Coedhills tell me “What is a Forest garden”            


Just back from a lightning trip to Paris to see amongst other things the Sacré-Cœur +

The Kiss

This wonderful statue by Augustin Rodin – The Kiss. Bliss! and even a boat trip on the Seine. Travel courtesy of EuroStar , all good.

Back in the real world again and  hoping to enjoy a Sunday coppicing day but not to be as Martin unfortunately cut his hand working in the wood on Saturday. Fixture rearranged for a few days time. Get better soon Martin.

Last week end Lucy, Mary and I went on a one day course in the National Botanic Garden of Wales  presented by Jess Clynewood ably assisted by Rich Wright both of Coed Hills Forest Garden Project in West Glamorgan. The course is one of a series organised and located in the excellent National Botanic Garden of Wales as a part of the  Growing the Future- Tyfu’r Dyfodol programme. It was an inspirational day and got us all thinking hard about the Forest garden part of Coed Panteg.

The answer to what is a Forest garden- Quote from Dave Jacke  in his books about Edible Forest gardens   ( “A forest garden is an edible ecosystem, a perennial polyculture of multi-purpose and mutually beneficial plants. Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodland like patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts”

We talked about the Seven-layer system

The seven layers of the forest garden

Robert Hart pioneered a system based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct levels. He used intercroppingto develop an existing small orchard of apples and pears into an edible polyculture landscape consisting of the following layers:

  1. ‘Canopy layer’ consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
  2. ‘Low-tree layer’ of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
  3. ‘Shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
  4. ‘Herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
  5. ‘Ground cover layer’ of edible plants that spread horizontally.
  6. ‘Rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
  7. ‘Vertical layer’ of vines and climbers.

Planning is crucial for a successful outcome- many factors to consider linked with year round observation .

Questions to consider- What plants are already there, how are they faring and how are they linked to others eco systems? What insects and animals already inhabit the space and how do they co-exist? How do natural conditions such as prevailing winds, aspect, rainfall, frost, altitude and proximity to the sea play out ? I hope Coedenblog can highlight some of these relationships.

Jess spoke about Plant Guilds giving us four key points; Fill niches, Remember the Four Family Friends– (Nitrogen fixers, ground coverers,  nectary plants and plants that protect or deter.) create mutually beneficial relationships and lastly foster multi-functionality.  Alder is a nitrogen fixer!  Also mulching. Clearance, grow through and maintenance mulch. The role of cardboard , black plastic and wood chip. (We may look to machine chip some of the brash from the coppicing work.)

Sepp’s Hugelkultur raised beds. ( Mentioned in the  Permaculture magazine  ( )  Sounds like an ideal way of creating raised beds on the hill side using unwanted(?) roots, trees, brash etc layered over with stripped turf and soil. must give it a go.

Last thing to catch my ear was hearing Rich talk about trees and the mycorrhiza fungi that invade the roots. The fungii share space with the tree root system and provide Nitrogen for the tree and demonstrate their presence through mushrooms and toadstools. In a fascinating book  called  The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge he says ” The whole subterranean mycelium including the mycorrhizae, sometimes cover many acres and weigh many tons. Forest fungi, mostly hidden from view, include some of the largest organisms on earth.” Newly planted trees can be dusted with a powder or gell containing cultures of mycorrhizae to promote this helpful relationship from the start. It may be possible on our site to link the existing woodland and associated fungii with the trees and hedges already planted on the hill side.

Enough, before you fall asleep at the screen.

This entry was posted in Journal, March 2013 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Coedhills tell me “What is a Forest garden”            

  1. Pingback: Growing in a changing Climate and other things | Coedenblog

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