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Climate Resilience: Think and Act like a Forest Garden – A report from the National Forest Gardening Scheme AGM and Roundtable event in Manchester.

event report

On Saturday 28th September, the National Forest Garden Scheme held their Annual General meeting and roundtable event on Climate Resilience in Manchester. The National Forest Garden Scheme (NFGS) aims to connect as many people as possible to these inspiring spaces.

The Round Table event was hosted by Manchester Friends of the Earth at the Green Fish Resource Centre. Attendees then moved on to Hulme Community Garden Centre (HCGC) and Birchfields, Rusholme. They explored how forest gardens contribute to communities, places, tree cover, soils and carbon storage and resilience to extreme circumstances, weathers and climate change. We need to ‘Garden like a Forest’ expand the roles of Forest Gardens in all sorts of spaces as we develop community strengths, better land and water management and greener local economies.

WHAT is a Forest Garden? a garden modelled on natural woodland’s layers of trees, shrubs, herbs and groundcover, designed to grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs and salad leaves from mainly perennial and self-seeding plants that mimic a natural ecosystem. It can be beautiful, diverse, high-yield and low-maintenance.

A typical Forest garden

Forest Gardening is ‘Gardening with Nature’, applying principles and patterns of nature and introducing plants to support each other, for varied purposes and to naturalise. Each garden reflects the people involved, but the ecosystems established should endure due to mutually beneficial relations between their elements and energies available. Akin to wild and organic gardens, they become biodiversity ‘hot spots’ with many benefits.,

A Forest Garden is designed for, then adapts to, or copes with, the light, water, winds and slopes of its site and to its foragers, gardeners and gleaners. New plants naturalise and perform functions anticipated and unexpected in succession. A Forest Garden may be in:

* a community orchard or semi-natural woodland, domestic garden/allotment,

*Park, nursery/school/college/university, housing estate, place of work/worship …

* Wasteland or edge of fields, water courses, tracks or transport routes; &

* alleys, balconies, roofs or yards and the Northern Forest!

The ‘Forest Garden in a Box’ prototype was launched at Hulme Community Garden Centre who led its development with input from Tomas Remiarz and others of NFGS and the Permaculture convergence.

‘Forest Gardens in Boxes’ (or other minimal packaging) will be available from HCGC at Potato Day in February next year. They’ll enable many people to grow forest gardens via a simple set or ‘guild’ of plants. They’ll become living ecosystems to provide fruit, herbs and salad leaves/flowers, maybe veg and therapeutic/craft materials and support wildlife.

Depending on your space/land, about 9-12m 2 plot, the basic Box/guild could fill it. The basic prototype is: Apple tree; Gooseberry & two Currant bushes; Strawberry runners; Chives/other Allium; Comfrey, Fennel, Lavender, Lemon balm, Mallow, & Mint; Chard, Marigold & Nasturtium seeds; and Clover/Bird’s foot trefoil/other fixer.

Report by Jane Morris.

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