What is A Forest GARDEN?

Extract taken from Martin Crawford’s

‘Creating a Forest Garden - Working with nature to grow edible crops’

 

 

“A forest garden is a garden modelled on the structure of young natural woodland, utilising plants of direct and indirect benefit to people and often edible plants. It may contain large trees, small trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, annuals, root crops and climbers, all planted in such a way as to maximise positive interactions and minimise negative interactions, with fertility maintained largely or wholly by the plants themselves.

The plants in a forest garden are mainly perennial, which gives the system its long-term nature. Many of the plants used are multipurpose; they may have a main function or crop but will very often also have a number of other uses.

Plants are also mixed to a large degree, so there are few large blocks or areas of a single species, and each species is grown close to many others in ways that are mutually beneficial.”

 

A forest garden is in fact a carefully designed and maintained ecosystem of useful plants (and perhaps animals too). The self-fertilising nature comes from the use of nitrogen-fixing plants and other plants that are particularly good at raising nutrients from the subsoil, and from the very efficient nutrient cycling that develops in a forest-like system.

The soil is maintained in peak condition by being covered by plants at most times, and garden health is boosted by the use of plants that attract predators of likely pests, and plants that reduce disease problems. Diversity is important too: high diversity almost always increases ecosystem health.”

In early Spring 2021 we had the fortune to venture out towards Budock Water on a crisp and clear day to meet forest garden edible landscape designer Simon Miles and have a tour around his sleepy Forest Garden.  Simon really took the time to thoroughly introduce us to his forest garden, imparting knowledge about the different types of perennial plants and layering systems he has woven into the land over the last few years.

We were spellbound our heads giddy with the possibility of Asian Pairs, Almonds, Taunton Dean Perennial Kale, Roast Dinner Plant, Japanese Wineberry and Autumn Olive amongst many others!  Simon steadily fed us knowledge as much as we could absorb it and despite us all being novice forest gardeners we felt totally empowered to work with 2.5 ha of beautiful Sailors Creek scrubland and woodland.

The dense scrubland is split over 2 fields known as Creekside and Longfield, and broad leaf woodland borders much of this.  There are two notable 300 year old Oak trees that are excellent to use when navigating your way through the land.  There had been access through both fields historically and anecdotally. 

Our first challenge was to try and survey the land visually and take note of the lay of the land and the clusters of young saplings bursting through the scrub.  We ventured in with hand tools and then brush cutters to nibble our way into the scrub and slowly figure out what we were going to be working with.  We identified larger parts of scrub in Creekside field that could be topped, and we started thinking about where we might be able to put down a track so that removing waste from the creek could be done by land.

Nesting season began and we had to then wait until August/September to go ahead with topping Creekside and tackling the immense Blackthorn hedge.  This gave us the whole summer to start planning our Forest Garden and revisit Simon Miles at his forest garden in Budock Water.

Head to the Resources Page to see a list of the plants and a planting plan for our forest garden!

We will be managing the forest garden and surrounding woodland while ensuring areas are left untouched and free to do what they want, we are loosely following Permaculture principles of zoning. Our vision is to increase biodiversity in the area and increase food security for the local communities by planting legacy fruit and nut trees, bushes and climbing plants using layering agro-forestry techniques 

We have a membership scheme if you want to get involved with any aspect of planting, cultivating, coppicing, propagating, green woodworking, basketry, species identification and community building.