There is such a thing as forest gardening. Most people imagine a small holder to grow a few lettuces and tomatoes but it is possible to hold far grander visions and have a Grand Holding instead.
A forest garden takes full advantage of all of the seasons so that when the most light reaches the ground in the early spring, the smaller plants are ready and waiting without being obstructed by enormous tree canopies. As the larger plants grow they are ready for harvesting before the larger plants can take a way from them. This means that a diverse yield of vegatables, fruits and nuts can be harvested in large quantities. Unlike the monocropping that we are used to there are no vast swathes of land covered in single crops such as wheat. But instead a clever design system provides huge varieties without massive monetary or energetic input. A clever forest gardener will have all their dietary requirements met with only 5minutes work a day harvesting and maybe time spent adding a little 'mulch'.
Robert Hart was the founder of Forest Gardening as it is known and he has written two wonderful books about the subject which are well worth a read as they are so positive and inspiring. The reason I've included forest gardening on my site is because it is so inclusive, simple and rewarding that it couldn't be left out and if ever we needed trees we need them now.
Another lovely tree book is Jean Giono's 'The Man who Planted Trees' that if you're not already fired up to go out and plant your first forest; should do the trick.
Forest gardening is an intensive form of gardening, it really is simply planting a forest that is full of the plants we use and rely on. They used to exist once; Councils in Britain who in the 1970's took out all of the fruit trees from town centres will be finding themselves putting them all back in again.
To get started see below and if a forest garden is too much for you try growing Basil and Parsley in your kitchen just for starters!
Use a very sharp knife/secateurs
Put the cutting into a plastic bag and keep there until ready to pot
Take cuttings from strong, healthy, non-flowering shoots, including a tear of stem (heel) at base
Take cuttings in the morning when the plant has more moisture
Use a free draining compost with 50% sharp sand/perlite
Remove all but two/three leaves and if they are large cut them in half to reduce moisture loss
Softwood cuttings need to have an artificially humid environment because they root fast. Most deciduous shrubs/climbers are suitable for softwood cuttings.
Semi-ripe cuttings are taken from mid-summer to autumn from the current new season's growth that has begun to harden off. They are more robust than softwood cuttings.
Hardwood cuttings are very slow to root, but because they are taken from ripened wood in the Autumn, or even winter they are slow to dry out and die. They are used for deciduous trees, shrubs like roses and fruit such as currants.
Take cuttings from dahlias and delphiniums from the new shoots that emerge from the crown of the plant in early spring, taking as section of the root at the base.
Use a fine mist propagator as it reduces the rate the plant wilts and warmth from a sun-warmed bench increasing the growth of roots. Mistifying!
I will be posting pictures of my own attempt at forest gardening, there's more to it than simply growing cuttings, but one step at a time hey!
If you've planted a tree as a result of this article please send me a line and I'll put in on the 'Tree Tally' that is the number of trees planted since this site began.
My thanks to Monty Don 'The Complete Gardener' for his concise advice. Not exact quote.
Go grow! May apples and pears, cherrys and peaches, olives, grapes, hazelnuts, walnuts, beechnuts and more abound and flourish all over the place. may there be free fruit on everyone's tables!
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tags - sustainable agriculture, forest gardening, growing trees, bioculture, taking cuttings, soft wood, hard wood, free food, fruit, nuts, future, CSA agriculture, polyculture