Forest Gardening - Book, Practice, CS Category? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I think countrysiders will find stimulating the book Forest Gardening, by Robert Hart, published by Chelsea Green. This well-written book takes you around the world to places where people subsist on multi-story "forest gardens" containing thousands of plant and animal species. The owners harvest an abundance of food, as well as materials for building, textiles, utensils, and medicines, with less work (or less hard work) than traditional plow-and-till agriculture.

The key to productivity is the symbiosis among the plants and animals, as they attract beneficial insects, secrete mutually helpful chemicals, and support helpful soil biota. The owners nurture these gardens by observation, experimentation, and shared experience. Hart thinks scientific investigation could also bring improvements.

Hart frequently quotes permaculture expert Bill Mollison. I have not yet investigated permaculture, but certainly intend to now.

Are there any forum participants practicing forest gardening? Can anyone tell us the difference between forest gardening and permaculture?

This method seems to me sufficiently different from other types of gardening, and sufficiently promising in it's benefits, to find it's own category on the Countryside bulletin board. What say you?

-- Bob (, November 27, 2001


never have heard of this, but it does sound intriguing....

-- Lynnda (, November 27, 2001.

Yes, it's an aspect of permaculture. Go to and search on "permaculture". Also try the same thing at - the idea originated in Australia, and there's still some stuff that doesn't get referenced that much overseas. David Holmgren and Bill Mollison developed the philosophy and practice some time ago now. Basically "permanent agriculture", as opposed to immense monocultures. Has a place for limited monocultuure, as in rotating crops in certain areas; but also uses home orchards, woodlots, kitchen gardens, kitchen-door herb gardens. Makes a lot of use of balanced ecological practices. One of the ideas is that you get a lot more diversity and productivity on ecological borders. That is, you can have a forest (woodlot) with forest-type life (trees, mushrooms); you can have grassland (crop or pasture). However, at the border you'll get life from both, plus life that specialises in the border (say shrubs and berries) - very productive. Regard an orchard as an open woodland or even savanna - grass and trees: run sheep or geese to use the grass and ensure you don't need to mow. They'll also clean up windfalls (or let the pigs in for an hour a day) so you don't get pests overwintering in them. Hedgerows of fruiting trees or nuts (sloe or hazelnuts, or both and more - preferably small trees and shrubs so they don't take fertility out of too much of the field) are good examples of permacultural ideas. Even just making sure that the kitchen garden is at the kitchen door, so you can keep an eye on it for pests, you don't have a route-march to get stuff, and a spare five minutes can be used pulling those weeds you saw through the window, and looking for more. Plant trees in the corners of paddocks (fields) - you can't get machinery in there anyway, the trees can produce fruit or nuts, and the stock can use the shelter. Expand the trees into a small woodlot - several of them scattered over your place. The trees will grow better with more sun than a full forest, the stock will fare better with more shelter, and you'll be expanding the number of ecological borders. Consider keeping the trees in your woodlot widely spaced - you'll probably be limb-pruning them anyway for prime-quality trunks (which gives you firewood from the limbs), and you can graze stock on the grass between widely-spaced trees. No big monocultures means no peak workloads where you have to hire in labour. Rather, your workload is distributed over the year. If you do have crops to harvest, they're smaller and more diverse - the oats now, the wheat later. Barley and rye and triticale and peas and beans and lentils and soy beans and chick peas/garbanzos - all spread out. Also diversity means more safety - insurance - unlikely to lose everything to a disease or weather.

Once you start thinking the right way, a lot of it is just common sense, but the idea of permaculture codifies it so that you can get started thinking that way, and pulls together the relevant new research and older information.

Every homesteader should investigate permaculture - in fact I'd have thought most would have. It is THE homesteading philosophy as far as land use and farm productivity goes.

-- Don Armstrong (from Australia) (, November 27, 2001.

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