The Living Centre - Eco-Spiritual Education Sanctuary

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Forest Gardening Regenerative Design


Forest Gardening Regenerative Design

Forest gardening is a high yielding, low maintenance, and the most regenerative form of gardening existing to humanity. Integrating knowledge from the fields of permaculture, agriculture, ecology, biology and other natural living sciences into a wholistic set of evolving tools and practices, forest gardening is one of humanity’s greatest prospects for establishing a flourishing future.

Forest gardening is about returning to a place of honouring our relationship and connection to Nature, of sacred partnership with the living planet and reinventing whole connected thriving ecosystems that sustain and regenerate all life.

The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the production of crops, but also the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and acting in the world. 

In this training we inform and engage you in creating ecologically regenerative sanctuaries for human living and planetary sustainability and deepening the innate awareness of ourselves as ecological beings interconnected in all ways to the web of life. 

Forest Gardening is the art  and science of growing plants in patterns that support mutually beneficial relationships which create a garden that takes its vision from nature and the natural ecology of a young forest.  We can grow fruits, vegetable, herbs, medicinal plants and other useful plants. By mimicking the way nature creates healthy eco-systems we can create beautiful, high-yield, diverse gardens that are largely self-maintaining. Forest Gardening offers design systems that support a diversity of landscapes from rural to dense urban settings. This particular training is focused on how to create your garden in a temperate zone.  

Forest Gardening allows us to achieve the same benefits that natural systems demonstrate: stability, resilience, self-maintenance, self-renewal, increased nutrient conservation at personal and ecological levels.

This is a hands-on-experiential training. Discover how a genuine hands-on relationship with Earth is the cornerstone for enduring personal, community and ecological health and happiness.

"Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe."  ~Thomas Berry 


A garden is a place of beauty; it is a sanctuary for the spirit, that goes back to ancient times, when gardens and forests were part of our common spiritual tradition.

The practice of Forest Gardening will provide you with the necessary medicines and culinary nourishment and open the gateway to a deeper understanding of your ‘roots'.

What happens during a Forest Gardening Experience?

How can humanity gracefully and ethically descend from the dangerous peak of energy and resource use upon which we find ourselves?

This training offers practical answers to this question, by learning to apply ecological design solutions in your own backyard and reconnecting with your ecological roots.

Through a study of the natural plant communities we will learn core sustainability principles and self-renewing fertility processes.

You will have the opportunity to develop practical design principles, practices, patterns, and processes for garden design and management. Using ecological principles you will learn skills on how to mimic and create your own greenhousebackyard forest garden.

This training is for gardeners, designers, ecologists, and those interested ineco-spirituality.  

Here is a list of some of the topics we intend to cover, obviously these will vary depending on season, the weather and the folks who are present. Each of the trainings will have a specific focus.

April 21-22

Discover how to design a permaculture landscape from growing soil to creating finished plant medicines. Learn about permaculture herbs and creating a sacred medicine sanctuary. Our focus will be on the practical hands-on-learning of herbal medicine including wild plant identification, harvesting and the art of wild-crafting of herbs and herbal preparations, and personal plant projects. The art of assisting the growth of herbs ensures a personal healing loop between the planter and the planted. There is no better remedy than one nurtured with care and intention from preconception to packaging. Learn in-depth the uses of a handful of herbs and how to make basic herbal remedies. Design a regenerative herbal lifestyle for yourself and the whole family. 

  • The Art of Growing Soil
  • Symbiotic Relationships
  • Wild Wisdom of Weeds 
  • The Art of Foraging
  • Wild Weed Farming 
  • Foraging Tools
  • Wild Weed Walkabouts
  • Understanding Our Bioregional Medicines
  • Ecological Herbalism – Local Wild Life
  • Crafting a Forest Sanctuary

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. “ ~Franklin D. Roosevlt”

JULY 22-23

Forest ecologies reveal numerous valuable qualities that can learn and be inspired by to implement into our culture and of growing from to we humans would be wise to emulate in that we live with our culture and that of growing our nourishment. For forest ecologies are:  

  • Self- maintaining, renewing, fertilizing, and propagating themselves without an individual’s inputs.
  • Self-building, storing, and conserving clean air, cleaning water, nutrients, soil excellence, and biodiversity.
  • Self-sustaining - a system that is stable, irrepressible, and

These qualities emerge from the dynamics of the forest as a whole system, not from any one or more of the elements that comprise the forest alone. To design productive edible ecosystems that express these same qualities, we must understand forest structures, functions, patterns, and processes and use this knowledge wisely.

We will dive deeply into the vision, theory, and practice of designing wholesome, dynamic, and resilient medicinal ecosystems using temperate deciduous forests as models. Through site walks, experiential exercises, and design projects to help you understand how the architecture, social structure, underground economics, and successional processes of natural forests apply to the design of herbal ecosystems. You'll come to understand a variety of ecological design processes while designing a range of compilation of medicine producing ecologies at demonstration and research gardens at The Living Centre. 

You will leave inspired and empowered to design edible and medicinal forest gardens.

"The keystone of forest gardening is a paradigm shift in our own human consciousness. 
From monoculture mind to polyculture mind;
From separation to unity;
From exploitation and manipulation to respect and interdependence;
From intervener to ecosystem participant."
~Dave Jacke

“The aim of forest garden design is to make the relationships as co-operative as possible, while acknowledging that very few plants will yield quite as much as they would if they were living alone. It is the cumulative yield of all the plants living on the same piece of land that makes forest gardens productive, not the high yield of individuals.” 
~Patrick Whitefield, How to Make a Forest Garden

Who would benefit?

gardeningThose looking to:

  • Design your own enchanted healing garden
  • Expand your understanding of growing & tending to plants
  • Improve your garden skills and create beauty and food for yourself and for the neighborhood
  • Reconnect to your ancestral roots 
  • Become part of the change in restoring the earth to it's greenness
  • Deepen your union with the source of life
  • Tap into Earth's self-healing powers

FAQ 's  

Lectures and experiential learning will reveal the nature of ecosystem architecture, social structure, and our interconnectedness.

Forest Gardening is a practice, yet it also represents a radically new way of seeing our landscapes and our world. Seeing nature as a model of wellness; we can grow a diverse range of plants together in mutually beneficial groupings that are primarily self-maintaining.

This experiential training is your opportunity to get a glimpse of an achievable Paradise ~ one that can be created in a rural field, a suburban yard, or walkeven a vacant city backyard.

The aim is to weave together the broken threads of our native ecosystems, through a deep understand of Nature.

For both the beginning and advanced enthusiasts.

Recommended Reading

• Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape, Robert A. De J. Hart
• Edible Forest Gardens: Volume One: Vision & Theory, Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeir
• Edible Forest Gardens: Volume Two: Design & Practice, Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeir
• How to Make a Forest Garden, Patrick Whitefield
• Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Toby Hemenwa
• Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holgren
• Permaculture Design: A Step-by-Step Guide  by Aranya and Patrick Whitefield 

"Our vision is to inspire and empower individuals to create food forests everywhere for an abundant and beautiful future."

Forest Gardening History

All of life as we know it depends on TREES!

Forest gardening (also known as 3-Dimensional Gardening) is a food production and land management system based on replicating woodland ecosystems, but substituting trees (such as fruit or nut trees), bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.

By exploiting the premise of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in a forest.

In part based on the model of the Keralan home gardens, temperate-climate forest gardening was pioneered by the late Robert Hart on his one eighth of an acre (500 m²) plot at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire.

Robert began the project over thirty years ago with the intention of providing a healthy and therapeutic environment for himself and his brother Lacon, born with severe learning disabilities.

Starting as relatively conventional small landholders, Robert soon discovered that maintaining large annual vegetable beds, rearing livestock and taking care of an orchard were tasks beyond their strength.

However, a small bed of perennial vegetables and herbs they had planted was looking after itself with little intervention. This led him to evolve the concept of the "forest garden". Based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct layers or "storeys", he used inter-cropping to develop an existing small orchard of apples and pears into an edible polyculture landscape consisting of seven levels.

Qualities of a Well-Planned Forest Garden

A well planned forest garden will:

• Capture sunlight at many levels
• Offer many different fruit, nut, herb, root, vegetable, spice, mushroom, medicinal, floral, essential oil, fiber, resin, dye, coppice and other crops in a continuous flow throughout the year
• Have diversity of species as well as in varieties of similar species
• Offer redundancy of ecosystem function as well as in crops produced to offset occasional anomalies
• Provide habitat for wildlife, including beneficial insects to maintain pest/predator balance
• Be self-fertile 
• Sequester carbon
• Protect itself from wind
• Prevent erosion and nutrient leaching
• Build and protect soils
• Absorb rainfall
• Transpire water
• Moderate dry periods
• Be very low maintenance
• Exhibit stability
• Have social and spiritual value

An Idea Whose Time Has Come Back

Dave of Darlington, a vegan organic grower who operated a commercial no-till box scheme in Durham, England, and wrote on agricultural efficiency, believed for years that only annual plants could provide enough yield to feed the growing global population. He did some research into the work of the Land Institute of Salina, Kansas, and Plants for a Future of Cornwall, England, which illuminated for him the problems of annual cropping and the benefits of perennials.

Today's agriculture, even organic agriculture, requires a large and increasing amount of energy to accomplish. Much more energy is put into the system than is taken out in calories. Energy is used to till the soil, process, package, deliver and plant the seed (for conventional systems: produce, deliver and apply the fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides), to harvest the crop, to manufacture and maintain all of the equipment necessary to perform these functions and so on.

Technology has increased productivity, or the amount of work done per person, to high levels. Unfortunately this commonly requires hybrid seed, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, irrigation, expensive specialized machines and the like. The efficiency, or energy input compared to energy output, decreases to low levels in most of today's highly productive farming systems.

Annual cropping, Dave wrote, even done organically, is not sustainable and we must look toward perennials in the years to come. Perennials require much smaller amounts of energy to manage, especially when grown locally, organically, and fed to human beings directly. There are many perennial vegetables, legumes, grains and salad plants to choose from and most can make excellent additions to a forest garden.

Forest gardens are among the most energy efficient growing systems in existence. When forest gardens serve local populations, the energy input/output ratio becomes a surplus, often yielding several times more energy in output than total energy input. Robert Hart and even Martin Crawford-sized forest gardens can be managed with as little energy as one HP (human power) applied 10 to 20 days per year!

Forest Gardening in the 21st Century

Forest gardening is an idea whose time has come. We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but grow food, fuel, fiber, fertilizer, herbal medicines and have fun. Indeed, we must begin learning to apply ecological principles to the design of our food production systems now—we are rapidly approaching or are already at the peak of planetary oil production, and the world of energy descent is upon us.

This change in our culture will require that we learn to live within our energetic means and begin to rebuild ecosystems that support human and humane lives without diminishing the ability of the ecosystem to support our children and grandchildren.

While this global problem is huge, most of the solutions available to us are local, personal, empowering, and potentially enlivening, enlightening, and fun. Edible forest gardening is one of these solutions, and we now have the resources at hand to transform our own yards and gardens into productive paradises.

The Living Centre's Forest Gardening History Timeline 

Shantree Kacera, D.N., Ph.D.

Shantree is the founder and co-director of The Living Centre and Living Arts Institute. 

A passionate Forest Garden and Permaculture Educator, Ayurvedic Live-Food Nutritionist, Therapeutic & Shamanic Herbalist, with over 40-years experience in natural, organic gardening. 

Since the mid 1980's Shantree has been applying forest gardening permaculture practices to his 50-acres property with the question: How does this work in Canada? After 30 years he is now sharing his experiences with his students, interns and the forest gardening mentorship program. 

Shantree’s deep connection to the Earth has drawn him into the teachings of shamanic and earth wisdom practices as well as Carolinian Canada native plant preservation and studies. He is a passionate edible forest gardener, permaculture teacher and well known for his unique circular medicinal-wheel garden. He started designing and planting his forest garden about 30 years ago, which is now considered one of the oldest forest gardens in Canada.

Shantree is an internationally celebrated visionary, author, educator, nutritional researcher and world peace worker.

Shantree's laboratory ~ spiritually, emotionally, and physically ~ is the forest garden, from which spring ideas about shifting world paradigm through rethinking how we co-create with nature through our garden practices. Learn more>


"Taking the edible forest gardening course with Shantree is like finding a new vision for gardening. Seeing that it is possible to garden in a way that Nature does (self-sustaining, self-weeding, self-mulching, self-watering, self-fertilizing, etc.) was so exciting. Not only is it MUCH less work year to year, the plants are edible. What a great way to garden organically in my own back yard to feed my family.Shantree's enthusiasm is very contagious.  We were shown forest gardening at different stages on his property. This helped to develop my observation skills so now I can tell which plants would naturally grow together. It was so exciting to learn what to look for in each forest garden. I came home with a renewed sense of hope and inspiration about perennial gardening. There is a natural and easy way to garden like the forests do.  And it is good for the soil, microbes, worms, birds, insects, plants, animals, and us humans. It's the way of the future. Shantree's knowledge as a herbalist and nutritionist now extends into forest gardening. He shares this knowledge with such clarity and ease. You feel that the path of a forest gardener resonates deep in your Soul. It's like coming back home to Nature's way." ~Barbara Westfall

"The forest gardening training was really amazing. I learned and gained so much experience in a a few days. Shantree is certainly one of Canada's most experienced Forest Gardeners. " ~Susan

"I am loving listening to your sharings and your enthusiasm for the plants. I am soo wonder filled hearing you talk about permaculture, forest gardening and plants and your land your articulation and wisdom is awe inspiring. Much Thanks!" ~Natalie Krueger

"I learned practical ways of how to grow a food forest. The plants grown are selected so that the forest garden mimics a woodland ecosystem, but the plants give food yields for human consumption. By the simple act of layering plants along multiple levels within the trees, the garden can produce a significant amount of food and become a beautiful oasis in urban spaces." ~Kevin

"The Forest Gardening Apprenticeship program has truly been a robust and juicy experience filled with joy and peace. Not only have I learned about organic forest gardening, Ayurvedic live-food Cuisine and sprouting, I have also learned about myself. Through living the Sevenfold Path to Peace at T.L.C., every day has been an opportunity to grow and each moment is a jewel to be grateful for. I found it easy to slip into the rhythms here, and the accommodations are very hospitable. It was so wonderful that I am coming back next year." ~Katie 

"Shantree has vision and a special way of creating a garden that seems to match the spirit of the land. He brings touches to every corner that make the whole garden such a joy to be in. Thank you for all that you have given me and for the beautiful work you are doing!" ~James

"I've learned so many valuable lessons. Shantree you are so wise. You are such an honorable teacher. This has been a milestone along my path. For that, I am so thankful. " ~Maya

"I appreciated Shantree''s simplistic and passionate approach to forest gardening. I think with all the infomercials and gardening gadgets available today, it makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that nature has been growing food organically in a forest since the beginning of time." ~Stephen

"Honestly, I loved your teaching style, really clear and confident presentation of sometimes really in-depth material. I found your teaching style to be compassionate and patient and never once felt afraid to ask a question. That was the best workshop on soils I've seen. I've studied with a number of organic gardening teachers and that's the first time someone has put it in a way that I can understand and see the big picture. Thank you. ~Heather

"As I reflect on the educational aspects of our program, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for contributing to our internship program’s educational programming this year. As always, visiting you folks is a highlight for the interns. They always come back from this trip with a greater understanding of forest gardening and a respect for the diversity of food growing styles.  They had this to say “A wonderful, pioneering place! They helped educate about organics and now they're taking the next step towards forest gardening.” ~Jaye Crawford, Ignatius Farm Interns, 2012

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for contributing to our internship program this year. For the interns, our day at the Living Centre was a definite highlight of the internship. We left feeling inspired and full of new ideas. It was fabulous to see such a successful example of what Permaculture and forest gardening can be and how we can go about implementing their principles in our own lives.

Field trips, workshops and farm tours greatly enhance the internship experience by exposing interns to a diversity of farming and food systems and planting ideas for directions they will choose as they move forward. Not all interns will pursue farming as a career path, but what is certain is that they all have a deepened appreciation for farming and will become advocates for sustainable food systems in their own ways.

We deeply appreciate that you have been open to sharing your time and knowledge with us this season. On behalf of the entire Ignatius Farm CSA team, thank you once again for your involvement in educating for a healthy food system for the future. With gratitude."
~Kailea MacGillivray
Senior Education Intern and Volunteer Coordinator
Ignatius Farm CSA


Dates for Forest Gardening: Regenerative Design

To accommodate individual needs a person can attend as a  One-Day on Saturday or Two-Day weekend.

Practical Forest Garden Design:
Soil Ecology, Permaculture & Plant Medicine

April 21-22, 2018
9am - 5pm.

Forest Gardening:
The Ecological Herbalist

Sept. 29-30, 2018
9am - 5pm.

If you are desiring a career in Forest Garden, check out our Forest Garden Teacher Training>

Forest Gardening is also part of the Visionary Herbalism Educator Course. For information click here>

Register for Forest Gardening


Includes: workshop, educational material and organic vegan live-food lunches.

Transportation, tax and accommodations are not included in the pricing above.

Payment can be made through 'PayPal' below or by certified check. Please made checks payable and send to: 

The Living Centre
5871 Bells Rd., London, ON., Canada, N6P 1P3

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Where can I stay?

Read our commitment and cancellation policy here

Click here to request more information