Forest Gardening with Robert Hart (Complete)


the site of an ancient Celtic monastery on the Wenlock edge in Shropshire is home to Robert Hart’s forest garden inspired by the urge to create a practical solution to world hunger whilst caring for his handicapped brother Robert has carved out a haven of tranquillity and abundance his vision was to plant a miniature edible forest which could fulfill the needs of a healthy diet in beautiful surroundings some 30 years later this mature garden in world border country now serves as a model of what can be achieved in any backyard success depends on the understanding that useful plants can be grown in a succession of layers which imitate nature the natural forest is regarded as having seven stories as they say the top saw story being told night demanding trees well a second story is short shade tolerant trees the third story is the shrubs never the fourth the herbaceous the fifth comprises plants that spread horizontally the six is the rhizosphere or root and the seventh is the vertical their comprising climbers and creepers Mahatma Gandhi has been the enduring inspiration for this vibrant greenery his vision of a world order based on democratically organized self-sustaining small communities is the guiding principle of robert’s work but other influences are to be found amongst the trees which have both practical and spiritual significance this tree is a Japanese ornamental plum dedicated tutorial he Tokugawa who was known as the Japanese Gandhi he was a Christian evangelist and also a political and social reformer he spent half his life in prison and the other half advising government departments on such questions as slum clearance like Gandhi he was vitally interested in all aspects of human welfare and at one time he became concerned about erosion in the Japanese Alps which had been caused by wholesale deforestation you notice that the only basic answer was a program of tree planting and the only way to induce the hill farmers to plant trees was to get them to plant further bearing trees which would provide food for their animals as well as halting erosion he was us as far as one knows the first man in history to see the link between conservation and food production since the death of his brother Roberts times are now divided between writing and gardening together with former railway engineer garnet Jones he carries out the routine maintenance to the garden using techniques which have been researched and refined over the years as far as possible this whole garden is kept permanently knowledge throughout the year marching not only helps to build up the fertility of the soil and suppress weeds by his provides ideal conditions for the soil organisms that is conditions of a relatively warm and dry in the winter and relatively cool and moist in the summer which of the conditions which are nourished by the living soil organisms such as earthworms and innumerable micro fauna and micro fungi which are the main sources of fertility the high art of organic growing is producing really good compost and a really good compost comprises the widest possible variety of organic materials among the most useful of organic materials woody plants but obviously they take a very long time to rock down so to convert them into compost they have to be shredded I have an excellent German shredding machine and woody materials such as hedge cuttings the most striking features of the garden are its fertility and lack of pests and diseases I don’t use any chemicals on this place at all that use a foliar sprays of seaweed liquid comfrey and liquid Nettles these do not have the effect of destroying bugs and germs but build up the natural disease and pest resistance of the plants and also an extremely interesting subject which is being studied especially in the forest is the relationship between different plants that is a study that is very much in its infancy in the West the way that certain plants seem to benefit each other stimulate each other’s growth and ward off each other’s pests and disease you at first it’s not easy to identify the different layers in the lush density of the forest garden but a guided tour soon unravels the complexity to reveal an intriguing design this shows four of the seven layers of the natural forest first this is an old pear tree which constitutes what is called the canopy that is the highest layer of the seven layer of the natural forest then the new tree this is a stack swoons humor which the Americans call a lemonade tree which constitutes the low tree there of shade tolerant soft trees below that is the shrub layer consisting of currants gooseberries lava soft food bushes this for instance is a blackcurrant to know that is the herbaceous layer consisting of herbs such as this Apple mint and that Wingert starting from the shrub layer or low tree there this is a Japanese wine day a very choice berry which the Japanese making the wine which is also a member of the same family called rebus Newton’s which spreads horizontally by underground rhizomes so it’s liable to turn up all over the page it produces a small sweet berry the sixth of the seven layers is the rhizosphere or roots there where our growing plants that are cultivated for their roots or tubers this is a plant called maschera which comes from the Andes where the potatoes also come from and it’s a kind of small potato with a nasturtium like flower a very attractive flower of the nasturtiums and this is an example of the seventh Flair or vertical layer consisting of climbers in this case a nasturtiums and the runner bean which were about to climb this old wild cherry tree last year I have a distortion and the runner being trained and they climbed almost to the top it was strange to see runner beans in the branches of the wrong tree this is another example of the plans that cover the vertical dimension originally called a Chinese gooseberry but first imported into New Zealand so it’s become called a kiwi fruit it is a climber a bill Mollison Congress permaculture told me that kiwi fruits time to great heights of trees in Tasmania so I’m hoping this full time to robert’s near neighbor his psychotherapist Virginia Smith they’re currently exploring the links between personal and planetary health something you said last week Roberts about unlocking the facility for fertility of the soil can you can you repeat that [Music] it’s a question of cherishing the plants that are already there and I think applies really very much to the they speak of fertility being locked up and one of the main aims of promoting fertility in fertility is not something that one puts on so much as releases that is already there it’s a question of when the allowing the activities of such things of soil roots and channels in the soil and therefore build up a circulating system so that the energy that’s already in the soil is free to circulate nature’s complex weather the inputs checks and balances are constantly encouraged minimizing the effects of drought and ensuring a constant cycle of fertility the result is healthy crops which supply a local green grocer and whole food restaurant in imitation of the natural forest clearings exist for more conventional growing sun-loving plants can thrive here thousand head kale and Alexander’s grow alongside broad beans potatoes and other well-known vegetables nearby is Robert the most recent innovation for a forest garden in miniature which demonstrates the degree of maturity that can be achieved in under four years it’s largely a mixture of fruit trees fruit bushes and herbs at one end is a Petri whose edible pods form an important part of the diet in Siberia to the untrained eye the profusion of exotic species thriving on Roberts land seems for wildering however it’s relatively easy to create a backyard forest garden using familiar trees and plants the advice I give to anyone who asks me how to start a forest garden from scratch is about 20 feet each way then plant dwarf trees in midway between the standard trees plant fruit bushes [Music] established is cutting back plants to try to encroach on each other which is something that has to be done I think it’s possible to say that it is a system combining maximum output for Robert Hart is now successfully pioneer temperate forest garden for 30 years through his writing and media appearances he has inspired many others to take up the challenge of sustainable food production

9 thoughts on “Forest Gardening with Robert Hart (Complete)

  1. I was reading today about Robert Hart's life, who passed awau in 2000.
    He is one of the pioneers on the Food Forest concept.
    Robert Hart inspired Martin Crawford, a contemporary Food Forest experty from the UK.
    One video with Martin Crawford:
    watch?v=M_a5tPoOZQA

  2. Cereal growing has been practiced in Britain for at least 5000 years , up until the invention of the tractor at least it was back breaking hard work, Why then did no one in all that time ever think of forest gardening ?

  3. Wonderful to watch this. We're at such an early stage with our forest garden that it's hard to imagine how it will look and feel when mature.

  4. Also interesting that Robert Hart then advocated compost, whereas nowadays Martin Crawford prefers "chop & drop" from what I read. I composted in a previous garden, but now experimenting with the chop and drop approach. Are others doing chop and drop too? How do you find it?

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