A workers' cooperative growing food on London's edge in the Lea Valley

Our Forest Garden

A forest garden is a designed system of trees, shrubs and perennial plants, planted to mimic the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in this climate.

Organiclea’s forest garden was planted in 2001. It includes apples, pear, plum and hazel trees, gooseberry, blackcurrant and worcesterberry bushes, and a range of smaller plants that are edible or otherwise useful. Honey bees also reside in the forest garden.

> Map of the forest garden (2004)

> Map of the forest garden (2005)

Photos of Organiclea’s forest garden

Why a forest garden? A brief history:

Early hunter-gatherer societies relied entirely on forests to meet all their needs from clothing, shelter, medicine to FOOD. The origins of food growing and horticulture as we know it today lie in these people encouraging the growth of favourite plants.

In many parts of the world, the conclusion of this food growing selective process has been the mono-culture of industrial farming. However in some societies an alternative approach to food production is alive. In areas of the tropics and sub-tropics, a large amount of food needs are met through canny forest management.

In the 1970s, Robert Hart attempted to apply these principles and methods of ‘agroforestry’ to create edible landscapes here in the UK’s ‘temperate’ environment.

Organiclea’s forest garden is one of hundreds that has been created since. All attempt, in various ways, to imitate the natural environment of the forest, using mainly edible plants which are perennial or self-seeding.

Forest gardens are usually based on a seven layer design: taller light-loving trees form the top canopy layer, shade tolerant plants are chosen for low-tree and shrub layers below this, whilst plants underneath form the herbaceous, ground cover and rhizophere (underground) layers. The seventh layer is the vertical, for climbing plants such as vines.

Other principles for forest gardening include leaving the soil undisturbed and having a permanent mulch to prevent drying. Weeds are cut at ground level rather than pulling them up, and can be used for the mulch (with cardboard or newspaper underneath to prevent re-rooting). Companion planting techniques are used to bring the benefits of planting particular plants together, whilst aromatic plants are also chosen to help ward off pests and disease.

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