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The Forest Garden

a greenhouse diary



Our first task was to assess our purchase and plan how best to proceed. We decided to design and build an environmentally efficient house to live in - recycling the existing structure as much as possible. It was decided that the North of the plot would be a recreational space and the more fertile South of the plot would be an edible Forest Garden based upon permaculture principles.


We first restored the land to a manageable condition with help from friend and Shiatsu practitioner Will Walker with his strimming skills. The remains of a South facing espalier fruit growing wall was discovered beneath a mountain of ivy and the apple and pear trees were given some long overdue pruning. Tulips and some asparagus appeared from nowhere.


Some very large beech trees dominate the South West corner of the plot and throughout the first year I recorded the shade patterns they created at different times of the day. Our first pear blossom is also seen here.


Whilst removing unwanted brambles, thistles, and ground elder, the remains of garden structures were discovered under the soil surface. This turned out to be the paved floor of what once must have been a heated glass frame associated with the espalier wall we decided to keep.


A very large, and spreading, patch of ground elder - Aegopodium podagraria. Ground elder was first recorded in Britain in 1578 but was known to be present in Roman times. It is now considered to be one of the worst garden weeds because it is so difficult to eradicate. Weeks of careful digging and sifting of the soil along the West wall on hands and knees needed. Every single element of the plant and roots must be removed.


An awkward slope to the South of the house. The whole plot drops by several meters from North to South with several places that need attention. Steps are planned here.


It felt a bit like an episode of 'Time-Team' as we tried to figure out the history of the garden. We couldn't find any documents or photographs that helped. We also inherited a large quantity of industrial blue water pipe that got reused in many useful ways.


Jo Barker visits us for the first time. Award winning Jo holds a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and is passionate about the holistic process of sustainable systems. We liked her straight away and she encouraged Mariette to take a leading role in building our edible Forest Garden.
Find out more about Jo Barker at: www.dynamic-equilibrium.co.uk


Jo and Mariette get down to design ideas. The house build will take priority at this time but it's good to plan ahead and research. Abandoned underfloor heating trays are useful for laying out potential pathways and pond location. The roof has struggling sedums on Bauder matts. All will be stripped away during the build but a new Living Roof will replace it.


Jo's plan for us to work on.


Foxs were in the garden before us and they still feel unthreatened enough to wander about - even in the cold.