Forest Garden Course

The Forest Garden course is currently suspended as we’re busy with a couple of other major projects. We MAY offer a course in 2023… watch this space!

2021 information:

This course is for people who want a forest garden.  There will still be plenty to read and research about after the course, but this weekend will give you the confidence, framework and direction to make it happen.  It is about answering the practical questions and facing the real challenges of forest gardening, as well as being inspired and fired up to make it a reality!

After training with the best –  Dave Jacke, Martin Crawford and Chris Evans – and having visited forest gardens in both the US and Europe on my forest garden quest, I’m keen to share what I’ve learned!   This weekend will be a unique blend of the best of the courses I’ve attended, supplemented by my own experience and experiments as I build my forest gardens.

Here at Chestnut Farm, I’ve been putting the principles into practice.  After the nine day Forest Garden Design intensive with Dave Jacke in 2013, I reworked my 26 m berry tunnel and massively increased species diversity by under-planting with herbs & ground covers.  Whenever I plant a new area on the farm, I hear Dave’s challenge about ‘self-renewing fertility’ ringing in my ears.  How can I design areas such that they become self-sustaining ecosystems that won’t require my ongoing input?  When I had Dave return to Australia to run the 9 day course at Chestnut Farm in 2016, we planted a new forest garden adjacent to my duck pond.  Lots went wrong when we had the wettest winter in 20 years but I’ve learned from that experience and will share that with you – learn from my mistakes!

In 2017, I spent 9 weeks in Europe, with 6 weeks in the UK including forest garden courses with Martin Crawford and Chris Evans and visits to forest gardens including Graeme Bells’ Garden Cottage in Coldstream where he has produced over a tonne of food from an area the size of two tennis courts.  There are no forest gardens in Australia that have been established as long.  We’re still in the exciting early stages of implementation here and have the great opportunity to identify successful strategies and avoid the mistakes made by others in earlier eras.

This course will focus on forest gardening in the cool temperate climates of South Eastern Australia.  While the broad principles can be transferred to other climates, the plant-specific information you will learn is based on a cool-temperate climate.  You’ll see my successes and failures with planting guilds, propagation from seed & cuttings, grafting, etc.  and see models from comparable climates overseas.

One great outcome of the 9 day course in 2016 was that graduates are setting up forest gardens – we’re seeing new experiments here in Australia as people trial different patterns, play with native Nitrogen-fixing ground covers (who knew we had any?!) and find out how some of the guilds that work in the Northern hemisphere perform in Australian soil and weather conditions.    Participating in this course plugs you into the alumni, as well as giving you the chance to network directly with your course co-participants.  The course program is fully packed; there is no time to discuss your own property in class hours, but you are welcome to bring information about your place to share with other students during breaks and our pot-luck dinner on Saturday night.

To ensure a high quality learning experience, I’m limiting numbers on the course to just 18.   Book early to ensure a place – plus get the early-bird discount.

When I attended Martin’s course in 2017, I was surprised to find that half the participants were from outside the UK (South Africa, Germany, Denmark, USA, Australia, Ireland).  His courses are booked out months in advance and he only runs a few a year.  Come to sunny Invermay and save yourself an airfare!  

Early Bird fee $450 (paid in full by  17 September for October 2020 course).  Full course fee $495.  Couples deal – $680 for both of you!  This is a special deal to encourage couples to do the course together, learn together and then plan & implement together.  A non-refundable deposit of $50 secures your registration and is deducted from the fees above.  Further details on the registration form.

To secure your place on the course, click on the link below, complete the form and return it soon.  This course runs just once a year; in Spring so you see the ‘bones’ of my forest garden plantings, but also enjoy the early season eruption of life and get to taste the amazing pink leaves that are the first flush of Toona sinensis as it springs to life after Winter.

2021 registration form coming soon!

Some logistics:

Getting here – Chestnut Farm is 10 minutes from Ballarat railway station, which has a direct shuttle from Melbourne (Tullamarine) airport.  We are 90 minutes west of central Melbourne on the national highway to Adelaide.

Meals – We provide lunch, morning & afternoon tea.  Meals will be vegetarian but we cannot guarantee that they will be vegan, gluten-free or meet your requirements if you have a special diet. If you have a special diet, you may need to self-cater and will receive a reduction in your course fee.

Where to stay – Ballarat has a wide range of hotels & motels at every price point.  Tent or car camping is available on site for a modest additional fee ($12 per person per night).  No caravans & no powered sites.  Showers included, plus refrigeration & microwave but no other cooking facilities.