The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.

Forest Gardens

Every gardener knows that it takes a lot of energy to keep a vegetable patch as a vegetable patch, free from weeds and fit for cultivation. A natural wood or forest on the other hand maintains itself.

So one sensible way to grow food is to make a forest garden – starting from open ground, plant your choice of food-bearing trees, shrubs, herbaceous, evergreen, climbing and annual plants in place of the similar plants you would find in a young native woodland.

You can’t easily grow potatoes, grains and most annual vegetables in a forest garden. But there are lots of well-known and less well-known fruit and nut trees and shrubs and a surprising number of perennial vegetables and fruits you can grow beneath them.

A forest garden might have apples, pears, plums and sweet chestnuts in the tree layer, with blackcurrants, raspberries and rosehips in the shrub layer and perennial kale, chicory, and tree onions below in the herbaceous layer. Hops and kiwi fruit might climb through the upper layers whilst strawberries and Siberian purslane cover the ground.

The garden will need some work, to ensure that your chosen plants don’t become overgrown, and to prevent your young, airy, light woodland from turning into a dense, dark forest. But the amount of work will be minimal compared to a conventional food garden.

Forest gardens are good for the planet! Planting new trees locks up some of the carbon dioxide which is causing climate change. And planting a forest garden provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife. In addition if you source the materials to feed your plants onsite by using nitrogen-fixing plants, comfrey and urine for fertility you can save the environmental costs of transporting materials in.

For more information read “Creating a Forest Garden” by Martin Crawford and “How to make a Forest Garden” by Patrick Whitefield.