By Timothy Gamble (October 21, 2011)
This is the third part of a three part series on how to get started in forest gardening (read part one and part two). For those unfamiliar with the concept, I would suggest reading my Introduction to Forest Gardening.
Check out these organizations and websites for more information on forest gardening, including ideas for what trees, shrubs and other plants may be suitable for your forest garden.
Agroforestry Research Trust - The world's leading temperate forest garden research institution. Excellent publications, including Agroforestry News.
American Bamboo Society - Amateur and professional bamboo enthusiasts.
American Chestnut Foundation - The American Chestnut Foundation is working to restore the American chestnut tree to its native range within the woodlands of the eastern United States.
Arbor Day Foundation - In the USA, the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Wizard is a very useful database of trees, including fruit and nut trees. You can look up trees by zip code, hardiness zones, types, height, spread, soil type, sun exposure and growth rate.
Association for Temperate Agroforestry - Promoting agroforestry including forest farming.
North American Native Plant Society - Native plant enthusiasts from the U.S. and Canada. Can connect you with one of the many regional native plant associations.
North American Mycological Association - Amateur and professional mushroom enthusiasts. Can connect you with one of the many regional mycological associations. For both wild collectors and growers of mushrooms.
North American Fruit Explorers - In the USA and Canada, NAFX is devoted to the discovery, cultivation and appreciation of superior varieties of fruits and nuts.
Northern Nut Growers Association - Promotes the cultivation of nut trees in North America.
Land Institute - Researching "natural systems agriculture", perennial polycultures modeled on prairie vegetation. Breeding new perennial grain and legume crops.
PawPaw Foundation - Kentucky State University has the only full-time pawpaw research program in the world.
Plants for a Future - Plants for a Future is a fantastic resource for forest gardening, and has extensive information on 7,000+ plants for both the USA and UK.
Seed Saver's Exchange - Great source of heirloom seeds and plants of vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs, and flowers.
Society for Ecological Restoration - Organization dedicated to repairing damaged ecosystems. Many of their techniques may be of interest to forest gardeners.
United Plant Savers - Encourages preservation and restoration of native medicinal plants to prevent overharvesting of wild stocks.
What about traditional garden veggies?
Does having a forest garden mean giving up traditional garden veggies? No. Most early season veggies should also do well in the moisture and shade of a forest garden. In addition to the traditional garden veggies mentioned in part two (such as spinach, kale, garlic, onions, lettuce), consider experimenting with fava beans, peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, shallots, rutabaga, mustard greens, celery, carrots, Brussels sprouts and beets in your forest garden.
Potatoes can also be grown in partial shade provided they get a half-day of full sunlight. I've seen some varieties of bush beans listed as shade tolerant, though I have no personal experience growing them in shade.
Many warm season, full sunlight loving veggies won't grow in a forest garden. Among these are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, corn, okra, melons, eggplant, peanuts, sweet potatoes, beans (except for fava and possibly some varieties of bush beans) and some herbs. However, these can be planted along the outer edges of your forest garden, utilizing the resources, such as compost and mulch, provided by the forest garden.
You can use other gardening techniques along with forest gardening. For example, consider setting aside an area for lasagna-style garden beds for many of your sun-loving crops. You may also do some container gardening for many full-sun crops.
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