Forest gardening is an effortless, ecologically sound plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on boscage ecospheres that include fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines, and perennial vegetables with outputs that are advantageous to humans. Forest gardens, despite their name, which may imply that they require a lot of space, may be a great way to include edible and helpful trees and plants into one’s home gardens, even if we live in a city.

Species are chosen for mutually beneficial outcomes, resulting in a vital structure that takes care of its fecundity with a bit of digging, weeding, or insect control required. The consequence of this mostly perennial planting is a peaceful, lovely, and productive environment. Even individuals who do not have access to a garden can acclimatise the rudimentary concepts of forest gardening.

In tropical climates, forest gardening is a primitive means of procuring food. After modifying the techniques and applying them to temperate settings in the 1980s, Robert Hart came up with the phrase “Forest Gardening.” Fruit, nuts, and green leafy vegetables are the three major forest garden products. 

Hart planned to call his gardening method ecological horticulture or eco-cultivation after a model forest garden he constructed from a 0.12-acre orchard on his estate. When he saw that agroforestry and forest gardens were already being used to describe similar systems in other regions of the world, he discarded these labels. Toyohiko Kagawa and James Sholto Douglas’ forest farming practices, as well as the productivity of Keralan household gardens, inspired him.

Robert Hart developed the system of forest gardens based on the idea that the natural forest can be split into tiers. He employed intercropping to transform a modest apple and pear orchard into an edible polyculture landscape with the following seven layers: ‘Canopy layer’, ‘Low-tree layer’, ‘Shrub layer’, ‘Herbaceous layer’, ‘Rhizosphere’, ‘Ground cover layer’, and, ‘Vertical layer’ of vines and climbers.

‘Canopy layer’ comprises the original large fruit trees at their prime. ‘Low-tree layer’ consists of diminutive nut and fruit trees on small rootstocks. ‘Shrub layer’ is made of fruit bushes like currants and berries. ‘Herbaceous layer’ is created using perpetual vegetables and herbs. ‘Rhizosphere’ contains plants farmed for their roots, and tubers have a ‘subterranean’ component. A ‘Vertical layer’ covers vines and climbers. 

The system’s key goals are to be environmentally sustainable and deal with perturbations such as climate change. They also aim to be productive, producing a wide variety of diverse items and Low upkeep is required. 

The following are the essential characteristics that contribute to the forest garden’s stability and self-sufficiency: 

  • Because of the high number of species employed, there is a lot of variety. 
  • Plants that boost fertility are carefully included. 
  • The practice of dynamic accumulators — deep-rooted plants can reach mineral sources deep in the subsoil and transport them to the topsoil layer, where they can be used by other plants. 
  • The use of plants that have been chosen specifically for their capacity to attract predators of common pests. 
  • Wherever feasible, pest and disease resistant cultivars are used. 
  • Tree cover and leaf litter are becoming more critical in improving nitrogen cycling and drought resilience.