A forest garden year

Copyrighted by Creative Commons.

Copyrighted by Creative Commons.

 

 

 

 

In the United States there are millions of acres of lawns, many of which are chemically treated with fertilizers and herbicides.  Those chemicals end up in our waterways creating pollution which destroys aquatic habitat and sickens aquatic life. There are other ways to maintain a yard, some of which entirely eliminate a mono-cultured lawn, in favor of gardens of various descriptions. One such method is a forest garden that mimics a natural forest or woodland.  A forest ecosystem has seven layers (root, groundcover, herbaceous, shrub, understory tree, vine, and overstory tree) that create a huge amount habitat with niches for all manner of life, while also producing it’s own rich, dark soil.  With intentional design and plantings, yards even with mature overstory trees can be incredibly diverse with plants for food, medicine, pollinators, fiber, and fuel. Such a yard is replete with interesting and beautiful sites, sounds and smells in contrast to the awful smelling, boring to look at, chemical soaked carpet of grass maintained by companies like TruGreen Chemlawn, such as the one two houses down from where I currently reside.

For the past year, my wife and I have lived in the home of a friend who maintains a wonderful forest garden. It is filled with medicinal plants that she uses as an herbalist and plants that attract many species of beneficial pollinators. There are perennial plants that come back year after year in pulses timed to ensure there is something wonderful to see each month of the growing season along with trees and shrubs that provide color in the autumn when the leaves turn. There is a glorious old oak tree that towers over the back yard and another in the front. There isn’t a single blade of grass to be mowed here which to me is a beautiful thing.   A newly installed pond provides habitat for amphibians and water plants as well as a peaceful place to sit and simply be observant of all the life around the backyard. She also designed a labyrinth for walking meditation which I have availed myself of and find extremely calming. Birds of various kinds come to eat at feeders or glean from the shrubs that are planted. Squirrels chatter and argue with one another over space and acorns. There is a profusion of bright colors for most of the year and then in the wintry silence this beautiful forest garden rests waiting to re-emerge in the spring.

We could do an enormous amount of ecological regeneration by converting lawns to forest gardens, kitchen gardens,  market gardens and mini-farms, or wildlife habitat. We could build community resilience and build relationships by sharing space and sharing the surplus food or medicine produced in these new gardens of Eden. We could create beauty and eliminate toxins from our suburban landscapes simply by going from having a lawn to creating a garden. We could make life a good deal more interesting too!

To learn more about designing forest gardens I recommend the following resources:

Dave Jacke Edible Forest Gardens

Integrated Forest Gardening

I hope the following photographs from this forest garden prove inspirational.

What kind of bee are thee?

What kind of bee are thee?

A nightshade

A nightshade

Spring emerging

Spring emerging

Save me...

Save me…

umbrella

So many tiny flowers

More purple please.

More purple please.

Punk rock caterpillar

Punk rock caterpillar

purple

Rosehips are full of vitamin C

Rosehips are full of vitamin C

Stinkhorn mushroom

Stinkhorn mushroom

Sacred tobacco

Sacred tobacco

muppets

Looks like something from the Muppets

pink

Shades of red

Gathering pollen

Gathering pollen

pink2

A blue jay with a crossed bill

A blue jay with a crossed bill

green2

Up close and personal

Peek a boo

Peek a boo

Slug life

Slug life

Labyrinth for walking meditation

Labyrinth for walking meditation

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Honoring the Divine Feminine

Honoring the Divine Feminine

love rain2

Love rain

pretty pinks

A profusion of pink

An umbel of some sort

An umbel of some sort

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