Eco-Spiritual Educational Sanctuary

Forest Gardening

Correspondence Course


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

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

~Dave Jacke, Edible Forest Gardens

Course Inspiration

Imagine a forest where every single tree is dripping with fresh fruits and ripening nuts. Every shrub is packed with delicious berries, and every other plant is a medicinal herb, culinary spice, or beautiful edible flower. Tubers and root crops are abundant underfoot, gourmet mushroom logs sprout in the shade, and hardy kiwi vines climb back up through the layers of this multifunctional forest of food. Learn how to design, establish, and maintain such Edible Forest Garden Sanctuary.

This is not your ordinary home-study course. This correspondence form of education provides a comprehensive introduction and practical application of Forest Gardening, allowing students to apply the principles in every aspect of their own lives. Learn to design and manage a comprehensive Food Forest Garden System"

What is Forest Gardening?

Forest Gardening might best be defined as a way of life and its methods can be applied in your garden, as well as in the wider community. Forest Gardening provides practical solutions that allow you to create a more enduring and harmonious way of living. This course will show you how to consciously design a lifestyle that is low in environmental impact but at the same time highly productive.

This course provides a solid foundation for designing edible forest gardens. On completing this course you will be able to draw plans of food forest designs, and provide advice to others as a forest garden consultant. As with any course at any institute though; you need to be realistic and understand that over 100 hours of study, you can only learn so much. To become a really good forest garden consultant will require ongoing study and informal learning as you move on after this foundation course.

Some graduates do nothing more than this one course; and following these foundation studies, set up a forest garden consulting or educator business that grows and develops from that humble beginning. Others choose to pursue further studies to broaden and deepen their knowledge and skills before launching a career.

Forest garden designers and educators may be self employed or work within another business (eg. a plant nursery or landscape business). Many do this as a sideline to another job; but some succeed building forest gardening into a full time vocation by itself.


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Bridging the Gap Between
Forest Gardening & Ecological Herbalism

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”
~Albert Einstein

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted, reviewed and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Part I - Ecological Vision & Theory for Temperate Climate

  • Introduction
  • The Forest and the Trees
  • Visions of Paradise
  • The Five Elements of Forest Architecture
  • Social Structure: Niches, Relationships, and Communities
  • Structures of the Underground Economy
  • Succession: Four Perspectives on Vegetation Dynamics
  • Elements, Dynamics, and Desired Conditions

Lesson 1 ~ Introduction: Forest Gardening for the Future of the Earth - The Vision: A Call to Action

  • Overview of Forest Gardening
  • Definition of a Forest Food Garden
  • Introducing the Ecological Garden of Sustainability
  • Your Invitation of Adventure
  • A Brief History of Forest Gardening
  • Why Grow a Forest Garden?
  • Where Can You Grow a Forest Garden?
  • Gardens that Really Work with Nature
  • Why is Gardening So Much Work
  • The Primeval Forest: A Remembrance
  • Going Beyond – Way Beyond – Natural Gardening
  • Cultivating an Edible Landscape
  • How a Forest Garden Works
  • Goals of Forest Gardening
  • Dreaming the Gardens of the Future
  • Creating Sacred Sanctuaries
  • The 30-Year Medicine Wheel Garden Project

Lesson 2 ~ A Gardener's Ecology

  • Gardening the Forest
  • The Forest & the Trees
  • Gardening Like the Forest vs. Gardening in the Forest
  • The Three Ecological Principles
  • A Mature Garden
  • The Natives verses Exotics: Definitions & Questions
  • Understanding Plant Communities
  • The Web of Connections
  • Symbiosis: Living Together
  • The Self-Sufficient System: The Seven - S’s
  • Images of Edible Forest Gardens

Part II: Ecological Design & Practice for Temperate Climate

  • A Forest Gardener’s Tool Kit
  • A Forest Garden Pattern Language
  • Design Processes 1: Overview, Goals, and Assessments
  • Design Processes 2: The Design Phase
  • Site Preparation
  • Garden Establishment
  • Management, Maintenance, and Coevolution
  • The Future of Forest Gardening
  • A Honouring of Robert Hart

Lesson 3 ~ Designing the Ecological Forest Gardening Design

  • Pattern & Observation
  • The Web of Connections
  • Working with Nature
  • The Forest Garden Design Process
  • Natural Patterns in the Garden
  • Patterning: Unity & Biodiversity
  • The Five Elements of the Forest Architecture
  • The Seven-Story Garden: Vegetation Layers
  • Soil Horizons
  • The Practical Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Lesson 4 ~ Building the Soil to Life

  • The Living Soil
  • Soil Life: The First Recyclers
  • Understanding the Components of Soil
  • The Anatomy of Self-Renewing Fertility
  • The Soil Zoo: Biology Beneath Your Feet
  • Structures of the Underground Economy
  • The Soil Food Web
  • Plant Roots: Engines of the Underground Economy
  • The Soil’s Nutritional Constitution
  • The Ultimate Soil Building Process
  • Sharing the Wealth of the Soil
  • Keeping the Soil Alive
  • Fertility of the Soil is the Future of Civilization
  • The Most Important Crop on the Planet
  • The Lost Art of Mulching
  • The Ancient Wisdom of Sheet Mulching

Lesson 5 ~ The Fivefold to Water Wisdom

  • Water: the Life-Force of Garden Life
  • Catching, Conserving & Using Water
  • Water: Doing More with Less
  • Practical Solutions to Our Water Crisis
  • Harvesting, Holding & Storing Water
  • Conserving Water with Catchment
  • Planning a Water-Harvesting System

Lesson 6 ~ The Plant Communities

  • The Many Roles of a Tree
  • Multipurpose Plants
  • The Roles of Plants in a Forest Theater
  • Annuals & Perennials
  • Microclimates for the Forest Garden
  • Species, Species Niches, Species Relationships

Lesson 7 ~ The Forest Garden Companions

  • Bringing in the Birds & the Bees
  • Attracting Beneficial Insects
  • Other Forest Garden Helpers
  • Understanding the Dynamic Relationship of Pests

Lesson 8 ~ Creating Communities for the Forest Garden

  • Interplanting & Beyond
  • Co-operation & Competition
  • The Principles of Succession
  • Four Perspectives on Vegetation Dynamics
  • Succession Design: Using the Four Models
  • Putting Things Together
  • Applying the Principles of Forest Gardening

Lesson 9 ~ Designing Forest Garden Guilds

  • An Intimate Way of Guild-Building
  • The Polycultural Elements of Forest Gardening
  • Blueprinting Your Own Polyculture
  • Guilding the Forest Garden
  • Natural Plant Communities to Guide Design
  • An Example of an Apple - Centered Guild
  • The Art of Fine-Tuning the Guild
  • And Now - Creating The Super-Guild

Lesson 10 ~ Growing Your Own Edible Forest Garden

  • Experimenting with Edible Forest Gardens
  • Designing Your Forest Garden
  • Charts, Grafts & Other Useful Stuff
  • Plants for the Forest Garden
  • Guilding the Food Forest
  • How the Food Forest Evolves

Lesson 11 ~ The Ever Evolving Forest Garden

  • Recap of the Garden Adventure
  • Choosing the Right Ingredients
  • Building Fertility
  • Mother Earth’s Other Kingdoms
  • Harvestings & Recycling Resources
  • Building Interconnections
  • The Ever-Changing Art of Perfection
  • The Garden as an Organism
  • Assembling the Forest Garden
  • Conclusion: Elements, Dynamics & Desired Conditions

Lesson 12 ~ Supplemental Material - Appendix

  • A Sampling of Useful Plants
  • A Few of Our Favourite Trees & Plants
  • Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Resources

Further Study & Hands-on Experience

For hands-on training see our Mentorship Program for dates and details click here>

For information about the Forest Gardening Educator Course click here>

For information about our Visionary Herbalism Diploma Course click here>

The Process

IMG 0670 copy 2Part I (The Correspondence Course) Is the home study part of the course. Study the material and do the lessons at your own pace. Send in the lessons through the postal mail or email. We'll check your lessons and make comments and give you feedback on your progress.

Part II (The Advanced Study & Research) Thesis Project offers you have the opportunity to dive even deeper into the teachings. Choose an area of study that you feel particularly drawn  to in the course, one that sparks your passion, invites yours curiosity, beckons you to explore. Write a 5,000-word thesis and conduct a research project, to be submitted within the course study time. Also, you will be required to offer to your community, and document, a minimum of four workshops or lectures to build understanding, expertise and confidence. 

One-on-One Sessions

These sessions are available to both support and deepen the learning experience of this course. Three sessions of 40 minutes each which can be done over the phone or through Skype. These available to guide and advise you on your research thesis project. You need to book these sessions well in advance once you have sent in your proposed thesis topic.
Your Guide & Adviser: Shantree Kacera

Homework & Assignment

Homework is sent upon completion of each lesson and is returned to you. You DO NOT need to send your reference files. You should, however, keep us posted as to how you're doing with your projects; i.e., how your reference file is progressing, reports on your garden designs and progress of your forest food forest.

Time Completion

You may complete these lessons on your own time schedule. But in order to utilize them to their fullest, we recommend you set up a schedule time to do each lesson; one evening a week or an afternoon on the week-ends will keep your momentum going. The average time to complete the course is about one year. Some students have completed the material in 6 months while others may take a few years.

We do ask that you complete the course in a period of two years. After the two year period, if the student fails to complete the course within the allotted period, the time-extension fee is $100. for each additional year.


One of the specialties of these lessons is the personal attention available to your questions and homework. We invite your comments, favorite experiences and suggestions.


Each student who successfully completes the lessons and ALL the homework will receive a beautiful Forest Gardening Certificate. The Certificate awarded states that you are acknowledged for the successful completion of a thorough in depth study of Forest Gardening. This course is on the leading edge in education for the needs of the future.

Lessons 1-10 & An Adobe DVD Reader

The Forest Gardening Correspondence Course Textbooks and DVD Reader are sent to you as soon as we receive your tuition.

Textbooks for the Course

  • 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)
  • Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (Toby Hemenway, Chelsea Green, 2009)
  • Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems (Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, Bruce Ruddock, Chelsea Green, 2014)
  • Creating a Forest Garden: Working With Nature to Grow Edible Crops (Martin Crawford, Green Books, 2011)
  • Forest Garden DVD Reader ~ Includes Lessons, Assignments & Garden Projects (compiled by Shantree Kacera, D.N., Ph.D.)

A Self-Study Guide

How does one know if they have an understanding of the fundamentals of forest gardening and of the design process? Each student receives a self-study guidance tool of forest garden lessons with unique questions created by Shantree Kacera, D.N., Ph.D. As you go through your assignments and forest garden design projects, these questions will help guide you toward the most important things you should know and remember about forest gardening and ecological herbalism. If you can answer these questions and work creatively on your garden design projects you can be confident that you have the foundational understanding that comes with a this forest gardening certification training.

On-Site Forest Garden Design Work

This course will support you with various aids with your on-site portion of this course with the charts, DVD reader and the guided self-study. The course is packed full of practical forest garden design exercises and actual design work that you will be working on in your own garden.

Final Design Projects

All students will be involved in a forest garden design projects as part of their training. Students are invited to send in any diagrams, sketches, plant lists or visual aids such as photographs and DVD recordings.

Course Objective

The subject brings together all aspects of forest food gardening into design and management of a comprehensive and balanced system. This subject is relevant to both the home backyard gardener and to large scale acreage.

Forest gardening is a thoughtful approach to the way we live on our planet, achieved by designing ecologically-sustainable sound ways to manage our gardens, households and communities.

With this workshop we inform and engage you in creating ecologically intelligent designs for human living and planetary sustainability. You will learn how to apply practical forest gardening and ecological design to a diversity of landscapes with a focus on design ideas for dense urban environments and temperate regions.

The overall aim of this training is to give you an overview of how to design, implement and maintain a temperate forest garden. Become empowered by discovering how to grow your own food no matter how big or small your backyard is. Gain your qualifications in forest gardening, design your own property, and learn how to 'be a part of the solution' using forest gardening principles.

Course Aims

  • Understand the role of structures in a forest garden environment
  • Develop knowledge of water efficient techniques.
  • Understand the role of indigenous plants in a forest garden.
  • Develop skills in preparing management and develop design plans.
  • Perform a major design project.

Why Choose This Course?

Our tutorial support is second-to-none! You'll be working with Shantree and he'll act as your mentor a as soon as you enroll who will work with you all the way through. You can contact him if you have any questions or challenges, or let him know how the course is going. Mentorship support is by e-mail and/or telephone.

Learn to prepare plans for food forest systems. (ex. A unique landscape where plants live balanced in a self-sustaining ecosystem). It commonly involves developing a garden where the plants are put together in such a way that they support each others growth and development. The forest garden may change over years, but always remains productive, requires little input once established, and is environmentally sound. This is an "intensive" foundation course.

This course provides a sound starting point for setting yourself up as a Forest Gardener: Sustainable-Ecological Garden Designer.

Temperate Climate with a Focus on Bioregional Resilience

For those folks that have a large piece of land, or those with an acre or two, or those who live in the suburbs or city - in this course we will use forest gardening examples that are specific to one of these areas, the student tends to get more out of the course. It is also a bit of a challenge if there are big climate or bio-regional differences between where one lives and where one takes their course. Again, the principles don't change but our courses will tend to emphasize examples and factors related to the temperate climate zone with a focus on supporting localization and resilience practice (and the other regions of the globe) have in common. If you live in a area that freezes in the winter, our trainings and courses will tend to cater to those climate factors.

What We Wish to Transfer to Our Enrolled Participants

We know that there are many students who have done correspondence courses who have done little with their education, their text books sitting clean and quiet on a shelf. Learning something is one thing, having the motivation and inspiration to put something into motion is another.

Because of this, we have designed our correspondence courses to:

  1. Give our participants all the basic tools and facts related to a full forest garden and ecological herbalism design education .
  2. Continually bring everything back to the fundamentals so that one can see how the specifics all tie together.
  3. Keep the information and the creatively interesting, engaging and fun.
  4. Deepen the understanding that each of us can make a difference from where we are and with what we have.
  5. Inspire confidence in each participant.


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If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”
~Alan Watts

“Goethe put it over two centuries ago . . . Life as a whole expresses itself as a force that is not to be contained within any one part. . . . The things we call the parts in every living being are so inseparable from the whole that they may be understood only in and with the whole.”  
~Stephen Harrod Buhner

Regular fee $1400


  • All Correspondence Course material
  • One-on-One Sessions
  • Taxes where applicable

Shipping is $50 for North America   |   Shipping is $100 for International