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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Forest gardening,Woodland gardening

Forest gardening (also known as 3-Dimensional Gardening) is a food production and land management system based on replicating woodland ecosystems, but substituting trees (such as fruit or nut trees), bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. By exploiting the premise 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, 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.

The seven layers of the forest garden

Woodland gardening

A key critique of Hart's system was in the selection of plants used. 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.

Forest Gardening 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, community farms and gardens like Montview Neighborhood farm, and in small back (and front!) yards throughout the temperate world.

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