Forest gardening course: starting to explore a forest garden

A 2 day course to introduce forest gardening.

Saturday 18 June and Sunday 10 July 2022. 9:30-4:30 each day.

At a small forest garden in Alfreton, Derbyshire. The garden is in its 7th year.

We will have use of the community hall next door, benefiting from the kitchen and toilet facilities.

What is forest gardening about?

You can use the forest garden approach at different scales – from a garden bed to allotment or field. This course will show you principles that you can apply in your context.

Forest gardening mimics a natural woodland edge. It integrates plants at different heights, using 7 ‘layers’ from canopy down to roots. A garden as a forest, rather than a garden in a forest.

This an efficient way to create a garden that produces many yields, for much of the year. There is resilience in diversity of crops.

Applying the forest garden approach in a front garden side bed. A plum and elder tree alongside redcurrant and jostaberry shrubs, with garlic mustard, rhubarb, comfreys, perennial kale, sedum, garlic, thyme, tayberry and more edibles below.

Typically, the plants grown are mostly hardy perennials – ones that are around every year. And there’s an emphasis on using all space, up, down and around.

We can design the forest garden to be productive towards meeting our needs. We can grow plants for food, drink, medicine, fuel, fibre, wildlife value and more.

In a forest garden, plants are grown in polycultures, in a community with the other plants. The gardener works on co-operation with the soil food web, wildlife, and the plants to create a garden of abundant yields.

About the learning

On the course, we will cover:

  • Ethics and principles of permaculture
  • Starting designing for a forest garden
  • Observation – working with what you have and what works
  • Plants, their roles and functions
  • Propagating plants
  • Ways to make a start on a forest garden

The course is to be led by Ryan Sandford-Blackburn, who has been forest gardening for 9 years. He holds a permaculture design certificate.

Ryan has taught permaculture courses locally and online with the Permaculture Association (Britain); he worked as strategic communications coordinator there for nearly 8 years.

Forest garden polyculture planting in summer

Book your place

Places are limited. There’s space for 7 more people to join.

Sliding scale £60-£90. If cost is a barrier to your participation, please get in touch about bursary options.

Lunch and refreshments are included. Food and drink will be vegan friendly and locally sourced, prepared by us.

Where is it? Getting there

The forest garden is sited on an allotment plot in Alfreton, Derbyshire.

It is a 5 minute walk from a bus stop, 15 minute walk from the train station, there’s secure bicycle storage, and is a 2 minute drive from the A61 junction of the A38.

We will confirm the address after you have booked.

Access statement

The community hall is wheelchair accessible. The garden has uneven, narrow grass and woodchip paths, which may not be easily accessed with a wheelchair. ‘Babes in arms’ are welcome. Dogs can be accommodated – please ask first. Please inform us of any food allergies on booking. The food and drink provided will be vegan.

Why forest gardening?

  • A natural approach to gardening
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Hyperlocal food supply
  • Provides a varied diet
  • Playspace
  • A ‘backyard ecosystem’

A forest garden approach creates the opportunity to grow many plants. With many uses. Food, medicine, fuel, fibre, nectar and dye plants. To name just a few!

Cultures around the world have cultivated gardens in ways that resemble what we call a forest garden. Home Gardens in Kerala, ancient food forests in Morocco, the Maya tropical woodlands, the forests planted by First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest, the Hopi, and many others, documented and forgotten.

As a 3D, dynamic space, it’s really much easier and more enriching to experience a forest garden in person. This course was first designed in 2019, then I wasn’t able to deliver it, until now. I’m looking forward to welcoming people to the space I have designed and worked in for the past 6 years.

Get a taster

International Permaculture Day Tour of Ryan’s Forest Garden

International Permaculture Day 2022 is on Sunday 1 May. To show permaculture design in practice, I am hosting a tour of my allotment forest garden in Alfreton.

I’ll give background to the space and how we use it, introduce many of the edible and useful plants, and answer questions about the garden. I’ll show what’s worked, what isn’t, and what I’m doing about it. Select plants will be available to buy, grown by Earthed Up!

Sunday 1 May, 11am, £5 donation on the day.

E-mail to book your place, so I know how many people to expect.

Watch videos about forest gardening