Popular Mechanics (South Africa)
HOW TO CREATE A SELFSUSTAINING GARDEN
SO MANY PLANTS THAT WE ENJOY – especially trees – are the gift of someone else’s foresight. A sapling in one generation becomes a landmark in the next. My parent’s forest garden, an 8 × 8 m space behind the driveway, layered with trees, shrubs, and ground cover, technically started with the Holtzes. As the prior owners of the home, they planted cedars along the back fence. When my parents moved in 30 years ago, their neighbours had an enormous hackberry tree that dropped seeds into our garden. A few of those seeds grew into trees that ultimately stretched into a canopy above the cedars. Then 10 years ago, my mom dug up two redbud trees, the size of twigs, from her father’s garden when he died and replanted them in her yard. Now, at five metres tall, they form the understory. And last year, we added witch hazel and a buttonbush, carved out short pathways, and laid a ground cover of shade-loving perennials – columbine, oak and palm sedge grasses, and ferns that will someday creep along the ground and cover the soil entirely.
We can’t predict who will inherit the garden next, but in a way, the work we’re doing now is for them. Just as the cedars and the redbuds were for us.
The key to a long-lived forest garden is biodiversity – and that goes beyond flora. You need to attract and feed beneficial creatures of all kinds, including insects and birds to pollinate plants, spread seeds, and regulate pest populations, as well as microbes and fungi to enrich the soil. Here, Jessi Bloom, owner of NW Bloom Ecological Services and author of Creating Sanctuary, shares some guidelines for designing your own forest garden.