Short History of Gardening and Agriculture
Chapter title – Ancient Gardens – Forest Gardens
The first efforts at gardening appeared in the equatorial regions of Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. No one knows when humans first started cultivating plants, however archeological evidence exists that suggests human first began choosing plants to grow to provide food around 45,000 years ago in forest gardens. These gardens were usually in tracts of land bordering rivers. A forest garden is still a forest, however it contains a large percentage of edible fruit species.
The First Gardens
The first forest gardens likely were plant collections composed of fruit trees, brambles and vines that provided sustenance for humans. Gradually these first gardeners chose improved varieties, eliminated “weed” species and took steps to protect their crops. These early garden crops would have been native, however, over time they began importing species from other areas.
Forest Gardening Evolved
Sometime during the development of these early gardens and the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution, humans began burning back selected tropical forest areas to plant food crops and build villages. In these gardens they planted yam, taro, sweet potato, chili pepper, black pepper, mango, and bananas in addition to the early fruit crops. Sometime around 12,500 years ago humans began the transition from hunting and gathering to developing agriculture and forming larger settlements. Thus began the Neolithic Revolution.
Modern Forest Gardens
Many cultures still plant forest gardens. The garden form is common in tropical regions of the world. These gardeners incorporate trees, crops and livestock in the same tract of land. Crops include coconut, black pepper, cocoa and pineapple. Many varieties are heirloom crops that are grown nowhere else. They are becoming popular in temperate areas, planted with crops like apples, pears, peaches, plums, mulberries, chestnuts, walnuts, and butternuts. They may also include currents, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries grapes and kiwi fruits. Ponds within the garden can provide water for irrigation and a place to grow edible fish.
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