How a Small British Garden Became a Mature Food Forest

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Video screen capture. Permaculture Magazine

Many years ago I picked up a book called The Permaculture Garden, by Graham Bell. I was more than a little hooked by the practical tips and inspiring visions of urban and suburban gardens turned into food forests.

Since then, I've visited/read about/watched videos on more than my fair share of permaculture projects. From Mike Feingold's awesome permaculture allotment to a 20-year-old forest garden in the mountains, many have been inspiring examples of ecplogical design. This is the first time, however, that I've seen Graham Bell's own garden.

In a video for Permaculture Magazine, Graham talks us through how he and his wife Nancy developed a mature permaculture food forest over the course of 25 years.

It's a beautiful looking garden, and an impressive feat. Among the key takeaways from the video:

—Permaculture is a long-term play: it takes years to craft a fully functioning edible food forest.
—Yield can't be measured in food alone: Anyone can turn their backyard into a farm. This food forest, however, seems like a wonderfully diverse place to spend time in.
—Permaculture is a design system, not a type of gardening: Permaculture principles can be applied to all sorts of ecological design challenges.

It's good to see Graham and Nancy growing tomatoes and squash among the classic permaculture staples of perennial plants and fruit trees. If I have misgivings about permaculture in general, it's that too many designs feature an abundance of comfrey, mint and fruit, without seeming to pay attention to what people actually want to eat/need to thrive.

It would have been interesting to get a sense of just what their harvests look like. While Graham tells us he got "more than a metric ton of food" last year, I'd be intrigued to know exactly what crops and in what quantities that harvest was comprised of.

But heck, it's a three minute video.