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

History of forest gardening

Robert Hart, founder of forest gardeningDue to the concept's Australian origin, many permaculture books have put a lot of emphasis on water management and on plants that thrive in the tropics or in hot and dry climates.  Forest gardening takes the concepts of permaculture and applies them to temperate regions where forest is the natural plant community.  Here in the eastern U.S., most of the specific suggestions in the original permaculture books just don't make sense since our garden plants and pests are completely different from those found in the Outback of Australia.

Robert Hart was the first to bring permaculture to the temperate forest.  After working with permaculture in the tropics for many years, he moved home to England and turned his tiny, twelfth of an acre lot into a forest garden.  Hart knew that he was getting older, but he wanted tasty food.  One of his primary goals was to create a garden that mimicked natural forests and thus was self-sustaining, requiring very little work from him beyond harvesting dinner.

The garden Hart developed had an overstory of plums, apples, pears, and rowans (along with some native forest trees along the edges) and an understory dominated by shade-loving gooseberries and currants, along with some herbs.  His garden seemed to have provided at least some of his food until his death in 2000.  Can we all create self-sufficient gardens that even our 87 year old selves can maintain?

This post is part of our History of Permaculture 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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