Garden and Yard Care

Published on September 3rd, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Create Your Own Forest Garden

“What exactly IS a forest garden?” you may ask. A forest garden is a purposefully created collection of multiple species of edible or beneficial plants organized in such a way as to mimic the natural system of a forest.

There are many reasons to have a forest garden– time in nature, wild edibles, and free food– but one of the best reasons is less time devoted to the mundane task of yard care. I have met men who LOVE to climb onto a riding lawn mower as much as watching Sunday Night Football, but this routine is not likely too appealing to the “green” crowd. But, as a permaculture coach I know that this line of thinking may be very difficult to break.

Grow food not lawns

But assuming that mowing the lawn is getting boring, what can you do with the yard? How about turning it into a garden, possibly a low-care forest garden where efforts are more concentrated and you get a tasty yield from mostly perennial and reseeding plants?

I like using examples, so let’s imagine a regular city yard – a property that is anything but forest. I always like for my clients and students to list all of the things they love to eat then narrow this list down to what can grow in their climate zone.  From this list we actually start looking at individual plant needs and what is available in the property. If, for example, you are working with a small property and you love maple syrup… well, this won’t work so well.

But if you have a small property and love pears, cherries, strawberries, cut flowers, roses, lavender and kale? Awesome! Cherry trees remain small with little effort, pears can be purchased on a rootstock that keeps the tree smaller, strawberries tolerate shade well and can be grown beneath the trees.

{Looking for more plants that love the shade? Check out this post here with the Top 15 Plants that grow in the Shade}

Decorative flowers can be placed in areas of half or more sun, along with plants that encourage beneficial and pollinating insects. Garlic chives or Egyptian walking onions can be grown around the trees to deter animal pests like voles. Roses and lavender can be grown near the home where soil is drier. Kale grows well in shade, with remaining sunny space to be planted in clover. Clover provides many benefits. It is a wonderful plant that increases nitrogen that the trees need for food, can been eaten by humans or other creatures (such as city chickens), does not require mowing if you plant the lowest growing varieties, and it provides food for native bees and honey bees.

Do you have that vision in mind? Can you taste the sun-ripened fruit and taste the kale chips? Other benefits of a forest garden include building soil structure, low maintenance, environmentally beneficial for the soil, sustainable and regenerative, high nutritional value foods, and resilient to climate and weather extremes, and aesthetically pleasing! Your own little Garden of Eden outside the door may help you to become more prepared in regards to your food supply while also leading you to become more fruitful in all your endeavors!

There are many ways in which to plan your edible forest garden. Some may wish for it to mostly consist of native edible plants while others may wish to have one with medicinal plants, and yet another choose based on amount of time to care for the plants. Whichever way you choose to approach creating an edible forest garden, having the proper resources and references will be invaluable in preventing costly mistakes in regards to both time and money. There are books that can be read, and professionals that can be found in most regions.

Keep in mind that Forest Gardening is a newer development that crosses disciples with permaculture, agro-forestry, agro-ecology, orchard growing, gardening and sometimes multi-species grazing.

Grow food not lawns image from here; Blueberries image from NPR

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