Twelve Steps to a Miyawaki Forest

In a previous article, we introduced an aforestation methodology known as the Miyawaki Method, developed by the Japanese botanist, Akira Miyawaki.

The not-for-profit Vida developed a handy guide for implementing a mini forest based on this method.

Vida suggests breaking down the path to building a Miyawaki forest into four stages, each with three steps:

  1. Dream and Observe
  • Task 1: Involve the community
  • Task 2: Identify the area
  • Task 3: Discover de local flora
  1. Plan and Collect
  • Task 4: Draw the forest
  • Task 5: Plan irrigation
  • Task 6: Collect resources
  1. Implement and Connect
  • Task 7: Prepare the ground
  • Task 8: Plant densely
  • Task 9: Seed bombing
  1. Celebrate and Empower
  • Task 10: Take care of the forest
  • Task 11: Keep track of the evolution
  • Task 12: Live the forest

Urbem Forests has planted on two plots, both within an urban park in Lisbon. This picture was taken on the second plot, planted in 2023.

This article will focus on the first stage: Dream and Observe.

All the pictures illustrating this article were kindly taken by Pierre François Docquir and offered by Urbem Forests, a Portuguese non-profit growing the largest Miyawaki forest in Portugal.


Dream and Observe

Task 1: Involve the community

The first stage can easily be overlooked; people are eager to put their hands in the soil and might be tempted to skip these steps. Don’t! These three steps are your forest’s foundation and if you give them proper attention, they might just mean a successful implementation of your project (any project, really!).

It is not by chance that we, at the Global Tree Initiative, prioritize community building. Planting trees alone, randomly or mindlessly, will not take us far when it comes to the ecological and climate crises. The real game-changer is to gather everyone and promote a sense of connectedness and responsibility toward each other and the planet.

“The resilience of the project is proportional to the network of people and partners involved, creating a greater sense of collective belonging and therefore greater success. Share ideas, seek close partners, create community, enforce and reward the role of each one.”

– Vida

Finding suitable partners is an important step. Urbem Forests has been working with Nam, a local business that produces mushrooms out of straw and leftover coffee grounds. The waste product is then used by Urbem as mulch for the young forests.


Task 2: Identify the area

The area you choose will also greatly influence the outcome of your project. Water access, the topography, the accessibility, and the presence of other (potentially invasive) species will all play a role. Make sure you visit several plots and observe them carefully.

Identifying the plot with the best characteristics for your forest-to-be is a crucial step. Inclination, water access, and vegetation cover are some of the aspects to consider.


Task 3: Discover the local flora

Finally, learn about the local native flora. Different species are adapted to different environments. Besides, species relate to one another in very particular ways; naturally, native plants are better adapted to other native plants than to foreigners. Another aspect to consider is that plant species do not occupy the terrain in the same way. Typically, we can consider five strata: herbaceous (0 – 1.5m), shrubs (1 – 2m), understory (up to 10m), canopy (more than 10m), and climbers.

Quercus robur (an oak tree species) is commonly found in Portuguese territory and across Europe.


These first 3 steps make your project’s first stage. The next article will cover the second stage – Planning and Collecting.

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