In a word, a forest garden is a designed ecology consisting of multiple light-capturing layers of perennial or self-propagating vegetation, that is stable over time, self fertilizing and nutrient cycling, soil-building, and yields multiple kinds of goods to the manager.
Fundamentally, forest gardens are the next branch in the fractal of a person’s designed life integrated into nature. In urban situations, there won’t be much opportunity for such thing as earthworks, waterscaping, comprehensive animal systems, and such – but a food forest is just as useful regardless, and has many advantages over a rural homestead food forest. In many cases, there are already well established fruit trees that fill a solid layer in the forest garden, and the lonesome tree is just waiting for it all to fill in.
There is a wide breath of possibility forest gardens. Urban market gardens and rooftop gardens have been gaining in popularity, and couldn’t be more different in form from some of our more rural homestead gardens. Bonners is already full of gardeners. We could turn it into a flourishing town and reach new levels of manifested value that makes the stale past of our exploitive economy’s “hay day” look like child’s play.
A forest garden is tailored to the needs and wants of the client, or person responsibility for the land’s usage. Forest gardens can be created to do such things as, but by no means limited to…
– Food forest – full on production of foods and medicines for people and animal use
– Native pollinator habitat, honey bee forage
– Bird forage, nesting sites, and so on
– Sample patches of forest biome type plants- want a small chunk of your favorite kind of our native forest here?
– Wildcrafting sampler- mixed native plants useful for a variety of berries, craft materials such as cordage or arrow-making, seeds, etc…
– Simple, practical designed energy savers, such as planting trees instead of concrete road-blockers in parking lots that provide shade in summer and insulation/snow mitigation in winter. Planting deciduous trees out in front of South/Western exposure windows that blocks summer sun but lets winter light in, etc, etc…
EXAMPLES of a few forest gardens
Sample #2 – Forest/meadow interface homestead/garden business
The first couple samples are maps. These next few are images of implemented systems at various stages of their life.
Installed in 2016, this food forest is in a very young stage of development. Working with native vegetation, huckleberries grow underneath apple trees. There are well over 50 species- native, nonnative, naturalized, babied, and such- production and support, filling every light-capturing forest layer in multiple ways. There have already been yields of fruits and plants propagated, though the system is immature. Hugel-bed gardens, with shields from gopher activity underneath, serve as annual vegetable growing systems as well as substrate for perennial nursery operations. Diverted game trails replace expensive extensive fencing. Watered areas receive tremendous browse pressure late season, so things are kept very tough and slow-advancing to acclimate to the fierce wild surroundings.
This food forest is almost 20 years old, and highly productive. Zoom in enough and find trees loaded with pears, apples, plums.
Annual garden patches are quilted onto a patchwork of forest garden systems. A very well established and long-lasting system of more than 30 years, the forest garden elements of this homestead provide abundance of beauty, seasonal information, and gifts in cascades of passively managed flowers, beneficial insectary guilds, oh, and enough fruit for scores of people as well as nuts and root crops! Much yield as a result of floating on top of a designed ecology where modest, seasonal maintenance and extensive seasonal harvesting are the only chores!
The best way to create forest gardens is to have an indigenous attitude over time that spills into everyday action. While they require work to get established, there is a transfer of energies and the end result is a stable system that produces much varied yield with little effort. Just as animals plant what they eat, so too should humans act as the generators and consumers of forest. It boils down to perceiving the world a certain way, seeing opportunities as they arise, and taking small steps and chunks out of projects that of themselves don’t feel like too much work at any one given point in time. It is a system of acting, observing, and responding. It is better to move slow- but even a few small steps a week will bring forests into existence much, much faster than they would in nature.