Capton Miyawaki Forest

Latest News 20/9/23

The site for the Miyawaki forest was chosen because trees wouldn’t grow there, as it’s so exposed, and I have to say that they’ve had a tough start. Knowing how dry it was at the top of the hill, with no water source nearby, we were keen to get some mulch down. Unfortunately we couldn’t get hold of any until spring was well on the way and the vegetation were already kicking off when we spread it. This meant that lots of grasss and other plants were soon growing all over the site, and trying to weed around densely planted little trees was nearly impossible without risking damaging them (or that was our excuse anyway!). The long dry period at the start of summer was hard for things so recently planted, then they enjoyed the wet bit in the middle, but it quickly dried up again during the weeks of sunshine in the later part of August and into September.

Some of the trees have done well, particularly the little oaks, despite being on such a dry, exposed site, some have clearly suffered from the lack of water and dropped their leaves early. I don’t think we’ve lost any yet, but we won’t actually know until spring rolls around again.

It was designed as a test of the Miyawaki Forest Method and it has been well and truly tested!

What are Miyawaki Forests

Tiny dense forests are emerging around the world as part of a campaign aimed at preserving biodiversity and combating the climate crisis. These miniature forests are being planted using the technique of Japan’s most famous botanist Dr Miyawaki.

Dr Miyawaki has created around 1,700 micro forests across Asia and now numerous min-forests are  being planted across Europe. Miyawaki forests just across Belgium and France consists of more than 21,000 trees over 7,000 square meters. The ideal size is the area of a tennis court but many of them are considerably smaller than that. They are frequently sited on bits of waste ground in towns.


It is reported that such forests grow 10 times faster, sustain 100 times more biodiversity, and absorb 40 times more carbon than conventional forests. The aim is to create a small functional ecosystem that can restore soil, protect resources like water and improve air quality. The dense forest also acts as a biodiversity hotspot that can have a measurable effect on both the local and regional environment.


The basis of this method is to plant very densely, 3-4 trees to the square metre; to use only native species (particularly ones that you observe growing locally); to plant a wide variety of species and to prepare the ground well with organic matter. The tree list should include large species that will ultimately form the canopy (eg oak, hornbeam, sycamore), smaller trees (eg cherry, willow, maple), sub-trees (eg hawthorn, crab apple) and shrubs (eg spindle, dog rose, blackthorn).


The USP of Dr Miyawaki’s model is that anyone can simulate a forest in the smallest of spaces, in the shortest time possible and see it mature within one’s own lifetime.


A number of the Miyawaki forest projects in the UK have split the site in half and done a conventional planting on one side and a Miyawaki planting on the other. It will be very interesting to observe these over the next few years. The picture below shows such a split at a site in Kent with the Miyawaki planting below:

Capton Miyawaki Forest

It seemed so counter-intuitive to be planting everything so closely that I decided to put in a little Miyawaki forest myself to see what will happen. I chose a small (8x4 metres) and very exposed site at the top of our field (which is on the top of a west facing hill, the highest point between Dartmoor and the sea) where I’d planted a few trees before. What I’d already planted were mostly oaks and they had generally survived but are looking pretty sad, growing incredibly slowly and are clearly finding conditions very tough. I don’t normally use tree guards but up there I found it helped give them a start. You can see a skinny oak sticking up in the middle of the site which must be at least 12 years old.

On this new planting I didn’t use any guards and just put a small fence around to keep the rabbits off them. I planted a mix of bare root saplings and a bunch of trees that we’d grown from seed in pots, about 115 trees in all of the following varieties:


Beech, Hornbeam, Hawthorn, Bird Cherry, Crab Apple, Elder, Field Maple, Rowan, Hazel, Spindle, English Oak, Holm Oak (not truly a native but has been here since 1500), Dogwood, Holly, Chestnut, Dog rose, Willow.


We will keep you posted with what happens.