Incredible forest gardens

Manchester Climate Monthly volunteer Roisin Weintraub investigates local food production.

I have heard and been very impressed with Todmorden’s Incredible Edible.  I’ve never been to see what they do, but have watched their progress via the internet and heard awed reports from people I met who have bothered to wander over to see them. For those of you who have not heard of them either, they grow and campaign for local food, with the goal of making Todmorden a self-sustaining town. Look them up they do an awful lot; herbs, vegetables, eggs and fish

As it turns out my local area is one of the places that looked at this project and thought I want one too.  The Prestwich Incredible Edible, (can be found here: ) started in 2010 and again was something I was watching from afar. But as its projects got closer and closer to my house, it became harder and harder to ignore. A walled-in beer garden (Rueben, my toddler somewhat trapped) a twenty minute walk from my house became a site in May last spring. So it was with some guilt I agreed to write a piece on a talk I attended put on by the incredible edible “Woodland Gardening” – a talk by permaculture expert Angus Soutar

The argument for forest gardening is this; nature left to its own devices makes forests, so how do we make forests make food?  The father of Forest gardening is a guy called Rob Hart. He created the first forest garden in his home of Shopshire. He traveled, studying the structure of forests.

  1. A ‘canopy’ layer consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
  2. A ‘low-tree’ layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
  3. A ‘shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
  4. A ‘herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
  5. A ‘ground cover’ layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
  6. A ‘rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
  7. A vertical ‘layer’ of vines and climbers.

On each of these layers could be food producing plants. In Hart’s words: “Forest gardening offers the potential for all gardeners to grow an important element of their health-creating food; it combines positive gardening and positive health . . . The wealth, abundance and diversity of the forest garden provides for all human needs – physical needs through foods, materials and exercise, as well as medicines and spiritual needs through beauty and the connection with the whole.”

Gardening like this is not high yield, but is low effort too. Instead of fighting the land to force massive crops working with the plants, and making the plants work together, with things like companion planting to combat disease and pests.

As it turns out the purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness of the Prestwich Incredible Edible and one of there a recently started projects the Prestwich Clough Forest Garden, This is the undertaking of some local folks who I met while at a permiculture event at the Middlewood Trust. I’ve offered them some help, or at least come have a look so I will be able to see these ideas in action.

Roisin Weintraub

PS Image is from here;


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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2 Responses to Incredible forest gardens

  1. We have tried convincing the likes of councillor Nigel Murphy, something similar for Birley Fields, Hulme. But, we are always dismissed by the council, as if we are insane. Instead, Manchester City Council, wants to build on, what could be allotments, open green spaces or even urban farms. And for what, look at the amount of empty property around Manchester which is new build?

  2. Laurence Menhinick says:

    Well this has inspired me to plant raspberries and blackberries in the garden – I think trees, with or without fruits, are less and less likely to be planted in urban gardens nowadays because roots are permanently blamed for house/ garage/ paths/ fence damage. If anything there’s a surge of cutting down trees – some neighbours here cut a perfectly good apple tree in the middle of their garden ……. to install a large trampoline instead.

    To add to Patrick’s comment too, according to my OU book ( Changing Environments, J Freeland, 2003 Wiley p140) UK land values per hectare in the North West are roughly:
    residential land £600K to £1.1m
    industrial land £275K TO £400K
    sand and gravel extraction £40K to £50K
    arable land £8K
    Obviously money grows on some land…. LM

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