Growing perennial plants like fruit trees and bushes although it demands thought and input at the point of establishment in general require much less on going maintenance than vegetable growing. So especially for growing projects in environments like schools, community spaces and the like forest gardens, that is mixes of trees, fruiting shrubs, herbs and vines have a very useful role to play.
The idea of the temperate forest garden was developed by pioneer Robert Hart, who had seen similar systems in Southern India where shade trees of coconuts, mango, tamarind and more were grown in amongst annual crops of rice an vegetables. In northerly latitudes such as here we are required to space plants much further apart as we have much lower light levels, but the principle still works well and it enables another layer of production to be stacked into growing systems, boosting productivity and biodiversity.
Meanwhile, Emma and Seri on the Cultivate project here at Pen Dinas have been busy buying in plants to propagate which will be for our forest garden nursery, currently in development. There are a great many plants that suit the brief for forest gardens, however they are not always easy to get hold of.. so we are keen to develop our own supply. Lots of nurseries offer the top fruit but very few offer the under-story shrubs, bushes and herbaceous plants.
A great source to find out about these is the Plants for a Future database. The plants we bought in came from the Agro Forestry Research Trust, and nursery managed and owned by forest garden pioneer Martin Crawford.
Compost – the new black gold. Energy from waste is a buzz word in the world of sustainability and the best way to process waste is to turn it into compost. Nitrogen in manure and food waste quickly breaks down into ammonia and becomes a greenhouse gas, whereas once composted and incorporated into long chain complex organic molecules it becomes stable and much less mobile. Of course the composting process itelf generates a lot of heat and compost pioneer Jean Pain calculated via his experiments that composting can easily generate 10% more heat than combusting the same material, whilst of course leaving a useful residue in the form of compost that can be incorporated into soil to boost fertility, water and nutrient retention.
Of course Cwm Harry made its name via the food waste processing contract we had with Powys County Council and lead researcher Richard Northridge will be offering some of his experience on the one day Compost Masterclass we are offering on 1 Amrch at treflach farm, Oswestry