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

Mimicking treefall gaps in the forest garden

Gap in the forest canopyTuesday, Mark and I spent a bit of time working on the forest garden that we haven't previously talked much about.  Unlike the forest garden we've blogged about extensively, we're building this one the way Amazonian people have built forest gardens for hundreds (thousands?) of years --- by encouraging the trees we find the most useful in an existing forest.  This type of forest garden is most appropriate for big nut trees and other species which would naturally grow in a mature forest, rather than for the early successional fruit trees like apples and peaches which need constant sunlight.

The area we chose for this forest garden is full of young trees which have been growing back from pasture for just a few decades.  Some older trees within the stand are keepers regardless of their use because I adore old trees, but most of the forest there is made up of black locust, box-elder, sassafras, ironwood, dogwood, sourwood, and other small trees.  We added in young seedlings of butternut, persimmon, and Chinese chestnut, all of which are native or (in the case of the chestnut) replace a native species wiped out by disease.  We also earmarked some existing trees --- primarily sourwood and black locust --- as keepers due to their utility as nectar trees for our honeybees.

This forest garden gets minimal maintenance consisting of rooting out invasives and encouraging the trees we like.  On Tuesday, we cut down a few small trees around each of our favored trees, mimicking natural treefall gaps and give our favorites extra light.  Or, to be more accurate, Mark cut down small trees while I stood around and pointed.

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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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