A forest garden is a tiny imitation of a natural forest. Once established it needs nimimal maintenance and can provide fruit, nuts, root and perennial vegetables and herbs. The principles and practice of forest gardening are described by pioneer Robert Hart who created a small forest garden on his farm on Wenlock Edge, which has been a model and inspiration for many designers and horticulturalists.

Source: StephenGBooks

Robert A de J Hart (April 1, 1913 – March 7, 2000) was the pioneer of forest gardening in the UK.

Robert A de J Hart began his forest garden project at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire on the Welsh borders in the early 1960s with the intention of providing a healthy and therapeutic environment for himself and his brother Lacon, who was born with severe learning disabilities. Although starting as a relatively conventional smallholder, Robert A de J Hart soon discovered that maintaining large annual vegetable beds, rearing livestock and taking care of an orchard were tasks beyond his strength. However, he also observed that a small bed of perennial vegetables and herbs he had planted was looking after itself with little or no intervention. Furthermore, these plants provided interesting and unusual additions to the diet, and seemed to promote health and vigour in both body and mind.

Noting the maxim of Hippocrates to “make food your medicine and medicine your food”, Robert adopted a vegan, 90% raw food diet. He also began to examine the interactions and relationships that take place between plants in natural systems, particularly in woodland, the climax eco-system of a cool temperate region such as the British Isles. This led him to evolve the concept of the ‘Forest Garden’: Based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct layers or ‘storeys’, he developed an existing small orchard of apples and pears into an edible landscape consisting of seven dimensions;

1. A ‘canopy’ layer consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
2. A ‘low-tree’ layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
3. A ‘shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
4. A ‘herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
5. A ‘ground cover’ layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
6. A ‘rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
7. A vertical ‘layer’ of vines and climbers.

Source: Wikipedia

See www.greenbooks.co.uk for his book.

* The Forest Garden
* Forest Gardening Green Books (UK) (1991, 1996 revised). ISBN 1-900322-02-1.
* Beyond the Forest Garden Gaia Books, London (1996). ISBN 1-85675-037-X.
* The Inviolable Hills
* Ecosociety
* Forest Farming (with James Sholto Douglas)
* Can Life Survive, in Deep Ecology and Anarchism, Freedom Press (1993) ISBN 0-900384-67-0.

Forest gardener Martin Crawford, who recently appeared on BBC 2s Natural World programme A Farm for the Future, gives a taster of his DVD A Year in a Forest Garden, which will be out in April. Martin created a forest garden 15 years ago that is full of unusual edible plants trees, shrubs and ground cover plants which yield an abundant crop of food with minimum effort. His book Creating a Forest Garden: perennial crops for a changing climate comes out in Spring 2010. www.greenbooks.co.uk

Source: StephengBooks

The Agroforestry Research Trust is a non-profit making charity, registered in England, which researches into temperate agroforestry and into all aspects of plant cropping and uses, with a focus on tree, shrub and perennial crops.

We produce several publications and a quarterly journal, sell various other relevant books, and also sell plants (particularly fruit and nut trees and bushes), seeds, and Parafilm grafting tape.

The online plant list has accurate stock levels so please look there to check the plants you want are in stock.

Our forest garden and nut trials were recently featured on “A Farm for the Future” (Natural World, BBC2) which looked at peak oil and its implications for agriculture.

A DVD “A Year in a Forest Garden”, filmed in our forest garden in Dartington, is now available – see our publications page for more details.

The AgroForestry Trust in Devon continues the forest gardening project, with research at the home of James Lovelock and other projects

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