alongside the evolution of the forest garden there is the evolution of the forest gardener
As forest gardeners we are all unique individuals and each forest garden is the result of the unfolding of the gardener’s hopes, intentions and interactions with nature in a specific place. The two evolve together – in a delightfully unpredictable way.
Out of the blue one summer’s day in my garden a single question arose in my mind:
- Is there such a thing as a perennial vegetable?
This was the question that first introduced me to forest gardening, and from the outset I was utterly besotted with the idea; leading to further questions:
- How many perennial vegetables are there that are suitable for my garden’s conditions?
- How can I obtain them?
- Can I grow them as part of the ecology of a small forest garden?
- Can I do so without much work?
- What will they taste like?
And, as I explored these questions, pushing myself way beyond my initial knowledge and understanding, I found the answers that I was hoping for – that there were indeed a range of tasty, easy to grow perennial vegetables that could be grown in a small forest garden without much work! I wrote about these questions in my book ‘Edible Perennial Gardening‘.
And so it was that after some years that another question arose:
- How am I interacting with this forest garden?
My aim was always to do the minimum of work, but also to obtain a plentiful harvest. This was indeed happening, but my interaction with the garden seemed to be almost intuitive and I needed to know:
- Are there any principles that underlying the intuition that I have developed? Principles that could guide others on the same journey?
And so that question became my obsession for the next four years. It was finally and as fully answered as I am able to in my book ‘the garden of equal delights‘.
I am sure that I am not alone in becoming obsessed by forest gardening. And because each forest garden is a unique combination of the place, the planting and the person I think that many other forest gardeners are either pondering or engaged in the process of following up on their own unique questions.
There is so much yet to learn. Collectively we have hardly begun to scratch the surface of what there is to know. So much more about plants, about ways to preserve or prepare food, and about polycultures and the miraculous complexity of an ecosystem. So many different native plants, insects and animals can be supported in our forest gardens, so many more meals can come from them. And much peace and joy is to be found spending time watching the unfolding of nature in one place. As well as connecting our forest gardens to the wider world of ecosystems and biodiversity we are connected to one another in the human and cultural realm, sharing our inspirations, our ideas, plants and seeds, information, knowledge, expertise, services, inspiration and so on.
It may (or may not) take time to uncover our own unique perspectives and questions, but on the day that the questions that matter to you arise – get out there and spend however long it takes to answer them. And then please share what you have learned with everyone else!
Forest gardening principle: polyculture learning is slow learning.
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Several vegetables are perennial, and some that are biennial behave as perennial. I have been growing the same rhubarb that my great grandfather gave me before I was in kindergarten. One colony lives on the edge of a forest near Brookdale, although it is obviously not native. Dock is related, and grows like a weed in the forest here, although not one of my favorites. I would not have selected it, but it has always been here, so I may as well take advantage of it.
Hi Anni, loving your posts! Do let me know if you would like a follow up article in the love food forests page- the last post was bad timing for you as your second book hadnt come out as yet. For a “good” post involving veges, i am getting around 40 to 50,000 views. Happy to promote you and your books..i would need around 3 paragraphs and beautiful photos! Let me know Cheers Deb
Thank you – that’s lovely of you. I will write something (hopefully next week) and send. Hope all well in beautiful New Zealand. Anni