A low maintenance, sustainable and biodiverse agroforestry system based on a woodland eco system. The woodland layers are built up using edible and useful plants, carefully placed to ensure they have space and light to flourish.
Glengall Wharf’s forest garden is being developed on a low heap of rubble with a thin soil covering.
Steps taken so far;
- Clearance of perennial weeds eg bramble.
- Created tree pits filled with good soil, well rotted manure and biochar*.
- Planting of canopy layer ie trees inc apple varieties, pear, hazel, chestnut, plum, damson, cherry and also less common species e.g. Eleagnus angustifolia (a useful nitrogen fixer).
- Planting of shrub layer inc black currant, jostaberry, gooseberry, goji, blue honeysuckle /honeyberry, buffalo currant and japanese wine berry.
- Addition of a thick sheet / lasagne mulch to manage existing weeds and create new soil for further planting.
- Planting of herbaceous perennial and annual layers of planting that will include rhubarb, jerusalem artichoke, dynamic accumulators e.g. comfrey, dock, nettle etc. We will plant with a wide range of edible leaves, dye plants, medicinal and culinary herbs and interplant with annuals eg squash, beans, cruciferae.
Robert Hart, an early innovator of forest gardening in the UK incorporated the following layers into his garden in Shropshire;
- ‘Canopy layer’ consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
- ‘Low-tree layer’ of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
- ‘Shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
- ‘Herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
- ‘Ground cover layer’ of edible plants that spread horizontally.
- ‘Rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
- ‘Vertical layer’ of vines and climbers.
We have added an 8th layer, a fungal layer through the use of woodchip as a mulch (will be rotted down by fungi existing in the wood) and the addition of inoculated logs of shiitake, oyster and chicken of the woods edible fungi.
* Biochar – is essentially charcoal, but burnt at a lower temperature and with a more restricted flow of oxygen. It works in several ways. Though it is not filled with nutrients itself, it is able to attract and hold on to nutrients, so preventing them from leaching away, and holding them just where plants can reach them. Its porous nature provides refuges for mycorrhizal fungi, which in effect enlarge the plant’s root system while also increasing its resistance to diseases. It makes soil far more attractive and stable for beneficial microbial activity. Essentially it does everything organic matter does to the soil, but better, and permanently.
Early summer in the garden, dominant grasses growing
Autumn, year 1 – sheet mulched all over to suppress weeds