Garden journal – 6 October 2017

I did some ‘work’ in the garden today.  Not counting minor interventions like taking off dock leaves and flowering stems it was the first time I had done anything since pruning the fruit trees and removing the flowering stems from lots of salsify plants in the height of summer.

It is bulb planting time and I had bought some narcissi and grape hyacinth for spring colour to go in the bed with the step over fruit trees.  Wherever I could find a space I put a mixture of the flowering bulbs, garlic bulbs and some saved vetch seeds in all together.  I hope that they will come up in a clump with the spring bulbs first and then the garlic and vetch growing on through the summer.

From the outset I have put other plants in with the apples.  This was one of the little fruit trees just after planting in April, with a Japanese stauntonia to the left and aubretia and catmint either side.

step over apple after planting with flowers and herbs

Soon after that I put sweet peas along the row which bloomed beautifully all summer long, although I didn’t get the flowers in this picture!  Later on I split up chives and put them in as well.

step over apple three months after planting (July)

Those apples have ripened well and the herbs beneath have continued to flourish but are not yet ready to be picked.

step over apple and herbs

I also had some tree onions saved from the plants in one of the polyculture beds to plant.


KODAK Digital Still Camera

tree onions growing with marjoram in July

The bulbils formed at the top can be removed and replanted and I have put them in various places, some close to the original patch and some a bit further away.  In each case I have tried to find a similar place with deep soil and a sunny position.

tree onions planted here – topped with mulch from the immediate vicinity

I planted some at the highest point of this raised bed, close to the original plants.  The planting site has been mulched with grass cuttings through the summer.  After planting the bulbils I then put some marjoram stalks taken from adjacent plants on top.  (I had removed the stalks to make room for other bulbils to be planted between the sprawling marjoram plants.)

And atop the marjoram stalks I placed seed heads from honesty plants that have been forming since the spring.  In the spring when a whole patch of tiny honesty plants came up en masse it occurred to me that I could use these seed heads to sow as a green manure and also as an indicator of where I have planted something else that my not yet be visible.  So the idea is that the honesty will drop its seeds which will then germinate and show me where the tree onions are before they show up.  Some of the honesty plants will grow to a good size but most won’t make it.  Those that survive can grow alongside the onions and then the following spring they will flower and the cycle will start again.

Having done all the ‘work’ I needed to do I spent some time looking around the garden.  I was pleased to see that the kales which had been eaten back to bare stems by the cabbage white caterpillars in August have now started to recover well.

Daubenton’s kale recovering

I know that now is the time when many gardeners are tidying up, but I won’t be doing that.  There is still so much life and vitality in the garden.  Insects are enjoying the late flowers and the oca, Jerusalem artichoke and other root crops are still growing nicely.  Nasturtiums are almost flowing across the polyculture, so vigorous are they!  The kales are harvestable again – we ate from two other plants the last two days and the lamb’s lettuce and land cress are growing back from seed.

nasturtiums in full flow across polyculture bed

And to make things as good as they can get the weather has been warm and pleasant and we have been able to sit out and enjoy a cuppa and the autumn air.

Posted in Fruit, Polycultures, roots and tubers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What makes a forest garden?

In July I posted about ‘Les Bois de St Hilaire’, a French campsite I stayed at which provides a wonderful model of the kind of natural woodland that a forest garden is modelled on.  As a follow up and contrast to that post this is about an English campsite I stayed at in September.

Like the site in France this site is situated in an agricultural area mainly devoted to cereal crops.  It was similarly an isolated island amongst many miles of fields and the landscape was not unlike that of northern and central France – large open fields, very few hedges and also very few trees apart from the occasional singleton or small copse.

The site was just like many other campsites that offer a green space with trees and shrubs etc; and it had been planted to look attractive and provide a nice environment for people to stay in. And indeed it was attractive to look at and very pleasant to stay in.

I am not in any way being critical of how the owners of this campsite had planted it, they have done it the same as many others that I have stayed at and have won conservation awards for it.  On one level it does have habitat for birds, for bats, for small mammals and for insects including bees, but on another level with a different approach it would have been possible to make even more of these features.

I wanted to look beneath the surface a bit more and pinpoint exactly what the differences are between this very conventional approach to amenity style landscaping as practised by humans and the way that nature works when left alone.  In other words why this one would not provide a model to follow even though it looks nice and superficially is biodiverse and apparently good for nature.

I didn’t have my camera with me and took pictures on an Ipad which unfortunately have come ot a bit fuzzy.

woodland edge

The planting on the site comprised the following components:

  • a woodland edge
  • a shrubby / bushy border
  • hedges between the pitches
  • fruit trees
  • a lawn
  • an herbaceous border near the lake
  • a raised flower bed close to the amenity block
  • a lake

I think that it was not so much what was there but how it was put together that meant the different elements did not appear to function together as a single (eco)system.

The woodland edge comprised a selection of trees that were all of similar size and age and they were planted very close together.  In a natural woodland / forest garden you would have trees of different ages and heights and they would not be growing so close together.

Alongside this edge was a shrubby / bushy border which included edibles such as goji berry (Duke of Argyll’s tea – which I have seen naturalised in the east of England before) and blackthorn (for sloes – also widely naturalised across England / Wales).  With the inclusion of some more diversity and some more wild plants such as primrose, dog rose, violets, vetch, ivy, holly etc it would become a really good habitat for birds and other species.

Blackthorn bushes bearing ripening sloes

The alder trees planted in the grass fix nitrogen which is a useful function in any garden but there could have been more of them or more nitrogen fixing species in general.

tree planting in the grass including alders

The hedges between the pitches were of laurel and some had not grown very well.  The laurel looked and felt very sterile and lifeless although it was green and glossy and it did provide a bit of greenery to break up the gravel of the pitches.  A more mixed planting including fruiting berries such as wild raspberry, blackberries and currants or jostaberries would have been both edible and something like hawthorn, cotoneaster, pyracantha or dogwood would have been better for wildlife.

laurel hedge between pitches

The fruit trees were planted in an immaculate lawn which was bright green and had no ‘weeds’ in it.  It has been a difficult and dry summer anyway and I am not surprised these trees are struggling.  But also they are planted in a lawn and grass is very competitive with other plants and the trees do not have the benefit of any other plants such as you might find in a polyculture to encourage a healthy growing environment.

immaculate lawn (plus a few leaves)

I think it more than likely that the lawn was both fertilised and had weedkiller applied.

I know that campsites need to keep the weeds down off the pitches.  The gravel is quickly punctuated with new plants appearing and on some of the pitches these were brown – having had some chemical treatment presumably.

‘weeds’ growing through gravel on pitch

All the elements of the landscaping and planting on this site felt very separate – which of course is the ‘normal’ way of doing things.

fruit tree

You could take virtually the same ingredients – woodland trees, birch, sycamore, ash, fruit trees, hedgerow plants and bushes like goji berry and blackthorn and some of the herbaceous plants growing in a flower bed – including eupatorium (Joe Pye weed) and hosta, add in some more planting into the mix to increase flowers and biodiversity and different spacing and more effective layers.  You would then have a more natural style of planting that would hopefully be able to function as a system.

poorly tree

So in summary I think that these changes would have made quite a difference:

  • fewer trees on the woodland edge, of different ages and with more spacing between them to enable new growth to begin
  • greater variety of shrubs and wild flowers in the hedge / shrub border including berry plants for birds
  • more nitrogen fixing plants
  • change the laurel between pitches for a mixed hedge of natives and some edibles with wild flowers
  • stop applying chemicals to the lawn and let wild plants, especially dandelions and clover grow in it
  • a greater mixture of plants in the herbaceous flower bed and the raised bed and including some herbs like fennel and sage for their flowers and also for the campers to cook with
  • fruit trees to be planted apart from the lawn and surrounded with a range of beneficial flowering plants such as herbs as above or chives or other alliums.  They also need to be pruned appropriately.



Posted in ecosystem, Forest Gardening, Fruit trees, Hedgerow, Herbs, Polycultures | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Launch of the National Forest Gardening Scheme

Calling all aspiring forest gardeners

I know there are lots of people out there who are passionate about forest gardening and would like to see more of them planted across the country particularly in places that are accessible to the general public.

For the past year I have been involved with other link minded people in the formation of a new group to support more access to forest gardens for more people.  It is called the National Forest Gardening Scheme (NFGS) and its aim is to support communities to plant forest gardens in publicly owned spaces where everyone can visit them and enjoy them.

The NFGS is due to be launched in Newhaven, Sussex on 21st October 2017 and we would love to see as many interested and supportive people there as possible.  You do not need to have any prior experience of forest gardens or knowledge about them, this is an open invitation to anyone who is interested in the topic and would like to find out more.  It is going to be a great event where you will hear inspiring presentations by leading practitioners, be informed of the latest policy moves within Government, and hear about some exciting community forest garden projects already underway.

This will be a chance to network with some of the most forward thinking practitioners and strategists in the area of public space, well-being and local food production. And to eat a delicious forest garden lunch.

The link below will take you to the site to book a ticket and gives some further details.

Posted in Forest Gardening | Tagged | 2 Comments

Leaving well alone

Another lovely post from Carole, it is a perfect illustration of the need to leave things be, as much as possible!

We had a couple of sunny Autumn days lately, and I determined to get out into the garden. The profusion of spent borage, exuberant pot marjoram and ancient alchemilla were bugging me. It needs tidying up, I decided. So out I went, secateurs in hand. The garden greeted me with a sunny smile and a […]

via Bugging me — iSustainability Project

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Summer time ….

….. and despite the largely cool, cloudy and damp weather the garden is singing to me.

Hinomaki red gooseberries

We have eaten the offerings of the berry and currant bushes.


The tree fruits are ripening on their as yet slender boughs.

apple Sunset ripening


the first and so far the only, very lovely, mirabelle ripening


damson Abergwyngregyn bearing its first fruits and surrounded by marjoram, oca, tree onions and more


Jerusalem artichokes and mashua are rocketing skywards and oca is fast expanding outwards and upwards.

oca thriving in deep, fertile soil

When the sun comes out bees, butterflies and an assortment of other flying insects are attending closely to the thousands of blossoms on the cardoons, mint, catnip, marjoram, budleia and hyssop.

cardoon flower plus bee


Swiss mint (I think) – the flowers are super attractive to honey bees and another species I cannot identify yet. They flew away when I took out the camera.


red admiral and peacock butterflies were swarming around these alliums



skirret in flower


tree onions ripening beside marjoram, elder bush and fennel behind

The birds (blackbirds I think, but I wasn’t here to see) ate the aronia (chokeberry) berries.

aronia (chokeberry)


Californian poppy attracts a particular fly to its gorgeous flowers

In contrast to all this wildlife activity I am doing very little – nothing in fact – just enjoying it all.  By this time of year I am always let go completely.  The plants in the polycultures are growing together so closely that there is a general surge of growth and loveliness which I just want to spend time gazing at.

looking down the garden from fourth polyculture bed in front


second polyculture bed, currently dominated by nasturtium, alliums and fennel with berries and roots behind


first polyculture bed


‘triangle bed’

I want to look at the flowers …

views across two valleys to the hills beyond

… and the views.  After all, winter is only round the corner.

29th November 2016




Posted in Borderland Garden, Fruit, Polycultures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What to do about slugs?

I love this post from Carol about slugs in her garden.


I walked out the other day to find this: Endives seedlings munched to bare soil, despite being carefully tucked up in a pot with copper tape around the edge. I chose endives, rather than lettuce, because I thought it would be tougher and less attractive to molluscs. Not so. I spent the rest of the […]

via Slugs – three strategies for acceptance — iSustainability Project

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One School, One Planet – design challenge

The permaculture organisation Sector 39 in conjunction with Llanfyllin High School are rising to the huge challenge of climate change in a very pro-active and committed way.  There is this design challenge that they have recently issued and much more of interest on their website.

Enjoy – Anni x



Deadline for Submissions: 11am 7th September 2017! Help us communicate our critical message… Since September 2016 we have been working with the aim to find the leaders of the future, creating exciting new opportunities for work, play and learning. Our goal is to build an inclusive vision for schools and communities that recognises and understands…

via Design Competition – Calling All Creatives! — One School One Planet

Posted in Children and Young People, Permaculture | Leave a comment