Over the last two years, a new direction has quietly been germinating at The Orchard Project. Scratching our heads, we’ve grappled long and hard over how best to adapt our work in the face of the climate crisis. Interesting questions have been raised. But these seeds, planted in our minds during meetings fuelled by flipcharts and fruit platters (of course!), are now bursting forth as we launch our brand new accredited course in Forest Gardening.
This new offering will be delivered over five months, with 6 – 8 hours of tuition and independent study needed each fortnight. Accredited by Crossfields Institute, students will receive a Level 2 qualification upon completion.
Before we tell you more, here’s some background on our new journey into fruitful forests.
Why is The Orchard Project branching into Forest Gardening?
Forest Gardens, or Food Forests (as they are known in the US), have been championed among permaculture advocates for decades. For the uninitiated, forest gardens are low maintenance ecosystems involving a wide range of edible or useful plants and fungi grown layers; a canopy of fruit and nut trees at the top, going down to tubers and roots at the lowest level. Given that fruit and nut trees nearly always feature in forest gardens, we’ve broadened our concept of community orchards to include these versatile spaces.
Future-proofing community orchards amidst our changing climate is of great concern to us, and we believe that forest gardens have many convincing benefits which would both safeguard the fruit trees and embellish the local environment. In fact, we believe they should be recognised more widely as a nature-based solution for sustainable food production. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- They sequester more carbon from the atmosphere.
- They are designed to adapt to changes in climate, and resilience of the fruit trees is boosted by the understory layers (e.g. wind buffering, absorption of more surface water etc.)
- A wider variety of plants attracts a more diverse range of critters and creatures, from the winged and the feathered, to the six-legged kinds.
- There are many more benefits… but you’ll have to join our course to find out!
The UK’s first, accredited course in Forest Gardening!
We have teamed up with Martin Crawford, Director of the Agroforestry Research Trust to offer a digital course which features his videos, along with online group tutorials, handouts and continuous assessment. Martin is highly-respected in forest gardening realms and has authored many books on the subject.
Topics covered will include planting choices, growing edible fungi, managing soil types and fertility, the role of mycorrhizal fungi, propagation, maintenance and more. More details can be found here.
We have been encouraging the orchard carers we work with to incorporate edible shrubs and herbs into their orchards for a while now; both for edible produce to forage, and to attract pests away from the fruit trees. We are excited to take the next step in this journey and hope you will join us in May!
Book now to secure your place