What is a Forest Garden? Learn about Edible Forest Garden Plants

Forest gardening is not a new concept as it has been around for thousands of years. This form of gardening revolves around planting gardens such that they look like forests. These gardens exude the structures of forests, thus their name.

Whereas in a new garden you would have neat rows of similar species, forest gardening calls for diversity. The plants work to nourish each other by feeding on varying nutrients. They are not in neat rows and this enables you to make the most out of your space. If you want a beautiful backdrop for garden sheds, this is an excellent way to go about it.

It is important to note that this type of gardening leaves the soil bare. As such, the preservation of soil carbon is possible. What’s more, it is easier for underground crops to thrive in this way. As such, you maintain biodiversity.

The Origin

Many people think that forest gardening would be difficult if they were short of space. However, this is not the case. You can build them behind garden sheds, in urban gardens, balconies, anywhere. All that matters is prior planning as this is what determines the success or lack thereof of this process.

Forest gardening allows you to have edible trees in your garden, as well as trees that you can use for other purposes. Though these gardens have been around for a while, it was not until the 70’s that they gained recognition. And this is thanks to Robert Hart from the UK. He studied relationships between plants existing in natural ecosystems and used this knowledge in the creation of these gardens. In his studies, he noted that trees growing in nature were not in neat rows, but rather, the crops were in stacks. In this way, plants of different sizes and needs would organize themselves as per their levels in the system. As such, they would be in the same place without competing for nutrients, and would thus grow to their full potential.

Hart used the knowledge gained from studying woodlands to incorporate edible trees in his garden. In so doing, he created an orchard with seven levels. In the first, he had a canopy comprising large fruits and nut trees while in the second he had low trees such as small fruit trees. The third level had shrubs such as currants and berries while the fourth featured herbs. The soil surface made up the fifth level, while the roots were the sixth. The last layer had climbers and vines. And thus, he was able to create a garden that exuded abundance and lushness. You too can have such a setup which is quite unlike what you would see in farmlands with neat rows.

A forest garden features immense growth such that you would feel like you were venturing into the woods. The disorder is harmonious and healing, and it enables you to connect with the whole. With physical exercise in play, you get a whole lot of good from this form of gardening.

The Design Process

Creating a forest garden is not hard. All you need to do is to understand a few concepts of design, and you will be okay. You can combine the edible trees with other bushes to have this harmonious disorder. Here is what you need to do:

Have a Goal

It helps to understand what you would like to get out of the gardening. In this way, you would know how much time and effort you will invest in the garden. For one, you should look at the yields that you would like to have. For the edible ones, you should consider fruits, vegetables, herbs and salads, nuts and seeds, mushrooms and fungi and beverages. The non-edible ones include medicinal plants, fibers, and craft and building materials, amongst others.

There are other yields which you could look for from the garden, such as research data, income, and party venues. Now that you know what you want from the garden, you can take a look at what you have. Understand how much land you have for this project. An excellent way to do this would be to map the area around garden sheds. From here, you should consider the upsides and downsides of this area. Figure out the type of soil that you have, the slope of the land, the strength of the winds, and other factors that affect the health of plants.

Set the Boundaries

You can now come up with the boundaries which will protect the plants from winds and frosts. Shrubs and hardy trees are ideal choices for use as boundaries. When making a hedge, make it such that it measures at least an eighth of the protected area. Plant the fence at least one year before growing the delicate species.

As you wait for the hedge to grow out, you can now think of where you will get the species that you intend to plant. You can get them from local nurseries. Alternatively, you could save a ton of cash by borrowing stock and getting some from your loved ones. However, ensure that you do not follow bargains so much that you compromise on quality. Where you are unable to get all the stock you want at your budget, you can start small and work from that point.

Plant the Trees

The canopy trees will be a significant part of your garden as they will determine the placement of the other trees. You should consider how much they will grow and how much light, moisture, and nutrients they will need. Do not try to fit in many trees as you cannot predict how crowded they will be in the future. Too many trees lead to competition for nutrients, and this will adversely affect the health of the garden. Have the large trees towards the north and the small ones towards the south.

The small trees should come after the giant trees. Preferably, you should wait a year or two before introducing them. When planting them, have some nitrogen-fixing species in place.

The ground layer comes next to protect the ground from loss of moisture. This layer is quite sensitive, and it is a good idea to start small if you don’t wish to spend much time in the garden. You can add more species over the years.

When planning the garden, ensure that there are adequate paths for access as this will affect the maintenance processes. We hope you can you see how easy it is to design such gardens? All the best in planting yours.

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