Grow a Forest Garden in Your Backyard

Make a Forest Garden – Creating a forest garden is a fascinating new trend that has numerous advantages. In this article, we will describe a forest garden and show you how to make your own.

More and more individuals yearn for great outdoor fun and a natural way of life. The popularity of forest gardens is therefore understandable. This lovely garden modeled on the lines of forest design creates a sanctuary of calm and peace with its distinctive structure and lush green appeal.

A forest garden benefits the ecosystem by providing a safe habitat for helpful insects like bumblebees, butterflies, small animals, as well as wild flora. The forest garden, like all permaculture systems, is also low-maintenance in comparison to conventional gardening methods. Here’s how to make a forest garden and what plants go well in it.

What is a Forest Garden

A Forest Garden is an attempt to mimic or maintain the natural forest structure in your own home garden or backyard. The forest garden’s uniqueness lies primarily in its unique construction, which is not divided into different beds as is customary but instead relies on varying growth heights.

Forest gardens, on the other hand, are made up of a number of different types of plants all growing on top of one another in a limited amount of space: herbs, shrubs, and trees. By including trees and shrubs in the kitchen garden, more species can be grown in a smaller space than in a traditional garden.

Plants benefit from one another because, for example, the shade of trees reduces evaporation in the soil’s surrounding region, or the ground cover avoids erosion. As long as the natural nutrient cycle of the site is preserved, the forest garden will be extremely low-maintenance and long-lasting.

Advantages of a Forest Garden

Forest gardens have become increasingly popular, but do they offer any real benefits or are they just a passing fad? Establishing a forest garden is nonetheless aesthetically pleasing and wonderful, but it also has other advantages.

Forest gardens are especially beneficial to wildlife because, while forests were once the dominant vegetation around the world, there are now only a few natural forests left. Gardens and urban areas, on the other hand, are only likely to be suitable as habitats for many wild animals; a forest garden, on the other hand, symbolizes a sanctuary for beneficial insects like bees and related species, as well as birds and squirrels.

Many plants, apart from small animals, enjoy the forest garden. A significantly greater multitude of distinct species can thrive in a small space thanks to the tier-like arrangement caused by the height discrepancies of the various plants.

At the same time, this type of garden design benefits native plants in particular, including many wild plants. They find a suitable location, particularly in the shady areas of the forest garden, which is denied to them in many other gardens. As a result, with the help of your natural garden, you can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.

Another benefit of the forest backyard is that it is part of the permaculture movement. This means that, in the best-case scenario, the forest garden develops into a permanent ecosystem that is barely influenced by humans.

As a result, forest gardens are thought to be extremely low-maintenance, as the annual seeding of new plants, for example, is avoided due to the large variety of perennial as well as recurring species. Furthermore, permanent growth protects the soil from wind and water erosion.

Hence, less fertilizer is required in the garden, which is why this type of garden design is regarded as particularly advantageous.

#Tip: Because regular harvesting depletes soil nutrients, you must fertilize the forest garden on a regular basis. Ideally, you should return nutrients back to the soil (nature) by making your own compost or through green manuring.

Organic fertilizers can also be used in forest gardening. Mineral fertilizers, on the other hand, must be avoided since they disrupt the natural cycles of nutrient supply in the soil, inhibiting healthy, natural soil life.

How To Make Your Own Forest Garden

There is a lot to see and do in the forest garden if you look at it from all angles. Soil, nutrition availability, and light/shade ratio can all vary widely, resulting in a plethora of microclimates. Forest garden plant selection is also a difficult task.

Since a wide variety of plants can be used in a forest garden, special attention must be paid to the site’s requirements when choosing which ones to use. Without them, the new plants won’t last, and replanting is exactly what you want to avoid doing in the first place. The following are the woodland garden’s key components:

Soil

The forest garden’s soil should be thoroughly examined before planting can begin. A humus-rich, moisture- and nutrient-retaining soils are ideal.  Soil compaction can be eased while adding new nutrients to the soil by green manuring it with clover (Trifolium) and phacelia (Phacelia). Compost or bark humus are other options for enriching the soil.

#Tip: Use bark mulch to preserve moisture in the soil and create a forest floor-like soil quality to prevent soil from drying out. Mulch will be unnecessary as plants spread and develop to cover bare ground. Mulching has the potential to temporarily fix the plant nutrient nitrogen, hence a pre-mulching fertiliser treatment is always necessary.

Trees

For a forest garden, the selection and positioning of trees is especially important. In addition to being visually captivating, these large trees can alter the growing circumstances of smaller plants around them by casting shade. As a result, it’s beneficial to establish a comprehensive plan for the garden’s existing trees before deciding where to plant new ones.

It’s important to have a safe space between trees in order to allow for future growth. Trees that produce fruit are especially popular in the forest garden since they are not only beautiful to look at, but also provide a delectable harvest in the fall. Apple (Malus domestica), cherry (Prunus cerasus, Prunus avium), and other natural fruit trees work particularly well in a forest garden.

Shrubs

You can begin selecting shrubs once the garden’s tree structure has been planned out. Ideally, start with the selection of larger shrubs and hedges for the garden.  Forest gardens can also incorporate helpful species like the hazel bush and raspberry.

Perennials and ground covers

Choosing appropriate perennials, ground covers, and ferns to go with your shrubs is easy after you’ve determined where they’ll be located. You must always keep in mind the specific site requirements of each plant when performing this task.

Due to a variety of factors including the amount of light and shadow, as well as the quality of the soil and moisture in the soil, not every plant will thrive in every place in the forest garden. Woodland blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are an edible ground cover, as are wild herbs like Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata).

Choosing Plants for Forest Gardens

A forest garden contains a greater range of plants than any other garden. As a result, the variety of plants suited for a woodland garden is extensive. Both little ground covers like Small Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and huge trees like Oak (Quercus) can thrive here.

Of course, native plants, as well as shrubs, are ideal for the woodland garden because they are most similar to the plant life found in a naturally occurring forest. Shade-loving groundcovers, on the other hand, are ideal for the soil, as they also thrive under trees and shrubs.

Plants that bloom in the early spring thrive in woodland gardens. Climbing plants are very welcome in forest gardens since they utilize existing trees as climbing support and give the landscape a magical character. Vegetables like Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris), Onion (Allium cepa), and Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) complement the woodland garden wonderfully.

However, because regular harvesting loses nutrients from the soil, more fertilizer with compost or another organic fertilizer should be applied, especially in these places.

Suitable Trees for the forest gardens

  • Various fruit trees such as apple (Malus) or cherry (Prunus): Edible fruits.
  • Nut trees such as walnut (Juglans regia) or hazelnut (Corylus avellana): Edible nuts.
  • Chestnut (Castanea): The chestnut’s fruits are edible.
  • Beech (Fagus): Foliage is beneficial for the formation of humus.
  • Birch (Betula): Foliage is good for composting.
  • Spruce (Picea): Needles with medicinal and healing properties.

Suitable Shrubs and Perennials for the forest gardening

  • Various berry shrubs such as blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) or raspberry (Rubus idaeus): Edible berries.
  • Wild roses (Rosa): Edible rose hips.
  • Lupine (Lupinus): For green manure.
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Ornamental and bee pasture. But be cautious as this plant is poisonous!

Suitable plants for the Herb layer in the forest gardens

  • Stinging nettle (Urtica): edible
  • Sorrel (Rumex acetosa): edible
  • Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata): edible
    Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa or Fragaria vesca): edible
  • Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon): edible
  • Woodruff (Gallium odoratum): edible
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia): edible

Suitable Climbing plants for the Woodland Garden

  • Wild Roses (Rosa): edible
  • Flat Pea (Lathyrus silvestris): not edible
  • Honeysuckles (Lonicera henryi/caprifolium/periclymenum): slightly poisonous
  • Hops (Humulus lupulus): useful
  • Common grapevine (Clematis vitalba): toxic
  • Kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa): edible

Top 5 Best Plants for Forest Gardens

The choice of plants for the forestry garden is so extensive that it is easy to become overwhelmed. As a result, we’ve prepared a list of the top five plants you should surely consider while planning to establish a forest garden:

Sweet Chestnut

With an average height of growth of 20 to 25 meters, the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is ideal as a tree for forest gardening. The sweet chestnut is an incredibly attractive tree, with its spreading crown, pretty blossoms in spring, and its stunning golden-yellow foliage in autumn.

Sweet chestnuts require a sunny location, as well as some protection in colder climates, because young trees, in particular, are vulnerable to frost. However, it is their fruits that bring the most joy in the forest garden: the dark-colored nuts of the sweet chestnut not only taste great for squirrels but also are good for human consumption too.

Blackberries

Blackberries (Rubus sect. Rubus) are an essential inclusion of every forest garden. This prickly plant is not only beneficial to the shrub layer’s smaller plants, but it also provides a vitamin-rich snack in between with its luscious fruits.

Because blackberry grows primarily in forests and requires slightly acidic soil, it can be simply planted in a sunny to semi-shady spot in the forest garden. Because blackberries thrive in the woodland garden, they can soon spread uncontrollably. If you wish to avoid this, consider installing a root barrier when planting the blackberry.

Wood forget-me-not

Even in shade gardens, you can find lovely blooms. The woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) is the best example of this. These cup-shaped single flowers are a visual feast with their magnificent blue tint and provide an eye-catcher in the forest garden from April to June.

Beneficial insects are also fond of the little plants, which are a common source of nectar. The plant for the woodland garden feels perfectly apt in semi-shady areas and requires minimal care. The entire plant is edible and can be consumed by humans.

Apple

The apple (Malus) is among the most well-known and significant fruit varieties, thus it cannot be overlooked in a woodland garden. The humus-rich soil of the woodland garden is ideal for growing an apple tree. However, because the apple tree develops to an “only” 10-meter height, care should be given while planting the forest garden to guarantee that it is not overshadowed by larger trees after a few years.

The apple tree has a deep taproot, which is a benefit in addition to its gorgeous blossom and delicious fruit. As a result, modest, shade-tolerant plants can be planted right beneath the apple orchard as a shrub layer.

Hazelnut

The hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is amongst the oldest fruit species and should be included in the forest garden. The shrub, which may reach a height of 7 meters, grows naturally along forest borders and in hedges, but it can also be grown successfully in a forest garden.

It may survive a gloomy location here, but the majority of its flowers and fruits are created in a sunny location. The hazelnut is particularly popular because of its small and nutty fruits, which may be picked in autumn and taste delicious both fresh and in pastries.

Our Tip for Woodland Gardening

Of course, you are allowed to plant other vegetation in the forest garden that is unusual for the forest. The raised bed, for example, is a crucial component in traditional permaculture. Forest Woodland gardens yield nutritious produce that you may pick at your leisure when filled with fertile soil, your own compost, and mulched with the foliage of your forest trees.

Do you want to get started as soon as possible and are looking for the ideal trees for your forest garden? Then read our post on bee-friendly trees to see if you can find something that will work for you.