Besides our food-harvest, we also harvest lots of wonderful moments in the forest garden, and we get to know lots of interesting, kind and dedicated people who come and visit us to learn more about forest gardening.
Once upon a time – around 10 years ago – I participated in the first online experimentation with Carbon Conversations facilitated by Pam Candea. That was the starting point of a journey that has changed everything in our lives.
After the Carbon Conversation-sessions I considered if I should translate the concept to Danish and started looking for a Danish organisation to team up with – and found the Danish permaculture association. I never translated the concept, and I am not a member of the permaculture association, but I became, together with my husband Steffen, completely engrossed by the concept of forest gardening, which is an integrated part of permaculture.
Carbon Conversations covers – as most readers here will know – the fields of energy in houses, transport, food and commodities. I had already worked a lot with the energy-issues both professionally and in our home, but really got caught by the food-issue. At that time, we had a holiday home in the deep forests of Småland in Sweden, where we enjoyed being so much closer to nature – plants, birds, animals, air, water – than in our city-life north of Copenhagen in Denmark. The idea of combining nature with the production of food simply caught us both. Now we have sold the summerhouse and our house in Copenhagen and bought an old farmhouse, still in Småland but a little closer to Denmark and our children and grandchildren. Here we experiment with all the Carbon Conversation-issues – and with extra energy dedicated to the production of our own food, in a plot for annual vegetables as well as in our 1000m2 forest garden.
What is a forest garden?
A forest garden is a food producing ecosystem that imitates natural ecosystems, being rich in biodiversity and much more resilient than a traditional vegetable garden where you grow annual vegetables like carrots, potatoes and lettuce. In a forest garden you grow a diversity of perennial food crops mixed in a diverse, polyculture system with several storeys. In the top you have trees with fruits and nuts, next storey houses the berries, then comes the larger perennial vegetables and in the bottom, you have cover plants. All mixed with each other to avoid the risks and disadvantages of monocultures – exactly as in the fringe of a forest.
In a fully developed forest garden, most plants are perennial. They are part of a balanced and relatively stable ecosystem that doesn’t start from fresh every year. The plants stand stable with their roots deep into the soil where they participate with fungi in an exchange of nutrients and energy. That makes them much more resilient against heat, drought and wind.
Most plants in a forest garden are food-producing and the rest are either insect plants or nutrient collectors. Some (most) of them are very pretty as well – but the purpose of a forest garden is not to look good (like in a flower garden). The purpose is to produce food while at the same time supporting biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
The polyculture-mixture of trees, bushes and herbs is important for several reasons. Most important is it to create lots of hiding places and lots of different food sources for many different insects. With a very biodiverse food-producing ecosystem, you get a much more resilient system, with lots of predators to balance the number of vermin. Furthermore, biodiversity is decreasing globally, and we should all do our utmost to provide living spaces and food for as many insects, birds and wild animals as possible – also in our food-production.
In a forest garden you don’t have naked soil. In a full-grown forest garden, the soil is covered with plants, and in a developing forest garden, we cover the space between plants with organic material. Naked soil is very vulnerable to drought and erosion, and life in the soil – micro-organisms, fungi and bacteria – has much better chances to live and thrive if the ground is covered with either plants or organic material. The soil stays moist and the organic material composts into humus which contributes to the life of both animals and plants. And carbon in the form of CO2 is sequestrated and stored as different carbon-connections in the stems, branches and roots of the plants and the humus in the soil.
Our experiences with forest gardening
We started developing our forest garden in 2016 and now only six years later we are harvesting lots of fruits, berries and vegetables, from early spring till late fall. We get many visits in the forest garden by people interested in a more sustainable life and food production.
You are also welcome – either if you come to Sweden some day or on our website (unfortunately so far only in Danish – but with lots of photos): https://gammelgaard.se/skovhave/
By Christina Meyer
To build a better future we need to build a better present! These are wise words, but how can we make a better “present” without having the right conversations?
Image credit: www.unsplash.com
Are you talking about climate change in your business? Perhaps it’s been kicked down the agenda in favour of growth strategies or commercial processes; if so, it’s time to re-think your priorities. The effects of climate change are becoming more obvious every year and it’s affecting local and global communities. People, nations, and businesses must adapt to survive.
What is Net Zero and why do we need it?
We are living in the Anthropocene, an epoch of earth characterised by the dominance of humans on the planet. Humans have impacted the planet significantly, changing the landscapes dramatically and increasing the presence of poisonous gases in the atmosphere.
Human existence is only possible because the earth absorbed these poisonous gases and trapped them underground making photosynthesis possible and therefore oxygen. Today, industrial activity is releasing these gases into the air. Find out more with Carbon Conversations.
How can I make my business sustainable?
At one time (not too long ago) commerce was all about growth, but that was before the realities of climate change started to take effect. Now businesses and customers realise the importance of long term strategies that limit carbon output to Net Zero while maintaining productivity.
Commercial sustainability is the path to Net Zero and a carbon-neutral planet - that is a planet that does not produce more carbon than it can absorb. Every person and business has a part to play but it isn’t always straightforward. Learn how to meet Net Zero targets at The Surefoot Effect.
How can we overcome eco-anxiety?
Eco anxiety refers to the feeling of fear we get concerning environmental destruction and our societies of the future. Eco anxiety can affect people on a personal level, but it can also affect companies - how is it possible to plan for the future when it is so uncertain and perilous?
There’s good news! Although eco-anxiety can make us feel powerless, one of the best ways to cope is to take positive action. Understanding the theory behind eco-anxiety and teaching practices to alleviate this is what The Surefoot Effect does best - see their Resilience Workshops.
What is a company’s “climate shadow”?
Much is made for our carbon footprints nowadays, everyone is encouraged to calculate how much carbon they use in their daily lives and to make changes to reduce that number; while this practice is admirable on a personal level it is somewhat misleading and doesn’t go far enough.
The carbon footprint was thought up by major oil companies and directs attention away from the real problem. The “climate shadow” is a more useful idea, it reclaims the language of climate change and offers a more holistic measure of carbon consumption for people and companies.
The Surefoot Effect
The Surefoot Effect works with communities and businesses on a range of climate change issues. Through workshops, courses, mentoring, and team engagement, you can learn how to equip your business to meet the challenges of climate change. The challenges are both psychological and practical, but they require the right conversations to build a better future.
By James Bollen
James Bollen is a digital writer and content creator. He writes articles and blogs in a wide range of niches including business and technology but has a particular interest in conscious living practices, nature appreciation, and creative pursuits. He lives in Glasgow with his partner and sibling cats, Hansel and Gretel.
Liz from Surefoot is working in Midlothian on the Penicuik Carbon Challenge
project. She facilitated a Carbon Conversations Lent group for a local church community, where the participants aimed to focus on carbon reduction and climate change for Lent this year after their church pledged to a net zero emissions target by 2030.
A lot of the participants started the course thinking that big changes to their lifestyle were unlikely. However, the group has really come round to the idea of leaving a legacy of low carbon changes for future generations and have some big changes planned such as installing solar panels and switching to electric vehicles. They also plan to run a monthly low carbon topic for the church congregation with helpful info and advice.
The project is funded by the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.