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Robert Hart's forest garden

Robert Hart in his forest gardenRobert Hart began his adventures in forest gardening as a plain old back-to-the-lander like us.  He had a twenty acre farm in England, most of which was pasture.  There he ran poultry, goats, sheep, cattle, and bees, but he soon found the inevitable slaughter involved in livestock-rearing to be too much and became a vegan.

Hart's forest garden was a replacement for the food he had once gotten from his livestock.  He focused on a one acre tract beside his house and began planting.  About an eighth of the garden was an old orchard, full of apples, pears, and damsons (plum-like fruits), while the rest of the area was originally a traditional vegetable garden.  Hart began planting herbs and black currants in the understory of the orchard, mulching heavily with with straw, compost, and grass clippings in the spring and early winter.  He quickly realized that the combination of mulch and perennials made the forest garden much simpler to keep up than the traditional vegetable garden, though he noted that he would occasionally have to go on a "crawl-and-claw expedition through the undergrowth" to weed.

Like traditional forest gardeners in the tropics, Hart maintained sun-loving plants in a different part of the garden.  But he was able to grow a surprising amount of food under and amid his trees --- masses of mints and other herbs, his signature black currants (one of the few temperate plants that fruits exuberantly in the shade), and a host of wild and semi-wild vegetables like dandelions, nettles, and chicory.  He also grew patches of osier and willow that he allowed his neighbors to coppice for use in basket-making.

Want to make your life easier?  Give your chickens an automatic chicken waterer.

This post is part of our Robert Hart's Forest Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime