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Forest Gardening Film Night report

forest garden film night

Since the screening of Rebecca Hoskins excelent ‘Farm For The Future’ documentary which spelled out the implications of the end of cheap oil for the farming industry as well as explored some permaculture based alternatives, there has been a huge upsurge of interest in forest gardening as a means of food production.

Our Forest Gardening Film Night at the Friends Meeting House in Leigh on October 19th was also a great success, attracting a good crowd of around 30 or so to see ‘A Forest Garden Year’, the recently released documentary about the Agroforestry Research Trust founded by Martin Crawford near Dartington in South Devon, and ‘Urban Forest Gardens’, a short film illustrating working forest gardens in Leigh on Sea and London (see Youtube clips of both films below).

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These were followed by informal chat well lubricated by plenty of apples, pears and freshly pressed apple juice, all sourced from local orchards and Ron’s forest garden. We also featured plenty of books for perusal and displays celebrating our local orchard heritage, including St Laurence orchard on Eastwoodbury Road.

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We’d be interested in running a series of locally based forest gardening workshops perhaps early next year, if interested please let us know by email or via the comments box below.

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What is Forest Gardening?

The concept was pioneered by Robert Hart, who examined 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, as well as the abundant food producing ‘home gardens’ of Kerala. 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;

I)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.

forest garden abundance

Stepping into the Forest Garden is like entering another world. All around is lushness and abundance, a sharp contrast to the dust bowl aridity of the surrounding prairie farmed fields and farmlands. At first the sheer profusion of growth is bewildering, like entering a wild wood. We’re not used to productive landscapes appearing so disorderly. But it doesn’t take long for the true harmony of nature’s systems to reveal themselves, and the realisation sinks in that in fact it is the Agribiz monocultures, with their heavy machinery, genetic manipulation, erosion, high water inputs, pesticides and fertilisers which are in a total state of maintained chaos. Whereas hectares of land may produce bushel after bushel of but one crop, genetically degraded and totally vulnerable to ever more virulent strains of pest and disease without the dubious protection of massive chemical inputs, just an eighth of an acre of a garden such as Robert’s can output a tremendous variety of yields.

Inspired by Robert’s example, forest gardening has become an international movement, and projects been planted in community spaces, private gardens and school grounds. They have the potential to contribute enormously to the social, physical, spiritual,economic and environmental well being of communities.

Obviously, few of us are in a position to restore the forests.. But tens of millions of us have gardens, or access to open spaces such as industrial wastelands, where trees can be planted. and if full advantage can be taken of the potentialities that are available even in heavily built up areas, new ‘city forests’ can arise…” (Robert A.de J.Hart)

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