Setting of expectations

Forest gardening, like many other activities in life, requires an appropriate set of expectations. When launching into this horticultural enterprise some years back I naïvely thought that the objective was to ensure plant survival from germination to maturity and fruiting. It turns out, rather unsurprisingly, there is a big difference between surviving and thriving. The more closely matched a plants conditions are to is natural habitat, the better it is likely to perform. With this in mind I am now inclined to more thoroughly research plant requirements prior to purchase rather than buying on a whim and then trying to make them fit.

Because we are focusing on establishing a primarily perennial plant based food system there is another set of expectations than need to be dealt with. It's easy to fantasise about producing the impressive cauliflowers, cucumbers and carrots we see in the produce section of the supermarket. First up, these, and most other vegetables, are not perennials, requiring replanting every year. Secondly, it is difficult to reproduce the size, shape and regularity of such a wide range of variates, each having it's own unique requirements. This is where the expectations come in.

If you expect to be eating huge cauliflower and perfectly straight cucumbers you may come to be disappointed with what your garden delivers. Additionally, if you want to sustain yourself from a wild food forest garden then this means searching for the few self sown carrots that have beaten the weeds, harvesting loose brassica leaves and making do with an altogether different sort of diet.

The expectations you hold as to what you are willing or prepared to eat impact on what options are available for the source of your fruit and vegetables and the amount of work and effort required to produce or obtain them.

We can take some comfort in the knowledge that the iconically perfect fruit and vegetables on offer in the supermarket may look fantastic but that's mostly all it is, looks. Bred to be large, colourful, uniform in shape and time to harvest. What we really want, nutrition, texture, variety and low input can be had quite easily with a little natural forest garden and the correct expectations.


food forest