The Ancient Times of Forest Gardening

Forest gardening is the oldest method of gardening in the world. It was created during prehistoric times, typically along the foothills of monsoon regions and along riverbanks. As humans became better at forest gardening, they were able to identify plant species that hindered the growth of food, as well as those that helped the process along. They would eliminate species that weren't beneficial while helping beneficial species grow by providing them with extra protection. And they even eventually started to incorporate foreign plant species that they found useful as well. The key was to create a self-sustaining, easy to manage farming system.

Gardens for More Than Food

The first human civilizations brought with them wealthy individuals who were now able to focus their attention on developing gardens that weren't only used for growing food but also for beautification. Ornamental gardens were soon developed in ancient Egypt, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are a primary example of these ancient gardens that provided tranquil beauty to the people who supported them.

Ancient Egyptians also began growing vineyards for wine, as well as gardens with plentiful trees that provided nourishment and plenty of shade at the same time. The wealthiest individuals in these societies were able to reap the most benefits from these gardens. Even the Assyrians and Ancient Romans enjoyed gardens that incorporated fragrant flowers, a variety of bushes, and myriad trees.

By the Middle Ages, gardens were also used to grow herbs for medicinal purposes. Those in the Renaissance incorporated sculptures to add a new aesthetic element to society's flourishing gardens. And cottage gardens in the Elizabethan Era provided both herbs and fruit.  

Modern Forest Gardens

Today, forest gardening has become popular again as more people search for sustainable ways to grow food and manage plants without the use of harsh and toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Although these gardens are typically found in the tropics, anyone can create their own forest garden if they want to not only beautify their outdoor space but also grow a variety of food, as long as they have the time and space to dedicate to this type of garden.

Focus on Perennials and Layers

In order to sustain a successful forest garden, remember that perennials will grow again year after year, producing greater harvests every time. Therefore, when it comes to creating a forest garden, you want to avoid annuals and instead focus on perennials that will produce a lot of food with minimal effort, just like a natural forest does.

You also want to focus on layering your garden so that it mimics the natural forest garden in the environment as closely as possible. An example of a Seven-Layer System was developed by Robert Hart. It consisted of a canopy layer, a low-tree layer, a shrub layer, a herbaceous layer, an underground dimension, ground cover, and vertical layers. Choosing the right plants and crops for each layer is key to their ability to thrive.

Decorating a Modern Forest Garden

Finally, if you want to combine the natural beauty of ancient forest gardens with the aesthetics found in other gardens throughout human history, consider incorporating decorative elements, such as small fountains, sculptures, and paving stones from companies likes Easypave. These will bring the best of both types of gardens---those for food and those for beauty---into your outdoor space.

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Pete White Pete White

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