Tuesday, 23 September 2014

... a sort of forest garden

Waste Less Live More week, day 2 - Borrow It

I love the library. I adore books and am able to devour them at a rapid rate of knots. When I was recovering from surgery reading was one of my favourite things to do, the slight problem being that I could not hold a book or indeed get to the library. So at the time it was audio and digital books only for me. 

And then I discovered that the public library has a digital library - a whole new feast of accessible booky wonder. Check it out. Ours in Gloucestershire is fantastic. I have borrowed countless books, fiction, non fiction, audio book, ebook. Brilliant! Try it. Free books you can have whenever you like. Whats not to love?

All you need is a library account and you can register, visit you local library or see your local council's library webpage to find out more.

I tend to read a lot about gardening. One of my main responsibilities in our money saving exercise is to provide most of our vegetable crop and eggs from our garden. We have 66m2 of available back garden to grow veg and keep chickens in, not a huge space, but this year the only veg we bought were potatoes and mushrooms and I have no idea when we last bought eggs!  With such a small area there is obvious competition for space and I am always keen to keep as much of my veg beds as possible for annual and more choosy veg.  Problem is herbs, comfrey, rhubarb etc all have different ideas and need somewhere to go.  Then my partner said "Why not use the front garden?" (a 16m2 hedge surrounded weedy, dead, unused space). 

Coincidentally at the same time I borrowed a great book by chance from the download library called Forest Gardening by Robert Hart. All of a sudden my front garden, the plants needing a home and the forest garden idea all converged. Front garden makeover! 

Forest gardening is a low-maintenance, sustainable plant-based food production system based on woodland ecosystems, using fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields that are useful to us.  Key things that stuck out when I looked into it - low maintenance, sustainable, useful to humans and as an added bonus they are beautiful. I love the idea of a more natural, interdependent garden. As someone who loves to garden but is not always well enough it is great sometimes to feel less needed!

One slight issue to start with, there are no trees in the front garden, I don't have any trees to put out there and if I did put one there there would be no room for anything else. But we do have a hedge and a shrub that came with the house. No idea what it is, red berried and the army of sparrows & bluetits love it so thats good enough for me and will have to suffice as our upper layer. In an ideal world I would probably start my forest garden with a plum tree (dreams of future garden...). So this is going to be a sort of forest garden.

The garden before the makeover ...
So today has seen phase 1 of the project, planting up a section of the sort of forest front garden. I have cleared away all the mouldy nasty bits, put a log border in (from our old tree that came out) and planted various plants from the list below.  As the perennial plants will get bigger next year but either will be dormant or small over winter I have added some short term veg to add colour and get the garden producing immediately. Swiss Chard is adding spectacular colour and green food for the chickens and I have put some Mustard, Red Frills in there as an experiment, they have been uniquely slug and snail resistant in the back garden and I want to see if the hold up in the wilder front garden.  Phase 2 includes a bit of bush moving that is a two person job so that will have to wait a few days.  Plus I created so many bags of weeds I might have to spend the rest of the week composting!

Plants going in the sort of forest garden and what they will be used for :-

Rhubarb (food)
Gooseberry (for cuttings & food for sparrows!)
Fennel (food, herb mix)
Mint - peppermint & apple mint (food, herb mix, insect repellent)
Oregano (food for us & chickens, herb mix)
Lemon Balm (food for us & chickens)
Tansy (insect repellent)
Thyme - grey, broad leaved & lemon (food for us & chickens, herb mix)
Wild Garlic (food for us & chickens) (not from wild, from my back garden!)
Wild Rocket - perennial rocket (food for us & chickens)
Chinese Celery (food for us)
1000 Headed Kale (food for chickens)
Sorrel - red veined & buckler leaved (food for us)
Perpetual Spinach (food for us & chickens)
Red Frilled Mustard (food for us)

Flowers will be added in the spring - calendula & nasturtium

(Herb mix is a dried mix of various herbs I use in my chickens bedding to keep the bugs at bay and their health tip top)

Plan of my sort of forest garden...

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