Forest Gardening

Forest gardening is an agroforestry practice using biomimicry to intentionally design and manage the growth of an area into a highly productive forest or savanna system that serves the needs of its stakeholders while providing the ecosystem services of a native landscape.

Forest gardens are typically multistory, perennial polycultures used for homescale food production. In addition to providing for a variety of other needs including growing medicine, fuel, and fiber, forest gardens also provide habitat for native species, stabilize and improve soils, sequester carbon, and provide the myriad ecosystem services offered by trees. Forest gardens are ideal for steep or marginal land unsuited for tractor farming, for blending production with leisure and aesthetic beauty, and for creating inhabited ecosystems in which people can engage with nature and their surroundings in meaningful way. It is our hope to see a patch of every homestead or backyard transformed into a forest garden.

Forest gardening can be as simple as managing the regrowth of an area for desired native species based upon your needs. For example to create a foraging area for pigs, one may favor and manage around the walnuts, hickories, mulberries and wild apples that emerge in an abandoned pasture, strategically plant some nitrogen fixing pioneers like thornless honey locust to increase fertility, pull or creatively manage the invasives, and cut paths to increase access.

One can also meticulously and thoughtfully design an intricate permaculture system in which beneficial interactions among plants, animals and soil are maximized, competition is minimized, management needs are diminished, and harvesting is made efficient. Every square inch from the ground cover to the canopy is planted deliberately based upon its light, soil, and moisture needs, and each plant serves multiple beneficial functions from food production to pest mitigation.

Forest Gardening at Solid Ground Farm

Taking our native temperate deciduous forest as a model, we have been managing the regrowth of an old pasture with the goal of creating an inhabited ecosystem in which residents, summer camp participants, school children, and other visitors engage with the ecosystem in meaningful ways that are both enjoyable and educational. The vision is of a large-scale foraging ground for humans, livestock, and native fauna, that not only provides for local needs, but helps to address global problems such as climate change, pollution, and deforestation.