Our Forest Garden

Our Forest Garden runs alongside the River Hiz on a slightly sloping south-facing bank, and extends westwards of the Triangle Garden.

What is a Forest Garden?

Forest Gardens are perennial food-growing systems – they only require planting once, unlike annual crops that need growing from scratch every year. They are cultivated across the world from China to South America as a way of minimising the work, fertiliser and water needed to produce food.

Forest gardens put the importance of plants at the very heart of their philosophy. They are modelled on the structure of natural woodland and range in size from a small back garden to several fields. All include a range of plants (mostly perennial and often multipurpose) grown together in ways which are mutually beneficial. Forest gardens celebrate functional plants, many of which are edible, whilst others provide material for cloth, dyes, plant supports, herbal medicines and much more. Many of the plants also have a specific role in supporting the eco-system by fixing nitrogen in the soil, providing weed-suppressing ground cover or by raising nutrients from the soil.

It’s easy to underestimate plants – their complexity, their versatility and the way their existence quietly underpins our fast-paced, technologically-advanced, indoor lives. Our modern plant-blindness makes it easy to forget the fundamental role plants play in supporting eco-systems which allow us to breathe, produce food and develop life-saving medicines. Forest gardens acknowledge the value of plants and work with them to create productivity and sustainability.

The Forest Garden at Triangle Community Garden

Over the past ten years the ground between the stream and the field has been cleared of weeds, and the canopy layer (of trees and larger shrubs) has been planted. Volunteers spent many hours planting and establishing common trees such as pear, plum, apricot, hazel and alder (for fruit, nuts and to fix nitrogen), alongside more unusual specimens such as the Nashi pear (Pyrus pyrifolia), Szechuan Peppercorn (Xanthoxylum schinifolium), Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), American Hawthorn (Crataegus ellwangeriana) and Quince (Cydonia oblonga), all grown for their fruits.

Shrubs planted include American elder (Sambucus canadensis) which flowers all summer, Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea), Japonica (Chaenomeles nivalis), Chokeberries (aronia prunifolia), Buffalo Currant (Ribes odoratum and Jostaberries.

Forest Garden – Next Steps

As well as completing the canopy layer, we are planning to develop the herbaceous perennial (plants which die back in autumn and regrow in spring) and ground-cover planting next spring. Initially this will focus on adding a range of dye plants and a collection of edible and medicinal herbs. As the garden matures, we are hoping to start using the food and other materials it produces and there will be opportunities for the community to learn more about the practical aspects of forest gardening.

In the meantime, if you would like to get involved, we are always grateful for any help which volunteers are able to contribute. Volunteer sessions run every Friday morning and the last Sunday morning of each month. We’re a friendly group, so do come along and join us…