How to Grow a 100-Year-Old Forest in Your Backyard in Just 10 Years

Our natural environment for millions of years was the world’s forests. Shubhendu Sharma, a forest-building engineer, says cities, suburbs, and mega-farms aren’t our “natural” habitat.

We can reproduce little parts of that ecosystem in ten years in our backyards, businesses, and public spaces, he explains in the Ted Talk below.

Sharma was a Toyota industrial engineer employed to reduce carbon emissions. He planted mini-forests nearby. Since then, Afforest has “built” 75 forests worldwide.

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Sharma’s forests grow 10 times faster, are 100 times more biodiverse, and are 30 times lusher than usual. His tactics let him cultivate 300 trees in 6 parked cars. A forest costs about as much as an iPhone. His company mixes in local biomass (compost, manure, etc.) to make compacted soil more porous and let water in. Microorganisms transform biomass into bioavailable nutrients.

Sharma’s company starts planning a tiny forest by identifying native tree species. They choose different species for each layer — canopy, tree layer, subtree layer, and shrubs — depending on whether they want a fruit forest, a flower forest, a forest that attracts birds or bees, or an evergreen forest.

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They collect seeds, germinate saplings, and plant them in a way that intersperses species. Next, they spread mulch to retain summer moisture and protect winter soil from frost. This creates soft soil that roots can rapidly penetrate. In 3 months, the roots reach 1 m deep and mesh the earth. Microbes and fungus feed roots.

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As the forest grows, it conceals the sunshine and weeds stop growing. Once the canopy is dense enough, the forest no longer needs watering. The wet, dark forest floor allows leaves to decompose fast and feed the soil.

As leaves fall, feeding the earth, the forest grows tremendously, adds Sharma. Sharma’s website explains forest-scaping.

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