From eco- to bio-, with a bit of agro- in between, our Finance and Operations Manager, Kathryn, helps us decipher the basics of food growing terminology. Kathryn joined The Orchard Project last year. She explains why growing plants is so important for her wellbeing and why she’s delving into Forest Gardening.
I first became interested in growing food a few years ago when I was living in a flat in London. Missing having any greenery around, I started growing chilli plants on my windowsill. I have found that growing plants and being around plants and trees, connects me to nature and to the food I eat, and brings me a sense of peace and clarity, all of which are really positive for my mental health. I feel strongly that growing should be accessible to everyone and even if you don’t have any outdoor space, growing plants on your windowsills and accessing outdoor areas, such as community orchards, is a great way to do this.
The more I learn about growing food the more I want to know and I’ve enrolled on our Forest Gardening course later in the year (see below). I am really interested in the different methods of growing food and the sustainability of these methods but find that, being new to this, the terminology can be a little confusing. So, I’ve put together a ‘beginner’s guide’, listing some common terms with a brief definition and links to other blogs and articles that provide more detail. I hope you find this useful. Happy growing 🙂
Cultivate – is to prepare land and grow crops on it. This can include digging, ploughing, harrowing, ridging, etc. for annual crops. Cultivation can also use no-dig methods that avoid disrupting soil life, such as micro-organisms and fungi which help to feed the plants.
Agriculture – is the art and science of cultivating the soil and plants and raising livestock. The word is derived from the Latin, ager (field), and colo (cultivate).
Horticulture – is the part of agriculture which deals with plants, including fruit, vegetable, and flowering plants. The word is derived from the Latin hortus (garden) and colo (cultivate).
Agroforestry – is agriculture that also incorporates the cultivation of trees. It includes both forestry and farming techniques and has trees, crops, and/or livestock growing together.
Forest Gardens (know as Food Forests in the US) – are ecosystems which are designed to be low maintenance and sustainable. They are designed to copy the sustainability of natural forests but with each layer being made of edible plants.
At The Orchard Project, we are excited about the potential of food forests in the UK and have just launched an accredited Forest Gardening course to train people in creating them. Check out this article for more information.
Ecology – is studying the relationships between plants, animals, people, and the environment.
An ecosystem – is a community of living organisms (plants, animals, and other organisms), which live and interact in a specific environment.
Biodiversity (biological diversity) – the variety of life on Earth (plants, animals, fungi, micro-organisms).
We recently completed a year-long programme to improve biodiversity in community orchards. Read more about this in our blog post here.
Permaculture (permanent culture) – is the design and maintenance of agricultural ecosystems that are sustainable and self-sufficient.
Permaculture orchards – are sustainable orchards where the need for external inputs, such as fertiliser, are reduced through methods such as nitrogen-fixing plants. Check out our blog here on planting nitrogen fixing shrubs in community orchards.
Agroecology – is farming that works with nature and produces food, while not damaging resources such as soil.
Rewilding – is an approach to conservation through restoring an area of land to its uncultivated state and reintroducing animal species. It has the potential to increase biodiversity and mitigate climate change.
I’m really excited to start our Forest Gardening course later this year and to continue learning about community orchards and different methods of growing. For anyone else keen to continue their journey into the wonderful world of community orchards and food forests, I’d recommend checking out our fantastic range of guides and advice here.
You can also join our mailing list at the link below if you’d like to receive emails from us about the courses and events we’re running.