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Spotlight On: Forest Gardens!

It’s likely that we’ll all have to make little revisions here and there to the way in which we garden in the near future as the realities of climate change start to make themselves felt increasingly as time goes on… adapt or die, as they say!

One of the best ways to go about designing a climate change-resilient space is to build your own forest garden at home, where your garden has many different layers to it that help support biodiversity and provide various benefits for different species of wildlife.

Think about the garden you currently have. How many layers can you see? Generally speaking, modern garden design involves only a couple of layers, with your lawn, a few shrubs and bushes here and there, and a couple of trees on the landscape.

But forest gardens (also known as food forests) can have upwards of 13 different layers – although it does largely depend on how much space you have to play around with as to how many layers you can bring in.

Urban spaces commonly have between three and seven layers, ranging from the tall tree/canopy layer down through the small tree/shrub layer, the shrub layer, the herbaceous layer, ground cover, the underground root layer and the climber/vine/vertical layer.

When mutually beneficial plants are grouped together as they are in forest gardens, you are creating what are known as ‘guilds’. When lots of these guilds are nestled side by side in one place, you then end up with a forest garden.

One of the best examples of a guild is the planting of corn, squash and beans together (known as the three sisters). As the corn grows, it provides much-needed shade for the squash, while providing a trellis for the beans. In turn, the beans fix nitrogen and provide fertiliser for the other two veggies, while the squash covers the ground and provides mulch for the beans and corn.

By planting these three together in a guild, they all actually grow better than they would if they had been planted somewhere by themselves… and that’s the concept behind forest gardens!


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