What is the Ikipuutarha / Forever Garden?

When doing an internet search on ”forever garden” one of the first sites to pop up is a site selling a variety of plastic plants. In a way the forever garden I’m designing is the opposite of that: instead of inflicting the world with objects that will haunt the future generations, this forever garden aims to be self-renewing. None of the individual components will last more than decades or centuries - with luck an oak might last a millennia - but this is not the point. The cycle of death and birth in nature is what keeps it going and the aim is to create an ecosystem which will flourish on until some major catastrophe, and perhaps beyond that. We all are taught that nothing lasts forever and one of the more plausible scenarios in cosmology is that the ultimate faith of the universe is the thermodynamic equilibrium: to disperse and cool, until all energy is dissipated - the ultimate victory of entropy. So the name Forever Garden is a joke in a way, or a provocation. The name is meant to challenge our notions of time and existence and propose a multigenerational way of thinking about our environment. The current ways human beings tend to relate to the world we inhabit is barely one-generational. Land is managed both in agriculture and forestry for quick short-term gains, with little thought to the long term impacts. The practices used have led to increasing loss of farmable land and fertile soil. Nutrients are taken out, but not put back in, which is why the practices are often described as ”mining the soil”. One of the many ingredients in the culture of destruction is intense farming of annual crops - monocultures of cash crop. Forever garden is a forest garden, or a food forest. A collection of mostly perennial plants which aim to provide for all the basic needs of a functioning ecosystem. This is an old concept and an old way of using the land, in some forms dating back to prehistoric times in the tropics, but in Europe it’s relatively new, pioneered in it’s modern form by Robert Hart (1913 – 2000) in England. In very plain terms it’s three dimensional growing of polycultures: many different plants utilizing the space in many layers (such as trees, shrubs and vines), instead of one plant using just two dimensions (such as wheat). During the Käsitekesä residency I have been designing a food forest to be planted on an old field at the Korkeaoja farm. The planting will take several years and it’s development will have many phases, but ultimately the aim is to have a living polyculture which will largely take care of itself. In this blog I will try to open up the concept and the process. I have little to none horticultural background, my experience of planting and growing things has been limited to small annual vegetable gardens. In this process I’m guided largely by my studies in permaculture design and the books written by experts of the temperate food forest: Edible Forest Gardens vol I & II by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier and Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford. Stay tuned for more.

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