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What It Is
Forest gardening is a type of sustainable food production system based around the ecosystems and forests and woodlands. It is a low-maintenance system in which trees, plants, and herbs grow together in such a way they essentially take care of themselves. As a human pursuit, forest gardening is a growing system that focuses on herbs, fruit, nut trees, and perennial vegetables that have sufficient yields immediately useful for human consumption. Forest gardening makes use of a technique that involves planting different but complementary plant species close together for the purpose of controlling pests while providing a safe harbor for beneficial wildlife. This system also aides in pollination, efficiently maximizes use of space, and increases sustainable crop output.
History of Forest Gardening
Forest gardening is nothing new, though the term wasn’t coined until 1980. The concept dates back to prehistoric man’s desire to create a suitable environment in which to survive. This was accomplished by using trees, plants, and vines that could be useful and protecting these while ridding the environment of those plant species that were of no value. The purpose was to select sustainable plant life and work them into the garden food source while eliminating p0or choices. Early man didn’t think too much about the process. It was natural instinct and a necessity for survival to eliminate undesirable plant life and promote the growth of those plants that produced immediate sustenance. With the exception of the introduction of modern mechanical tools, the process behind forest gardening hasn’t undergone significant change.
Basic Concept of Forest Gardening
In the 1980s, the pioneer of forest gardening developed a layer system based around the designs of nature. This 7-layer system forms the basis of forest farming practices today. The layers consist of a canopy of fruit trees that not only provide sustenance but offer the appropriate shade for crops grown beneath this protective coverage. Beneath this canopy are six more layers, including a lower layer of nut-bearing trees, a layer of fruit-bearing shrubs, a layer of herbs and perennial vegetables, a layer of root plants, a layer of ground cover plants, and a vertical layer of vine plants. The structure of these layers produces an ecological balance in which all of the trees and plants within this system
work symbiotically to ensure healthy mutual benefits. Once in place, this sustainable system requires little interference by man.
Some of the best crops for forest gardening system include a variety of fruits (blueberry, blackberry, huckleberry), leeks, a variety of nuts, syrups, herbs, and medicinal plants like ginseng and black cohosh. These are just a few examples. Carrots, cabbage, and food plants that are hardy and can survive colder months can all be viable choices.
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