What is a Forest Garden?

A simple definition of what makes a forest garden tl;dr productive, sustainable and low maintenance.

Misty view of mature trees in middle distance, foreground young trees in grass in garden
The multi-layered nature of a Forest Garden just about visible through the mist

I gave another Introduction to Forest Gardening talk the other day (press p to see the notes), and I rejigged my definition of a forest garden:

  1. Productive
  2. Sustainable
  3. Low maintenance

1. Productive

  • A forest garden is a productive garden, growing food and wood crops.
  • It is multi-layered, using all available space in 3 dimensions.

2. Sustainable

  • Supplies its own nutrients with mineral accumulators and nitrogen fixing plants.
  • As a balanced ecosystem, the wildlife predators keep the pests in check.
  • A permanent “living mulch” ground cover minimises weeds.
  • Trees, perennials and soil biota sequester carbon.
  • Increased biodiversity because of the wide range of plant species, the habitats these provide for wildlife and the flowers chosen for pollinators & predators.

3. Low maintenance

  • No watering (all water on-site)
  • Minimal weeding (permanent living ground cover)
  • No digging (mostly perennials with some self-seeding annuals)
  • No fertilisers (fertility from mineral accumulators and nitrogen fixers)
  • No compost (compost in-situ)

The book I always recommend is Martin Crawford’s Creating a Forest Garden.

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