Tag Archives: Forest Gardening

Redesigning a Forest Garden at El Manzano

In October last year we ran a design and implementation forest gardening course at El Manzano Eco-School. Our project was a forgotten forest garden that was installed in 2013 during a Bioconstruyendo event at El Manzano, known as “La Nave” or “The Ship”. In some respects the garden was well designed. The canopy density of the fruit trees was appropriate and it had some defined paths. However, the paths were too thin to allow ease of access and there was no connection of the garden with the nearby kitchen and classroom, nor a space to do work. It needed a redesign. We applied a 6 stage design process – evaluation, goal setting, site analysis, conceptual design, detailed design and implementation.

En Octubre el año pasado, realizamos una curso de diseño y implementación de Bosque Comestibles en Ecoescuela El Manzano. Nuestra proyecto era un bosque comestible olvidado que fue instalado en 2013 durante el concurso Bioconstruyendo, conocido como ¨La Nave¨. En muchas maneras era bien diseñado: los frutales tenia espacio adecuado y algunas caminos era bien definido. Sin embargo, los caminos era demasiado delgado para usar una carretilla y la jardin no tiene conecion con la concina o sala de classes cerca, ni espacio para trabajo. Se nesecita re-diseño. Nosotros utilisamos una processo de diseño con 6 pasos – evaluación, Definition of objectivos, analysis del sitio, Diseño conceptual, Diseño detallado y implementación.

El Nave antes de rediseño


With the group of students on the course we undertook an Evaluation of the previous design. The team at El Manzano explained that the first implementation of The Nave had been too ambitious, generating a lot of labor needs for irrigation and also for weeding. It also didn´t draw people in as it was hard to move around in and disconnected from the surrounding space. They also wanted the space to become a social area that students or visitors could enjoy with flowers, aromatic herbs and fruit. The students then undertook an analysis of the site to determine what we were working with. A summary of these, according to a scale of permanence is provided below.

A summary of the site analysis

Site Analysis of ¨La Nave¨

  1. Climate – temperate climate, sun access to the north, cold winds from the east and south
  2. Form of the landscape – Central Valley of Chile, depositional sand landscape, generally flat site with some mounds to the east and north
  3. Water – Little access to tap water, biofilter waterway and soak area to the west of the site
  4. Access and Circulation – poor access to the site, thin and undefined pathways, poor connection to CoCo / plaza / baños seco
  5. Vegetacion and Wildlife – 10 tree species occur on site including Robinia pseudoacacia, Poplars, Fiejoas, Figs and Quillayes. Herbs such as comfrey are well established and there is lots of grass and blackberry present on site. Wildlife in the area includes insects, butterflies, small birds and dogs
  6. Microclimates – A few areas have protection from the winds due to created mounds, near the biofilter the soil is much wetter compared with the east of the site.
  7. Buildings and Infrastructure – There is a fence along the eastern edge of the site, there is no water or power infrastructure on the site
  8. Zones and Patchs – 7 distinct patches are present on the site along a gradient away from the biofilter and moving from the more established trees at the south to the site in the North
  9. Soil – sandy with vegetable cover, some organic matter present, more organic matter present closer to the biofilter
  10. Aesthetics – the site feels abandoned, it has no real aesthetic  theme and few flowers.


Con el grupo de estudiantes en el curso, hicimos una evaluación del proyecto y diseña previo. El equipo de El Manzano explicaron que la primera implimentacion de la nave fue demasiado ambiciouso, generando mucho trabajo reigando y desmalezando. Tambien, no fue sufficiente para traer la gente adentro la jardin porque esta disconectado de la otra facilidades. Tambien, como nuevo objectivos, el equipo quieraron un espacio mas bonito para la gente con mas flores, hierbas aromatico y frutas. Despues, las estudiantes hizo una analysis del sitio. Una resumen es adjunto abajo.

sito analysis cummary of la nave

Analysis del sitio de ¨La Nave¨

  1. Clima – templado, acceso de sol al norte, vientos frio del este y sur
  2. Forma de la paisaje – Valle central de Chile, paisaje depositional, generalmente plano con algunas lomos a la este y norte
  3. Agua – poco accesso al agua de llave, biofiltro en al oeste del sitio tiene un suelo mojado.
  4. Acceso y Circulación – mal aceso al sitio, caminos delgado y con poco definition, mal conección al coco/plaza y baños seco.
  5. Vegetación y Vida Silvestre – 10 especias del arbole son presente en el sito incluyendo Robinia pseudoacacia, Alamos, Fiejoas, Higueras y Quillayes. Hierbas como comfrey son estabilecido y hay mucho pasto y mora. Vida silvestre incluyes insectos, mariposas, pajaros chico y perros.
  6. Microclimas – Algunas areas tiene un poco de protecion del viento por los lomos del sitio. Cerca el biofiltro el suelo es mas mojado que el este del sitio.
  7. Edeficios y Infrastructura – Hay una cerco al este del sitio, no hay agua no electricidad en el sitio.
  8. Zonas y Parches – Hay 7 parches  distincto en un gradiente desde cerca al biofiltro y lejo del biofiltro. Tambien hay un gradiente desde los arboles mas estabicido en el sur del sitio.
  9. Suelo – Arenoso con curbertura vegetal, materia organica presente, mas materia organica lo mas cerca del biofiltro.
  10. Esteticos – el sitio sientes abandonado, no tienes un estetico tematico y poco flores.

Zonas y parches identificado por los estudiantes

Zone and patch identification

Moving from this site analysis, each group developed a concept design that was presented back to the group for comment.

Despues esta analysis, cada grupo hizo un diseño conceptual y despues presentaron estos al grupo.

Concept Design for La Nave showing defined Patches and design themes

Diseño conceptual demonstrando camino, accesso y diseño de parches

Concept design showing access, hedges, vegetation architecture and patch design

In discussion with the El Manzano team, we looked at the common themes amongst the designs and generated a summary design to define our implmentation step.

En discusiones con el equipo el manzano, buscamos los temas comun entre los diseños y yo hice un diseño conceptual de resumen

Concept design showing general access and requirements to connect the garden to the surrounding elements such as kitchen, classroom, etc

Phased design overlay showing the initial work priorities required to create the mainframe of the design.

With our main objectives for our first phase of the design outlined and a conceptual idea of the pathways that the garden required. We set about clearing the site and defining the pathways.

Pathway development and coco connection

Using the new access pathways


With the mainframe defined, we knew that we had space for about 10 fruit trees. These were planted with rings of mulch which were  planted with beneficial herbs in an expanding nuclei pattern which would allow us to develop the garden as succession progresses and as more water resources become available. Detailed design work was undertaken with the species available working out the needs and products of each species and how they could best fit together to minimise competition and maximise additive yields using mutual support guilds

Estudiantes construyendo un camino de aceso

Forming the primary paths

Con el mainframe definidos, sabemos que el espacio fue suffieinte por 10 arboles frutales. Plantamos estos plantas en el primer parche con una anillo de mulch y compost, plantado con hierbas beneficial en una patrone de nucleos expansivos, que va a darnos la capacidad a expandar la plantas herbal cuando hay mas recursos de agua son presente. Diseño detallado fue cumplido con las especias disponible, determinando los nesecidades y productos de cada especia y determinando como se puede cada mejor juntas para minimizar competencia y maximizar rendimiento addititivo con gremios del apoyo mutual.

Fruit tree underplanted with beneficial herbs

Creating mulched pathways around the fruit trees

Well defined access area with seating space

  In addition to these fruit tree planting, at the entrance to the Nave we planted a number of bushes and herbs that would serve as a visual barrier, drawing the eye into the garden and blocking views of hte composting toilets. As these plants establish, outdoor rooms will be felt in the garden.

Session de curso sobre plantando arboles, plantas y mas

En addicion a los arboles frutales, a la entrada a la nave plantamos arbustos y hierbas que va a forma una barrera visual y traer el ojo al jardin y tambien bloquear la vista a los baños secos. Cuando los plantas se establicieron, salas de vida de aire libra va a ser apparente en el jardin forestal.


It was a great course and a wonderful feeling to see new students implementing their new knowledge and also seeing how quickly we changed the feel of the space with a little work and planting. As the space develops it will be great to undertake an evaluation of the implementation work and make changes to the subsequent patches and phases of La Nave. It Sails Again.

Fue un curso incrible y un sentido incrible a ver las estudiantes nuevas implementando su conocimineto nuevo y  tambien para ver que rapido tranformamos el espacio con un poco de trabajo. Con la desarollo del espacio va a ser fantastico a evaluar nuestra trabajo de implementation y planificar el trabajo en los proximo parches y fases de La Nave. Se Reflota!

Equipo de aprendices           Student team

Tagged , ,

Mi proximo curso de Bosque Comestible en Chile

Hola amigos, quiero compartir las noticias que va a venir un nuevo cursos de diseño de bosque comestible para Chile. El curso va a partir por el fin de semana largo en Octubre en la Eco escuela El Manzano. Hay mas información abajo. Si quieres mas información, contactarme por email harris (arroba) seedheaddesign.net. Ven y vernos.


¿Siempre has querido producir frutas, hierbas y habitat en tu patio o campo creando resiliencia y nutriendo a la vida Silvestre?. El poder de los bosques comestibles permite producir abundancia de comida y construir un ecosistema modelo. Estos increíbles ecosistemas pueden ser diseñados a una pequeña o gran escala.

En este curso te enseñaremos como comenzar el diseño de tu propio bosque comestible, además te ensenaremos sobre como plantar y por qué. Te ayudaremos a organizar el tiempo necesario para lograr tu bosque comestible. Este curso te permitirá crear un bosque comestible estético y funcional que se ajuste a tus requerimientos.


En el Bosque Comestible de escuela yarralumla, 4 años después su implementación.

Un bosque comestible esta diseñado para mimetizar la estructura y función de un ecosistema boscoso, para producir abundancia de frutos, vegetales, hierbas. En un bosque comestible puedes producir mucha comida en un espacio pequeño, ya que estamos cultivando espacios verticales y horizontales. En estos sistemas podemos obtener productos de los árboles, arbustos y hierbas que están creciendo juntos.


Bosque comestible en El Manzano despues su implementacion en 2012


4 años despues, el mismo bosque en 2016.

A través de un cuidadoso diseño, la policultura de los bosques comestibles puede producir mucho más que cuando las plantas están creciendo en un monocultivo. Esto se logra asociando a plantas en gremios, de manera que los productos y funciones de una planta cubran las necesidades y requerimiento de otras. Además, un bosque comestible busca cubrir las necesidades de animales beneficiosos que actúan como plaguicidas naturales y aportan su abono como fertilizantes, así aumentado la producción cuando residen en nuestro bosque comestible.


Un policultura de yerbas y flores para apoyar la producción de fruta

Los principios ecológicos de los Bosques comestibles pueden ser aplicados desde pequeños jardines urbanos hasta grandes proyectos agroforestales. En este curso enseñaremos los principios ecológicos para diseñar un bosque comestible y te guiaremos en el proceso del diseño de tu propio bosque comestible. Nos enfocaremos principalmente en la teoría, en que son los bosques comestibles y como diseñar y comenzar a implementar tu propio bosque comestible en casa o tu campo.


Usando herbas pioneros para mejor el suelo en el bosque comestible

En addicion de la teoria de un bosque comestible, tambien esta curso va a guiará a través del proceso de implementación de un bosque comestible.

Este curso te ayudará a realizar tus propios diseños  y evitar errores típicos al seleccionar las plantas, comprar materiales y mantener este ecosistema.

Diseño comunal del Bosque Comestible Comunitaria de Bungendore

El proceso de construcción de un bosque comestible, desde el diseño a la implementación, será cubierto desde la planificación, selección de plantas, compra de materiales, propagación de plantas, plantar y mantener el bosque comestible.

Este curso es una mezcla de teoría, demostraciones prácticas y ejercicios creativos que permitirán a los estudiantes comenzar el diseño y la implementación en el tiempo y presupuesto disponible.


Larga vista del bosque comestible en Brogo Permaculture Gardens

Este curso de bosques comestibles cubrirá:

  • Ecología de bosques. Entendiendo la función de un bosque podemos comenzar a imitarlos en forma de bosques comestibles.
  • Los roles que juegan los insectos, aves y otros animales en el bosque comestible y como proveer para las necesidades de estos organismos.
  • Sucesión. Como se desarrolla un bosque en el transcurso del tiempo y cómo podemos imitar estos procesos para desarrollar un sistema resiliente.
  • El proceso de diseño. Como podemos aplicar los principios ecológicos a nuestros objetivos para desarrollar un sistema funcional que se adecue a nuestras necesidades.
  • Selección de plantas y gremios de plantas. Al entender las necesidades y funciones de las plantas podemos comenzar a agruparlas en policulturas que proveen para las necesidades de otras plantas en vez de competir.
  • Teoría de bosques comestibles. Ejercicios de aprendizaje creativos y dinámicos que refuerzan la información dada en las clases teóricas.
  • Trabajo práctico de diseño de un bosque comestible usando la información aprendida. Estos serán realizados en grupos y también individualmente para ayudarte a comenzar el diseño de tu propio bosque comestible.
  • Manejo de la sucesión: Como podemos usar los procesos naturales de sucesión ventajosamente, que ayuden y apoyen la implementación y establecimiento de los procesos.
  • Implementación de estrategias para bosques comestibles. Diferentes métodos de establecimiento de capas en un mismo tiempo o la guía del sitio hacia la sucesión, serán explorados y analizados.
  • Selección y propagación de arbustos, hierbas y árboles para un bosque comestible. Esto permitirá a los estudiantes ahorrarse dinero al momento de elegir las plantas en un vivero.
  • Preparación apropiada del sitio. Comenzar un bosque comestible requiere de una apropiada preparación del sitio a usar, para así minimizar el trabajo de mantención en el futuro. Estrategias para la remoción del pasto, remineralizacion del suelo y prevención del crecimiento de malezas, serán comparadas y demostradas a los estudiantes, para que puedan seleccionar los métodos más apropiados para sus sitios.
  • Preparacion del sitio. Desarrollar un bosque comestible requiere de infraestructura apropiada, incluyendo caminos y un lugar para guardar herramientas y materiales.
  • Técnicas para plantar: Plantar árboles y arbustos correctamente es esencial para el éxito, establecimiento y crecimiento de un bosque comestible. En este curso se discutirán las técnicas de plantación y las opciones que aumentarán la sobrevivencia de las plantas.
  • Desarrollar un calendario de mantenimiento y evaluación del bosque comestible para asegurar que el diseño de plantación no resulte en un aumento irrazonable de trabajo con el tiempo y asegurar el establecimiento de las plantas.
  • Trabajo práctico plantando e implementando un bosque comestible usando la información aprendida. Finalizaras el curso con la confianza de crear to propio bosque comestible en casa.

Objetivos de aprendizaje:

  1. Entender la dinámica y función de los ecosistemas forestales
  2. Entender el proceso de sucesión y como diseñar a través del tiempo
  3. Entender las funciones de familias de plantas claves para producir comida y mantener los animales del bosque.
  4. Entender el proceso de diseño y como llevar a cabo un diseño de proyecto
  5. Ganar experiencia práctica para seleccionar especies para un diseño de plantación.
  6. Entender las estrategias de implementación y el uso de la sucesión cuando se establece un bosque comestible.
  7. Entender cómo se prepara el sitio para un bosque comestible, los caminos y el lugar para guardar herramientas
  8. Entender cómo se plantan correctamente árboles, arbustos y hierbas, el espaciado entre ellos y las agrupaciones de plantas.
  9. Entender las técnicas de propagación de plantas para producir abundancia en el bosque comestible.
  10. Entender como planear los distintos estadios de implementacion y mantencion de un bosque comestible, de manera que la carga de trabajo sea manejable y adecuada a tu presupuesto.
  11. Ganar experiencia práctica seleccionando especies adecuadas a tu diseño.


Tagged , , , , , ,

Exploring Forest Gardens in Chile – Upcoming Courses

Greetings from Chile. Today we have some very exciting news. We will be teaching with our Collegues at the El Manzano Eco-School in the Bio-Bio region of Chile this April.


Students survey the forest garden site

We previously worked with the team at El Manzano in 2012 when we delivered a 5 day design and implementation course. The course had over 40 students and was an amazing experience of collaborative design, Forest Garden Theory and implementation practice. Check out a profile of the design here and in the portfolio.

Students implementing irrigation canals alongside the pathways of the Forest Garden at El Manzano

Students implementing irrigation canals alongside the pathways of the Forest Garden at El Manzano

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Exploring Forest Gardens in Chile – Maqui harvest

Greetings from Chile where my wife and I are working for the next little while, exploring, learning and teaching. We’ve got some upcoming courses and lots of great photos and examples of South American Forest Gardens. Stay tuned.


Forest Labyrinth near Temuco

The thing that I love about teaching Forest Gardening in Chile is that there is a similarity in the plants from our Gondwana Connection and it is a real treat to see Nothofagus forests full of Proteaceae plants, maqui bushes and wintergreen fruits. A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of helping our friends harvest Maqui to freeze and dry so that it would last the year. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Forest Garden City: What a Forest Garden is and how they could change the urban environment

Last month, I had the great privilege to get up in front of a larger crowd than I had ever spoke to before. The occasion was TEDx Canberra 2014 where I had been invited to speak on Forest Gardening. It was a great day and I really enjoyed the opportunity to present on a topic that I am passionate about and also to see all the other great speakers on the day.

On stage at TEDx Canberra.

On stage at TEDx Canberra. Image courtesy of TEDx Canberra.

As I developed my ideas for my presentation I decided that I did not want to only present on the theories of Forest Gardening but rather try and show people that it is a technique that is based on working examples from the past which can provide for our needs in the future. Please enjoy the video of the talk below and let me know if you have an questions in the comments. I’ve explained some of the parts of the talk in a little more detail below aswell.

We have many great examples of historical edible forest gardens. The oak forests of California, The Arucaria forests of Chile, The Dehesa and Montado systems of the Mediterranean, The Bunya Forests of East Coast Australia and parts of the Amazon rainforest are but a few. These forests were all systems that were actively managed by humans so that they were producing food and remained as productive ecosystems. The idea that they were wilderness, untouched by the actions of people is ridiculous.

arucaria forests

I first delved into across the concepts of people actively managing landscapes for food when I was studying at Uni, but it was when I was working at the Botanic Gardens in Kauai’i that I really came to understand the extent to which people managed the ecosystems of the planet so that they produced food. In Kauai’i at the gardens was a remnant Ahupua’a system and we were taught how it had functioned and provided for the community that lived in each distinct water catchment on the island.

A cartoon of an A'hapua'ha system on Kauai'i. This systems of landscape management was used throughout the Hawai'ian islands and much of polynesia

A cartoon of an Ahupua’a system on Kauai’i, which saw communities being managed and coordiated within catchments. This systems of landscape management was used throughout the Hawai’ian islands and much of polynesia

In the Ahupua’a system (Ahapua’a translates as Stone Pig, as stone markers were placed on the boundaries of the catchment and carved as pigs) the forest at the top of the catchment was tapu (taboo) and was not cut or harvested from. This was because the intact forest was critical to the system functioning and supplied a refuge for wildlife. When Europeans began to cut these upper forests down, landslides and erosion resulted. Hawai’ian cultivated a secondary forest below the tapu forest where they would cultivate and harvest timber for building canoes, weapons and housing.

Further down the catchment, the Hawai’ian undertook both irrigated and dry-land agriculture. In the dry-land areas the main crops were Taro, Breadfruit, Coconuts, Bananas, sweet potato and Sugarcane which were cultivated according to their different requirements. Sometimes grown beneath the candle-nut tree which functioned as a suppourt species, providing shade. In the irrigated areas they grew abundant taro-crops with a stone aquaduct system. The taro-patch would be refertilised using the a fallow system, where exhausted patches where re-mineralised using the leaves of the candle-nut tree.

Working with my colleagues in the Taro-patch at Hana Gardens. The aquaducts are evident

Working with my colleagues in the Taro-patch at Hana Gardens. The aquaducts are evident on the left of the photo

The irrigation system on the island would mobilise a lot of nutrients and sediments into the river which was a big problem as it would kill off the reef fish which were another source of food. As a design solution, the Hawai’ians constructed fish ponds at the river mouth known as Lo’i. These trapped sediments and nutrients. Through a gate system fish were let in at high tide and trapped at low tide. The carnivorous fish would be caught and the herbivorous fish raised in the fish-pond in a poly-culture with edible and medicinal seaweeds.

These examples from Hawai’i and around the world show us that perennial poly-culture farming is possible and productive. But the next step is for us to modernize the practice so that is applicable to solve the modern problems of needing to produce more food for a growing population and a global population which is urbanising. In my presentation to TEDx Canberra I outlined examples of how any city could start to adopt forest gardens as part of their urban design.

Getting excited about a Forest Garden City

Getting excited about a Forest Garden City

In my city, Canberra, there is an abundance of green-space given it’s history as a planned city and its initial design as a garden city. This was idealised to be a city with 1/3 agriculture, 1/3 industry and 1/3 housing. Many cities around the world have productive space which is not realising it’s potential. A number of years back I met a friend and colleague who was transforming neglected green space into a productive edible forest garden.

A productive Edible Forest Garden in Canberra

A productive Edible Forest Garden in Canberra

Paul is now cultivating more than 50 fruit trees in his urban site as well as native support species and greens and herbs from the ground-layer. If one person can achieve this with an hour a day, imagine what a city could achieve if it started to integrate forest gardens into their urban planning. Rather than paying mowing contractors every three months, suitable areas could be transformed to produce food, aesthetic spaces and help to support urban wildlife. Canberra has a precedent in this with its redevelopment of several drains into urban wetlands. Just as the drains used to be un-productive and are now beautiful and ecologically vibrant, our parks with one or two species of tree could be transformed into thriving forest gardens.


An urban wetlands in the North of Canberra. It has high structural diversity and an abundance of flowers through the year to support native wildlife

Our cities are going to need to produce more of the food that they consume in the future. Urbanisation is going to continue and we need to integrate food production into cities through different forms of urban agriculture. Forest Gardens are unique urban agriculture solutions because in addition to producing food for the citizens, they can provide the ecological base that all organic food production systems need. Many cities around the world have urban horticulture programs and a city forest. It is not a far leap to redesign and reforest parts of our cities in a way that is aesthetic and productive.


Smaller steps that you might be able to undertake could include working with a community group to develop a community forest garden. I have been involved in assisting a number of projects around Canberra to start growing food in public spaces. In addition to applying to the local government for space it is worthwhile approaching local clubs and community groups that often have halls or buildings and are paying for someone to mow the lawns. With a good design and some realistic ambitions, these are great spaces to start growing more food in our cities. Indeed, if we start designing and planting today, then we will surely have fruit in abundance for our children and nuts in abundance for our grandchildren.

Please take some time to check out the video, and continue the discussion in the comments below. Gracias.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Talking TEDx

Exciting news for Forest Gardeners everywhere. I will be talking at the TEDx Conference in Canberra on the 11th of October. I am presenting on a theme I am very passionate about “Forest Garden City”. My presentation outlines what forest gardening is and how it can be integrated into our cities and urban areas to provide food and ecological services to our cities into the future.

Teaching in the gardens

A smaller cohort than the 600 attendees that will be at TEDx Canberra

Given the conferences theme of uncharted I felt that food production was a good topic as we are going to need some creative design thinking to develop food production solutions for the future. I will also be discussing and showcasing my work in 2008 with the National Tropical Botanic Gardens in Hawai’i where I studied Polynesian Food Production systems.

If you’d like to come along register here: http://conferences.tedxcanberra.org/tedxcanberra2014/

There are a whole range of great speakers including myself. A full outline of all the presenters is available here: http://conferences.tedxcanberra.org/tedxcanberra2014/presenters/


Hope to see you there.

Tagged , , ,


In late November I was down in the Otways learning agroforestry with Rowan Reid. It was a great opportunity for professional development and I hope I can pass on some of the information here.

Measuring up trees with a DBH tape to determine the volume of timber or carbon present in the tree

Rowan measuring up trees with a DBH tape to determine the volume of timber or carbon present in the tree

During my time on the course we were shown the proper technique to use when using a portable sawmill to value-add to trees on your property. Rowan had a Messmate tree (Eucalyptus oblique) which had fallen over in the wind.

In this video I explain why you would want to mill and then outline the cuts that we make to generate the largest possible amount of high value timber. The video shows Rowan using the portable sawmill and explaining his process as he saws down the timber. The video quality is not great as I had some problems with my SD card and had to use another with a smaller capacity.

Post your questions in the comments

Tagged , , , ,