A forest garden is a human attempt to create a garden by imitating natural systems.
In the natural world of a forest, plants grow together that are mutually beneficial to each other. The plants you find in a forest are trees, which grow high and wide forming a canopy of leaves; shrubs which thrive under the canopy; vines, that use the tree like a trellis; and ground covers, that can live under the canopy’s shade.
Where the typical food garden relies on annuals that have to be replanted each year, the Forest garden relies exclusively on perennials, providing for a permanent planting that returns naturally year after year. In our human created forest garden there are three layers of plants, mostly food bearing, that are compatible and mutually supportive of each other. These plants not only provide food for humans, but also support a host of insects, birds, amphibians and other creatures by providing food as well as shelter.
Plants for the forest garden are chosen to provide different functions as well as provide food and shelter. A dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit tree is usually chosen as the canopy layer for the community, or guild of plants. Berry producing shrubs will provide an under-layer, and a daily supply of nutritious fruit for humans and wildlife in season. Comfrey and Dandelion plants might be chosen for their deep growing roots that can mine minerals from deep in the subsoil and make them available for shallow-rooted plants. Siberian Pea Shrubs, Fava Beans, vetches, and clovers serve as nitrogen fixers, providing a natural nitrogen boost for other plants in the community. The Comfrey and Pea Shrubs can also be cut back to provide mulch for the the garden.
A well designed forest garden can be very low-maintenance and will provide a lifetime of food and beauty to its residents.
What Is A Perennial Garden?
A well planned Perennial garden will provide a lifetime of beauty and bounty once established. Unlike annuals, which grow and spread quickly, and then die off; perennials get established slowly, but return year after year in the spring, with good maintenance. The result is a garden that requires less planting and work each year.
Perennials can include flowers, herbs grasses, ground covers, bulbs, and even vegetables. Perennial gardens can be designed as food gardens, flower gardens, herb gardens, or all of these combined, which is what I prefer. They can be designed for any growing conditions.
Perennial gardens are lasting and low maintenance. This is the best kind of garden to plant for someone who does not have much time to spare for garden work.