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What Is Forest Gardening?

Published on May 4th 2020
We all know that a garden has a thousand faces. It can be pristine with a meticulously mowed lawn or a wildlife-friendly jungle with wildflowers scattered everywhere.
Forest gardening is one other way you can approach your green space and we spoke to Simon Miles who runs a forest garden just outside of Falmouth.
Simply put, the main aims of a successful forest garden are:
  • To be biologically sustainable, able to cope with disturbances such as climate change
  • To be productive, yielding a number (often large) of different products
  • To require low maintenance
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Simon explains the term to be “a no-dig sustainable way of producing food, medicine and useful plants for both the fauna and flora in and around the site and mankind alike”.
While the term does not adequately describe the concept, it gives us an insight into what a forest garden might look like: plenty of trees, shrubs and perennial plants which can provide edible leaves, spices, medicinal plant products, poles, fibres for tying, basketry materials, honey, fuelwood, fodder, mulches, game, sap products.
These gardens grow a diverse range of species, including plants which increase fertility, such as nitrogen fixers (eg. Alders [Alnus spp], Broom [Cytisus scoparius], Elaeagnus spp, and shrub lupins [Lupinus arboreus]). Where possible, pest and resistant varieties are preferred. These gardens are grown for the long term and low maintenance rather than show.

Listen to Simon talk about The Forest Garden on our audio tour:

A close up of a flower

The Forest Garden

If you want to see layering systems and companion planting in action and learn about the benefits of the no-dig movement then you’ve come to the right garden. With more than 30 year’s experience, The Forest Garden proprietor Simon Miles is well placed to teach you his tricks of the trade, the result of which is this productive and prepossessing site near Falmouth. Everything that grows at The Forest Garden is edible, has medicinal use or a practical purpose. And as this low maintenance but high impact method of growing uses no pesticides or herbicides, wildlife flourishes. At the nursery, visitors weave among a patchwork of fruit trees, including Cornish apple trees, Asian pear trees and cherry and nut trees before alighting at perennial plants, vegetables, herbs, which are grown with gardeners in mind. Wondering what to do with your inevitably large, leafy haul? The Forest Garden also provides forest gardening courses and consultancy and design services for gardeners looking to replicate what they’ve seen here. You’ll be putting your green fingers to good use in no time at all.

Forest gardeners work on plots as small as 4 square meters, growing all types fruits and vegetables. "It’s not the total solution to our food or medicinal requirements. However, it’s a little like what solar panels are to electricity production in that it’s not the complete solution, but part of the mix of how our supply is produced." says Simon Milles. He himself eats the products grown in his garden:
"A forest garden is definitely a place where you eat with the seasons, and last night’s salad included Egyptian walking onions, Toona sinensis Chinese cedar, chive, fennel, Turkish rocket, Vietnamese coriander and a few pieces of a Szechwaun pepper leaf mixed with rice noodles with some diced roasted Almonds mixed in. Delicious!"
You can find out more about The Forest Garden in Falmouth on their website.

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