Away with those stones from the backyard, plant a (mini) forest! Better for nature, drainage and biodiversity. Dozens of Dutch people already have a Tiny Forest. Starting this month, hundreds of smaller Tuiny Forests will be joined.
When Nathalie van Loon planted her Tiny Forest in March 2018, it looked a little meagre. Small twigs sticking out of the ground, that work. But now, 2.5 years later, a beautiful little forest has risen behind her house in Zwartsluis. “It went much faster than I thought.”
A Tiny Forest or small forest is a dense, native forest the size of a tennis court. The concept was conceived by the Indian engineer Shubhendu Sharma who wants to provide the full and busy inner cities with more natural, native greenery. The idea was picked up worldwide, in the Netherlands by IVN Natuureducatie.
The bushes are planted in the Netherlands at schools but also private individuals, if they have a large plot of land, can participate. To accommodate the owners of smaller gardens, boxes with a Tuiny Forest are available from this month, accounting for six square meters of native wilderness. Meanwhile, 800 Dutch people have signed up for this combination of five native trees, five indigenous shrubs and a bag of native seeds.
Nathalie van Loon regularly walks with her family and dog through their backyard forest. “We live on the edge of the village and always had a large lawn. In this minibos, we saw several advantages. It offers shelter and privacy, it requires little maintenance and you literally bring back a piece of nature.”
Meanwhile, the forest — according to Van Loon about 25 by 25 metres — literally rustles with insects and birds. “In addition to many willows, elms, oak and birch trees, we also have berry bushes. We soon noticed that this attracts a lot of birds, insects and butterflies. It looks deliciously feral. I love nature as nature should be.”
Daan Bleichrodt is the Chief Tree Planting Officer of IVN Natuureducatie and responsible for rolling out the Tiny and Tuiny Forests. “I saw Shubhendu Sharma in 2014 at Tedx Talks and his idea seemed great. There are so many children in big cities who never get into a forest. So you bring the forest to them.”
Therefore, Tiny Forests are often planted near a school. “The students can play there after school and during school hours, for example, biology lessons can be given. Currently around 85 have been realized throughout the Netherlands and there will be eighty additional ones next year.”
According to Bleichrodt — who invariably closes his e-mails with May the forest be with you — some sixty municipalities are interested in the formula. “Its also good news that the smaller Tuiny Forests are so kicking. We often hear that people like to do something about nature; this offers a practical opportunity.”