Saturday, 10 March 2012

How to grow a Forest Garden on a North Facing Hill

It doesn't involve digging, the plants come back year after year and you grow things with great names like Szechuan Pepper or Jostaberries. We've read, we've planned, we're trying for a Forest Garden...

Martin Crawford's epic book.

With nearly a half acre of more or less virgin garden to tame, we've hit on creating a Forest Garden. At heart this is built on the idea of 'working with nature' to mimic the conditions in a forest.

Excitingly, it has an architectural side:

  • A canopy layer of trees or large shrubs (preferably edible)
  • Below this a shrub layer of,er, shrubs (preferably perennial and edible)
  • Then ground cover. Vigorous, low plants to fill in the gaps, stop the weeds and give everyone food. 
And it has some defining principles:

  • Get all the layers working together (ecosystem is the risky word) and they do lots of the hard graft for you. e.g. nitrogen fixing shrubs like Broom mean you don't need to add compost.  
  • Mostly plant perennials - they come back year after year, unlike annuals. 
  • Use a wider range of edible plants to add diversity and flexibility. We're planting a rose hedge as an edible wind break (Rosa Rugosa). 
But, we have a big complication.... We could only afford our half acre because it's on a steep north facing hill. The foothills of the Mendips to be precise. So this will be more trial and error than usual. 

The planting so far...

We've sheet mulched as much as we think we can handle this year. Used our removal boxes in one spot. We've planted four fruit trees (canopy layer). These are Victoria plum, 2*Pears and a Morello Cherry. We've planted a wind break hedge in a couple of places (it increases yields). 
We're adding shrubs slowly. A broom for nitrogen, a Jostaberry and a Redcurrant are in the post. Ground cover to follow but that'll need to come from seeds when we've got something to propogate them in. 

There are some great people/books/sites we're using to help:

Work in progress:

Bottom of the garden. Removal boxes as sheet mulch. Looks messy but seems to be working - pleasingly green. 

Victoria Plum added in the middle and a rear hedge of wild roses added this weekend (not in pic yet).

Spring is springing

Woody helps water new hedge
Wild rose hedge to be

Our soil is healthy but soggy (north facing slope)

We're planting shrubs late, may need more watering!

1 comment:

  1. Wood Green, if only it lived up to its name, now you seem to be living the dream.... Amira says hello to Woody and will he marry her?