• David Buckton

Growing Variety for Forest Gardens and Personal Growth

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

This article will discuss the value of diversity within growing forest gardens. Whether we are in a forest garden or not, the apparent differences in cross-section, are often stark with direct comparisons. It would be as if we took a snapshot to show the true colors of difference in the same picture. This is the same fallacy one encounters when judging a book by its cover. The sequences in life cycles of plants are more similar to a play that unfolds through a series of acts. Some plants appear strong when others look weak, but with time their appearance changes. As with people, it takes time to get to know a plant and their ways, including what they like and don't like. Their preferences certainly will depend on their type, but also their age.

Learning takes patience and perseverance to benefit from the mistakes and the good news of experience. Perhaps this is why we think of the experience as the best teacher. Of course, we can't compare such visions as a 'teacher' to a person. And we know that lessons of the past mistakes don't get learned on their own. All the voices of the individual teachers combined might compare to the whole of lived experience. With plants, this learning process happens every season. Changing the variety in the garden adds even more learning to every annual cycle.

With plants, the learning process can take years under ideal conditions, and circumstance benefits both the plants and the grower. Being there through the experiences and sharing applies to the abilities of the grower to reciprocate the benefits provided by the plants.

Many gardeners convey the benefits of providing for the plants. In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi discusses a case example of a woman that achieves her own sense of optimal country living daily activities in Pont Trentaz in the Italian Alps (p145) . He explains: "It is not that Serafina is ignorant of the alternatives offered by urban life... ...None of them drew a sharp distinction between work and free time, all mentioned work as the source of optimal experiences, and none would want to work less if given the chance." ( from Flow, p 146). We can see how work and giving connects to receiving. Their own experiences of the great life didn't appear to matter whether they had the conveniences or comfortable ways.

As Elizabeth Kubler - Ross explains in her book Life Lessons: How our Mortality can Teach us About Life and Living, "Unschooled in the ways of psychology or medicine, this woman knew one of the greatest secrets in life: love is being there, and caring" ( p54 ). She describes how a knowledge of the most important events can help prepare and provide for the needs of the living. That mutual provision we provide and receive with plants is similar.

In The Best of Organic Gardening, author Mike McGrath writes how important providing extra nourishment during mid season is important. He explains how:"It's the returns from the care that you give your garden that count- that get to the family table or into the larder." (p98).

Rather than looking inside the colour spectra, this article will focus on the long view of diversity, where particular experiences and events produce their unique individualities over time. It will continue to look at the role of different media and other elements that play in the natural and built systems. Strength in diversity is a hallmark symbol that underlies the regenerative aspects and the resilience of a thriving forest garden model.

However, there are times when the choice is limited. Where it is not possible or desirable to include a variety, a crop rotation of different plants should be considered as a way to offset disease and promote proper soil nutrition. The thinking is that we rotate or renew through cycling nutrients over time. It only makes sense that plants would be healthier more generally as a consequence of the better soil. Healthier plants can usually mean higher market potential.

The value of the chosen varieties (whether in our diet, investment portfolio, tools, professions, or genres) will invariably create complexities that must be offset using models to generalize the findings. As discussed in an earlier article on looping hierarchies and competing diversities, For example, we also see the need for difference in making healthy, vibrant economies, for those that rely on them.

Language of some sort is perhaps the essential tool for communication and can serve as our example. Words act in a complex play of meanings that are applied tools with intended and unintended purposes. In Finding Flow-The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (1997), author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains the value of human diversity in cities: "The metropolis is so attractive in part because the clash of cultures sets up an atmosphere of excitement, freedom, and creativity that is difficult to find in an isolated, homogeneous culture. ...As long as we presume that the "Others" will share our basic goals, and will behave predictably within certain limits, their presence adds a great deal of spice to the quality of life" (p 92).

In this article, we continued to explore the importance of variety and offering ways of growing plants in the garden that can improve personal growth and vibrancy. We look at exploring the differences between different plants across a lifetime, and crop rotation as methods of increasing our sense of variety.


Csikszentmihalyi, M.

1997. Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. New York. p 92.

Csikszentmihalyi, M.

1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial. New York. p 145-6.

Kubler-Ross, E. & Kessler, D.

2000. Life Lessons: How our Mortality can Teach us About Life and Living. Simon & Schuster. London. p54.

McGrath, M.

1996. The Best of Organic Gardening. Rodale Inc. p98. USA Printing.


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