The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Combining forest gardens and vegetable gardens

Raised bed made out of colored bottles

Whenever I tell people about forest gardening, the inevitable reply is "You really expect to grow all of your food with perennials?"  I'm quick to set them right, explaining that we definitely plan to keep growing our delectable tomatoes, broccoli, and other row crops.  Forest gardening and traditional annual gardens work well together --- you can set aside the best land for your vegetable garden and put your forest garden on the sloping hillside that would wash away if you tilled it or down in the swamp where you'd never be able to plow.  You can also plant traditional vegetables amid your forest garden plants in sunny gaps (especially as your perennials are slowly filling out.)  Alice and Dudley mixed and matched annuals and perennials very elegantly in their city backyard.
Homemade greenhouse
Since trees run along the south side of their property, they take advantage of that partial shade to plant their forest garden crops.  Real shade lovers like nettles, currants, and elderberries gradually give way to trees and shrubs that need full sun.  In a gap in the forest garden, Alice had built a beautiful raised bed out of colored bottles and planted it with garlic.

Meanwhile, Dudley had selected the sunniest spot near the north side of the yard for growing tomatoes and lettuce in his homemade greenhouse.  You can read about how he made this 20 foot long greenhouse for about $300 in just a few hours on his website.  You might notice in this photo that the plastic is tearing --- Dudley explained that the greenhouse covering is finally starting to get too brittle to repair after five years and will need a new sheet of plastic.

I hope that Alice and Dudley's garden will inspire some of you to take a look at your own growing space and mix and match your annuals and perennials.

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This post is part of our Real Forest Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I like the idea of using bottles in the garden, only I thought they could be used around young plants in early spring or late fall as a thermal mass to protect plants against frost damage something like the Wall-O-Water that is sold in the stores. If the water used had salt to prevent freezing and a black dye to absorb heat, they could be stored safely for next years use.
Comment by zimmy Thu Mar 10 15:41:04 2011
That's a good idea, but I'd probably stick to plastic bottles for that type of system. Even with salt in the water, I'd be leery of glass bottles cracking and turning into shards of glass in the soil.
Comment by anna Thu Mar 10 19:28:15 2011

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