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Kerala Forest Gardens

 
Jess Bloomer
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Hello permies,

I'm new to forest gardening, but may have the opportunity to be in Kerala, India this summer. I have read that this area has an incredible number of forest gardens, and a long history of this type of cultivation.

Does anyone have suggestions for how I might be able visit forest garden sites in Kerala? I would love to experience some of these sites in person, and study more about how this practice originated.

Thanks!

Jess

ps- if you have other suggestions for places that I could travel to see examples of forest garden traditions, please let me know!

 
Blaine Lindsey
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Auroville is only an 8 hour and 8 minute drive from you You'll love the city!
http://www.auroville.org/

Ive always wanted to live there, a community devoted to being a model of peace and self-sustainability to the world. You're aloud to build your own house/ grow your own food, etc. Im sure they have many permaculture, off-the-grid, self-sustainable projects& examples! After searching forabit I found the Lumiere and Sadhana forests that aurovillians are involved with!
 
Paulo Bessa
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Hello Jess!

I have been to India in October 2011. I was nearly 2 weeks in Kerala, and then I moved nearly 2 weeks in Auroville.

Kerala is a tropical moist forest, with amazing biodiversity in the home gardens of the common families.

The natural forests range from the seaside coconuts (with understories of nutmegs, taros, cinnamon, peppercorns, etc) to midmountain forests of mostly cardamons (such a scent!), to more higher plantations of coffee, tea, silky oak trees, amongst eucalyptus forests that are mixed in many other tropical trees, so far unknown to me, I remember seeing lantanas and chritmas euphorbias in the understory, and some of these high diversity forests would entend up to 2100 meter high (in the mountains of the western ghats). The home gardens of families are a lot of these spicy species, medicinal herbs, perennials (mostly a high diversity trees that provides shade and mulching, climbing species and shrubs in the understory, some spots with more shade, some with more sun, some with more misture, others with less). Its real forest gardens, even if they are not intentionally designed as such. I was fascinated by these forests and gardens!

East of the western ghats (in Tamil Nadu state) the landscape is much drier, and you can find a vegetation, still very diverse, but more typical f a tropical savanna, with drought tolerant species. Auroville is on the coast of Tamil Nadu, where vegetation is a little bit more humid again. But basically they recver a semi-desert landscape back to the original dry tropical forest. That is quite impressive. They also have purposeful plantations of perennials and tropical trees and systems of swales in some of their subcommunities within auroville. Overall, aurville does more permaculture than several ecovillages I visited in Europe. And definitively way more self-sufficient than most communities.

Blaine, just a comment you don't take 8 hours between Kerala and Auroville. That is overly optimistic You take 2 days at minimum. Or more comfortably a 3 hour flight. Travelling in India is quite exausting and it is not the same as travelling in Europe or N America. But I did enjoy Auroville a lot!
 
Blaine Lindsey
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you make india sound very pleasant indeed! cinnamon, cardamon, peppercorn !! beautiful! would love to travel there! and oh! silly me i just googled "kerala to auroville" and listed what they said haha your timesounds more realistic! w
 
Jess Bloomer
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Hi Paulo,
Thanks for the great info!

It sounds like you were able to visit some of the gardens in Kerala when you were there. Were you in a specific city/town/rural area that you recommend? Were you able to just observe by walking around, or did you have contact with folks who were showing you around, and giving you information?

I'm applying for a grant to do research about forest gardens and so I'm trying to figure out if I could include a visit to Kerala in the itinerary. But I have to provide specifics on exactly where I would go and how I would learn about the gardens while there.

Any thoughts you have are incredibly helpful!

Also, thanks Blaine for your suggestions!

Best,

Jess


Paulo Bessa wrote:Hello Jess!

I have been to India in October 2011. I was nearly 2 weeks in Kerala, and then I moved nearly 2 weeks in Auroville.

Kerala is a tropical moist forest, with amazing biodiversity in the home gardens of the common families.

The natural forests range from the seaside coconuts (with understories of nutmegs, taros, cinnamon, peppercorns, etc) to midmountain forests of mostly cardamons (such a scent!), to more higher plantations of coffee, tea, silky oak trees, amongst eucalyptus forests that are mixed in many other tropical trees, so far unknown to me, I remember seeing lantanas and chritmas euphorbias in the understory, and some of these high diversity forests would entend up to 2100 meter high (in the mountains of the western ghats). The home gardens of families are a lot of these spicy species, medicinal herbs, perennials (mostly a high diversity trees that provides shade and mulching, climbing species and shrubs in the understory, some spots with more shade, some with more sun, some with more misture, others with less). Its real forest gardens, even if they are not intentionally designed as such. I was fascinated by these forests and gardens!

East of the western ghats (in Tamil Nadu state) the landscape is much drier, and you can find a vegetation, still very diverse, but more typical f a tropical savanna, with drought tolerant species. Auroville is on the coast of Tamil Nadu, where vegetation is a little bit more humid again. But basically they recver a semi-desert landscape back to the original dry tropical forest. That is quite impressive. They also have purposeful plantations of perennials and tropical trees and systems of swales in some of their subcommunities within auroville. Overall, aurville does more permaculture than several ecovillages I visited in Europe. And definitively way more self-sufficient than most communities.

Blaine, just a comment you don't take 8 hours between Kerala and Auroville. That is overly optimistic You take 2 days at minimum. Or more comfortably a 3 hour flight. Travelling in India is quite exausting and it is not the same as travelling in Europe or N America. But I did enjoy Auroville a lot!
 
Paulo Bessa
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Hi Jess,

I have wandered around and visited several family houses. They are not intentional forest gardens, just the traditional forests around their homes, which have a lot of tropical climbing plants, understory shrubs and ground covers. People just plant things there, and other species are already growing there, no one knows anything about a "forest garden", but they are really an inspiration for having a forest garden. However, in a tropical moist climate growing such a dense garden is easy. We can at least try to emulate these in our temperate climates, with the same layers of temperate species (fruit trees, mulberries, yams, groundnuts, etc...)

In Auroville they do however do intentional perennial gardening systems. I recommend going there for a visit, if going to India.

Blaine: Kerala is indeed pleasant when you want to have experiences with lush forests, spices and tasty vegetarian food. However India is a wild, chaotic and complex world, with astonishing dense masses of people and cars and somehow dirty streets. But I did love my experience in India and I was inspired by it, in many different ways.
 
David Goodman
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Whatever you do, take lots and lots of photos and make lots of notes! I'd love to see what you find.
 
Sharifah Nazriah
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Hi Jess, I am new to this website. I lost my Job last year and ever since I have been trying to do natural farming. I have a been a staunch environment lover all my life and though its not known here in Malaysia I have been creating my own compost as fertilizers in spite of the strange reactions from my neighbors . I live in a city but I had since purchased three pieces of land of varied geographical nature but after wasted money down the drain trying to make something out of it I have halt the whole projects a few months ago. I plan to live in Kerala for two months next April though June 2016. I have not a clue where I could find the permies out there but I learnt that Kerala have very similar climate as here. Its been a while that you posted your plan to go there I would appreciate if you could share your experience an tips on how to best spent my holiday there as a student of knowledge.
 
George Ajay
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Hi Sharifah,

Check out Jagannath K's work at http://www.usetheweeds.com/ and also http://amritaserve.org/ where he is employing permaculture and natural farming methods.

Hope you have a great experience in Kerala.

George


Sharifah Nazriah wrote:Hi Jess, I am new to this website. I lost my Job last year and ever since I have been trying to do natural farming. I have a been a staunch environment lover all my life and though its not known here in Malaysia I have been creating my own compost as fertilizers in spite of the strange reactions from my neighbors . I live in a city but I had since purchased three pieces of land of varied geographical nature but after wasted money down the drain trying to make something out of it I have halt the whole projects a few months ago. I plan to live in Kerala for two months next April though June 2016. I have not a clue where I could find the permies out there but I learnt that Kerala have very similar climate as here. Its been a while that you posted your plan to go there I would appreciate if you could share your experience an tips on how to best spent my holiday there as a student of knowledge.
 
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