< !-- #menu -->

The Forest Garden

a greenhouse diary



2012 begins with Jo Barker's plan. Now we live on site and the forest garden gets underway at last.
Find out more about Jo Barker at: www.dynamic-equilibrium.co.uk


We remove the landscape blanket to find a blank canvass to work on. First job is to mark out the paths. That blue industrial water pipe that was left on site comes in handy. Nice curves.


Marking out and digging the pond. Deeper in the middle than the edges. Good soil is liberated to use in other places in the garden. The autumn fall of leaves from the beech trees will mean clearing out the pond once a year no doubt.


A lot of space is still occupied by the fallout from the house build. We plan to recycle most things if we can.


We intend to use second hand industrial containers to collect rainfall run-off from the roof. Stored in the North of the plot we can gravity feed water to the edible Forest Garden in the South.


The path layout starts to take shape.


Wood chippings that will form the temporary path surfaces arrive. We are fortunate to have enough space outside the East gate of the garden for deliveries like this.


The paths are one metre wide. The soil between the blue pipes is dug out by few inches and the landscape blanket, cut down to fit, is used as a porous and weed-free base for the wood chippings.


It is our intention to replace the wood chippings with hard landscaping materials eventually. We should be alright for a year or two while we think about it.


The path leading to and from the pond.


We clear the wood chippings just in time for the arrival of the mushroom compost. We need to build up the fertility of the soil as much as we can in these early stages. Lots of back braking work with a shovel and a wheel barrow.


A welcome visit by my old chum Graham and his partner Nancy Woodhead. Graham Bell is a permaculture guru of some 25 years. Author of 'The Permaculture Way' and 'The Permaculture Garden' Graham runs a consultancy in the Scottish Borders. There he has his own mature forest garden which also houses a North Hardy Plant Nursery called The Red Shed. They offered some great advice and inspiration, as well as pruning tips. Thanks again Graham and Nancy.
For more about Graham Bell Associates: grahambell.org


Jo Barker regularly visits our plot to help get us started. Trees are ordered and where they will be planted is marked out.


Jo Barker regularly visits our plot to help get us started. Trees are ordered and where they will be planted is marked out.


Jo Barker regularly visits our plot to help get us started. Trees are ordered and where they will be planted is marked out.


Friend and neighbour Ruth Rollason helps out with heeling in selected plants. Ruth is owner of Marmalade Design and an experienced professional in garden design and maintenance.
For more about Ruth Rollason: marmaladedesign.co.uk


A dusting of snow.


The first heavy snowfall since we moved into our cosy new home.


The first of the fruit trees arrive from the nursery. Their roots will be heeled in and protected from exposure to sun and from drying out before being planted in their designated places. The recycled paving slabs will find uses as edging for the Living Roof and for a temporary pathway where left over chipboard sheets are now used.


Mariette, Jo and Jo's daughter Iona keep warm with the hard work of mulching with compost.


Building an edible Forest Garden is more than just hard work. Tree planting can be fun and inclusive.


Prunus domestica Rivers Early Prolific (Maiden) and, planted behind is, Prunus domestica Cambridge Gage (Maiden).


Beth Pair (Quince A Maiden).


Apricot Tomcat (Maiden).


Blackcurrants and pears, for espaliering against the wall, go in.


Mariette and Jo water in the newly planted trees. The pond liner is in place. (The same EPDM (synthetic rubber) as that waterproofing the roof).


Ruth Rollason demonstrates proper pruning of an inherited apple tree.


Planting asparagus is hard work but hopefully will be well worth the effort in the years to come. Twenty crowns safely in.


Using pots help seeds to get established.


Espalier wires get fixed along the West hall for the fruit trees. Tedious work but it has to be done.


Fresh logs are drilled in preparation for growing Shitake mushrooms. Dowel plugs infected with mycelium spores, purchased on-line, are fitted into the holes. The plugs are sealed in with molten wax. The logs are stored at the base of the North wall where it is damp and shaded. We will wait fifteen months or so before 'shocking' the logs to produce mushroom fruits from the mycelium that should spread throughout the wood.


A nursery trained Avalon Peach fan against the south facing wall in the middle of the plot. Six rows of espalier wires will help train this to cover the wall with fruit.


Lunch is boosted by this forage from the garden. (We have since been advised NOT to eat daffodils - they could be harmful to health).


The pond is now complete with an edging of local flints and is planted with donated pond plants. It was filled with saved rainwater runoff.


Just as the pond was finished and filled it was visited by some or all of the frogs resident in the garden.


Definitely a work in progress. We are extending the paths to the North. The temporary steps are concrete blocks that got replaced when working on the North wall of the house.


Full of potential. All those plantings waiting for spring to become summer.


Mahonia aquifolium (with edible berries).


Mariette sprays with a solution containing the environmentally friendly Neem Oil. A plant based product that is used as an insecticide and fungicide while being safe to other wildlife. Neem oil insecticide causes a pest to be unable to maintain hydration, which in turn kills it. Some pests are also repelled by neem oil insecticide, which means that they stay away from the that plant.


Signs of life. Asparagus.


Signs of life. Apple tree.


Utilising the East facing West wall along the North part of the plot.


Signs of life. Violets. Viola with edible leaves and flowers.


Apple blossom on inherited tree.


Pear blossom on inherited tree.


The strangest things just appear. Jews Ear fungus - Auricularia auricula-judae.


Oxygenating the pond water with this cute solar powered floating fountain.


The apricot tree flourishing on a South facing wall in the North of the plot. We are undecided whether to espalier against the wall or not.


Four types of potatoes were planted to improve soil.


Field Mushroom - Agaricus campestris (or is it Slippery Jack - Suillus luteus?)


All the hard work is starting to pay off.


Poppies harvested from our previous garden. These will bring additional colour to this garden.


The scarlet lily beetle, red lily beetle, or lily leaf beetle - (Lilioceris lilii), is a leaf beetle that eats the leaves, stem, buds, and flower, of lilies, fritillaries and other members of the family Liliaceae.


The plot has many frogs. I think they appreciate their new pond.


A month before spring becomes summer.


One of the inherited apple trees shows signs of Powdery Mildew, a common fungal problem that can be found on the leaves of both fruiting and flowering apple trees. It presents as a white to grey mycellium on both sides of the leaves. It is most prevalent when temperatures are warm and humidity is above 70 per cent. If unchecked, the diseases can spread to twigs, branches and fruits. Powdery mildew diseases are caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales.


Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum, the smallest species of the edible onions. The flowers attract the bees as well as providing a delicious onion flavour when broken up and sprinkled onto foods, like salad.


Ox-eye daisy or oxeye daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare. Edible leaves and flowers.


Common marigold - Calendula officinalis. Edible leaves and flowers.


Most likely to be a Harlequin Ladybird - Harmonia axyridis. They're also known as the Asian Ladybird because they were introduced from Asia to Europe for the biocontrol of aphids. Unfortunately they also have an appetite for our native ladybirds and many other invertebrates including butterflies and lacewings.


A salad made with things picked from the garden. Some just a pinch but included nevertheless. Just short of sixty separate plant ingredients. Many thanks to Jo Barker for making this project relevant to our lives.


Mariette and Jo forage for our lunch.


Asparagus fern develops from unharvested asparagus. Best to leave for at least two years.


Elder or elderberry - Sambucus. Edible flowers.


Oca - Oxalis tuberosa (Oxalidaceae). A perennial herbaceous plant that overwinters as underground stem tubers. (nearest). Clover - Trifolium. Nitrogen-fixing ground cover. (behind).


Ribwort plantain - Plantago lanceolata. Wildlife friendly with edible leaves.


Phacelia. Excellent ground cover and loved by bees.


Fruit develops on one of our inherited apple trees.


Learning new skills. Pouring concrete and designing steps from recycled materials. This is a much needed addition at the South of the house leading to the gate in the South wall and the site of the proposed compost bins.


Steps to be built to the West of the house joining the path to the recovered victorian terracotta tiled terrace. Both sides of the terrace has been edged with left-over bricks to give boundaries to the garden beds.


Another multi-ingredient salad picked from the garden.


The beautiful climbing rose rescued from my parents' garden thrives next to the apricot tree.


We create a netted fruit cage to protect the growing fruit from the birds. Strawberries, espaliered pears, wine berries, logan berry, raspberries. A nursery bed with elaeagnus cuttings in the foreground.


Phacelia. Excellent ground cover and loved by bees.


Phacelia, Poppies and Chard.


Quince fruit. (Edible raw). With distant pink wood sorrel.


Garden strawberry - Fragaria × ananassa.


California poppy - Eschscholzia californica.


Globe artichoke - Cynara cardunculus. A variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many budding small flowers (an inflorescence) together with many bracts, on an edible base. Once the buds bloom the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form. The uncultivated or wild variety of the species is called a cardoon.


I'm no brick layer but these steps do their job and find a use for some bricks left on-site when we bought the plot.


I'm still not certain what this is that grew out of the mushroom compost.


Fuchsia. Edible flower and fruit.


French lavender - Lavandula stoechas.


Red Japanese rose - Rosa rugosa. Flower with edible petals.


Crimson clover - Trifolium incarnatum. Temporary ground cover, good for nitrogen fixing, and very bee friendly.


Garden strawberry - Fragaria × ananassa.


Corn poppy, Field poppy, Red poppy, - Papaver rhoeas.


Bumble Bee - Bombus. There are six species of bumblebee commonly seen in UK gardens, but 25 species of bumble bee have been recorded in the U.K. Although they are quite large insects they are relatively harmless, and will only sting if provoked. Bumble bees feed on pollen and nectar. The pollen provides them with proteins and the nectar supplies them with sugar for energy. As they feed, they perform a vital role in pollinating many plants and trees. There are days when the whole garden seems to hum.


Mullein - Verbascum. Wildlife friendly.


Although most of the many tadpoles in the pond are at different stages in their metamorphosis this one is growing its frog's legs. It still has a long tail but the front (head) is looking a little bit more like the frog it will become.


Black currant - Ribes nigrum 'Ben Sarek'.


Japenese wineberry - Rubus phoenicolasius.


Loganberry - Rubus × loganobaccus. An hybrid produced from pollination of a blackberry cultivar by a red raspberry. The plant and the fruit resemble the blackberry more than the raspberry, but the fruit colour is a dark red, rather than black as in blackberries.


Summer Raspberry - Rubus.


Summer begins in three weeks.


The biodiversity created in this garden in just six months is astonishing.


The Marbled White - Melanargia Galathea. A butterfly in the family Nymphalidae found across most of Europe, Southern Russia, Asia Minor and Iran. Eggs are laid on the wing, or from brief perches on grass stems, and are just sprinkled among the grass stems. Upon hatching, the larvae immediately enter hibernation, and only feed the following spring when the fresh growth occurs.


I keep a camera in my pocket at all times so that such stunningly beautiful details like this poppy can be recorded and remembered.


All the beds seem to be filling out nicely.


Different species with different heights and different colours all complimenting each other.


A great number of Mosquito Larvae appear in the pond. The female adult needs a blood meal before she can lay her eggs, which is why they bite humans.The larvae are aquatic, and float just below the surface of the water, allowing their breathing tube to draw in oxygen. These appear to be the larvae of Anophelines which float horizontally just under the surface of the water. They disappeared very quickly. Eaten by the water boatman perhaps?


Extending the path into the North of the plot. Work on the North Garden will be started in 2013. Keeping plants in pots is only a temporary situation because of the need to keep them watered. The mature edible Forest Garden will require only a minimum amount of intervention.


Bobbing up and down in the pond - Notonectidae. A cosmopolitan family of aquatic insects in the order Hemiptera, commonly called Backswimmers because they swim upside down. The Common Backswimmer - Notonecta Glauca, is widespread in the United Kingdom, where it is known as the Greater Water Boatman. They can attack prey as large as tadpoles and small fish. Although primarily aquatic, they are also able to fly well and so can disperse easily to new habitats.


Common evening primrose - Oenothera biennis. They open visibly fast every evening and are wildlife friendly especially to bats.


The Grey Squirrel - Sciurus carolinensis. Love them or hate them we have many that visit the garden. Usually to steal the bird food.


Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus. Grown here for their colour, their attraction for bees and to provide a screen.


The blackcurrant - Ribes nigrum.


Various stages of the ripening Loganberry.


Azure Damselfly - Coenagrion puella. It is on the wing from the end of May through to August. Damselflies do not fly as strongly as dragonflies, so tend to lay in wait for their insect-prey before catching it in mid-air with their legs. They will return to their perch to eat their prey.


Passiflora incarnata - The fruit produced by the Passion Flower is an oval berry, a little smaller than a kiwi fruit. Passion Fruit is edible, but it is pretty seedy. It can be used to make jelly, but its best usage may come from being a food source for several species of butterfly and their larvae.


The long antennae suggest this is a cricket rather than a grasshopper. Other than that I've been unable to identify what visited the garden.


Scarlet pimpernel - Anagallis arvensis.


The poppy petals have fallen. No opium harvest from this variety.


A Green Soldier Fly - Stratiomyidae.


As we slowly clear the garden to the East more things can be planted. Two compost bins made from left-over pallets now occupy the South wall alongside the garden gate.


Common evening primrose - Oenothera biennis. They open visibly fast every evening and are wildlife friendly especially to bats.


A flowering Onion.


Adding height and colour to the pond is a Yellow Flag Water Iris - Iris pseudoacorous.


Small White (female) - Pieris Rapae. A small to medium-sized butterfly species of the Yellows-and-Whites family Pieridae. It is also known as the Small Cabbage White. Females have two black spots in the centre of the forewings. Its underwings are yellowish with black speckles. It is sometimes mistaken for a moth due to its plain appearance.


An easy to assemble bat box now located on the West wall. It's a design created by the Kent bat group that was found on the internet. I bought timber for this and enough for a second bat box.


A second bat box now located on a South facing wall. I researched its design on the internet from the Bat Conservation Trust. Very quick and easy to build.


The Comma - Polygonia C-Album. A species of butterfly belonging to the family Nymphalidae. They are commonly called Anglewings. The underside of the wings of this butterfly are a dull brown pattern, that camouflages, with a small white 'C' shaped marking resembling a comma - hence the common name.


Mariette and Jo Barker on one of her regular visits to see how we are progressing.


Flowering Cardoon - Cynara cardunculus. Also called the artichoke thistle. Bee friendly with edible stalks and globes.


The Wood Mouse - Apodemus sylvaticus or Long-tailed Field Mouse. Seen scurrying around the margins of the forest garden, unusually during the day. The Field mouse has proven to be extremely intelligent. If given time, it will think out a strategy before doing something. If they attract owls to the plot so much the better.


A donated pond plant flowers. Most likely the American White Water-lily - Nympheae Odorata.


Hollyhocks - Alcea. Edible leaves, flowers and unripe seedpod.


The leek is a vegetable that belongs, along with onion and garlic, to the genus Allium.


Gerridae is a family of true bugs in the order Hemiptera, commonly known as Pond Skaters. They anatomically transfer their weight and so are able to run on top of the water's surface. This one is cheating by using a lilly pad.


A raised bed built from mainly left over items. This is in zone one, close to the back door on the edge of the decking on the West, where winter greens will be easily picked.


Hollyhocks - Alcea. Edible leaves, flowers and unripe seedpod.


Ox-eye daisy, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichoke and apple alongside the pond.


We kept four of the five inherited mature apple trees. We didn't properly identify the types although three out of the four are certainly cooking varieties.


Marigold - Tagetes.


This is one of a number of Asteraceae family plants to be called a "daisy", and has the vernacular names - common daisy, dog daisy, moon daisy, and oxe-eye daisy.


Common yarrow - Achillea millefolium. Insect friendly with edible leaves.


Any suggestions?


Tansy - Tanacetum vulgare. A perennial, herbaceous flowering plant of the Aster family also known as Common Tansy, Bitter Buttons, Cow Bitter, Mugwort, or Golden Buttons. Wildlife friendly.


The Common Green Darner - Anax junius. Named after its resemblance to a darning-needle, it is a species of dragonfly in the family Aeshnidae. To stand in the garden and have this beast buzz past you is a wonderful experience. You can feel the wind from its wings.


Mariette harvesting before the weather changes.


From digging out of the ground to washing clean in the sink, growing and eating our own potatoes is a wonderful experience. The potatoes were planted to improve the fertility of the soil and the meals we get from them is a very welcome bonus. The farmers grow potatoes all around us but we will continue to grow our own, different, varieties.


Our dinner guests are getting used to these unusual home grown salads. A treat for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.


The most recognised pollinators are the various species of bees, which are plainly adapted to pollination. Bees typically are fuzzy and carry an electrostatic charge. Both features help pollen grains adhere to their bodies, but they also have specialised pollen-carrying structures. We plant many bee friendly plants and encourage as much wild-life as we can to the garden.


Borage - Borago officinalis. Also known as a starflower and has edible flowers and leaves.


Japanese Wineberry - Rubus phoenicolasius. A species of raspberry.


Jo invites a very special visitor to come and see what we've been doing. Ian Lillington, author of "The Holistic Life", a guide to sustainability through permaculture. A wonderful opportunity to learn from a very experienced practitioner.


An opportunity to swop books. Ian Lillington accepts a copy of Mariettes book "The Five Minute Coach" which she co-wrote with her business partner Lynne Cooper. And Mariette accepts Ian's "The Holistic Life".


Sambucus (Elder or Elderberry) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The flowers of Sambucus nigra are used to produce elderflower cordial and the berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds.


The European Robin - Erithacus rubecula. A small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family -Turdidae, but is now considered to be a chat. A welcome visitor to the garden at any time. Not just at christmas.


Seed head of the Hollyhock.


The rose hip of Rosa rugosa.


We inherited a mature grape vine that grows undisturbed on the other side of the South wall. We get a crop of grapes without any effort from ourselves.


Three types of potato grown to improve the soil harvested and now waiting to be eaten.


Soil testing kit bought on the internet. The soil at five sites across the garden were tested for pH value, as well as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content.


Five weeks into autumn.


A good excuse to recycle some more materials cluttering up the garden. A open ended tool shed and materials store built in preparation for the winter.


The first day of December and the surface of the pond freezes.


The finished steps from unused and recycled bricks and paving stones.


The idea is to have fresh food all year round. Less than two weeks to Christmas and we can still put a salad together from the garden.


Oca - Oxalis tuberosa. (New Zealand Yam). Oca was introduced to Europe in 1830 as a competitor to the potato.


Jerusalem artichoke - Helianthus tuberosus. Also called sunroot, sunchoke or earth apple. A species of sunflower.