Farmer

Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape

Edible Forest Gardens

How to Make a Forest Garden