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The Forest Garden

a greenhouse diary



Mike has been laying out the paths and patios in the North Garden and now extends the work into the edible Forest Garden. These paths replace the bark chipping paths that were laid in 2012.


The paths are just under one metre wide and built over landscape blanket to avoid weeds growing through the blocks.


The path to and from the pond.


A welcome respite from the wind and rain that a record breaking stormy winter brings to the UK. We are fortunate that flooding is not likely where we are located - safely above sea level.


After returning from a month away from the garden we find the unusually warm and prolonged wet weather has brought an early spring. We have missed all but the end of the Cherry blossom as the Quince next to it prepares to flower. Across the garden the Pear blossom just catches the afternoon sun.


The first frogspawn of the year.


The paths start to dominate the garden - but the new growth of the plants and trees will soon change that.


Foraged mixed greens cooked with a breakfast pancake with Primula, Marigold and Rocket flower garnish.


Primula and Sedum Autumn Joy in the foreground - behind them, the Day Lilies are emerging from a ground cover of wild Strawberries.


Foraged mixed greens taken as a gift to a friend's kitchen.


A bee attracted to Lungwort flowers - Pulmonaria.


A nice showing of Rhubarb


A variety of Mint plants.


A Marigold brightens the day. We will sprinkle the petals on a salad and add a couple of chopped leaves too. Calendula tea is supposed to be great for boosting the immune system and staving off arthritis and other joint inflammations.


Cambridge Gage. We didn't get any fruit last year but it's now more established.


The logs impregnated with shiitake mushroom spores are now planted upright into the soil in the cool shade of the South wall. The first fruit of the new year appears.


Red or Black Currants - We'll wait and see.


Pear Leaf Blister Mites - most commonly found in orchards with young trees - which these certainly are. The recommended treatment is to hose the trees down with cold water once a week over the summer & then to spray them in the dormant season. We shall use neem oil - an adaptogen.


Harlequin ladybird- Harmonia axyridis. A large coccinellid beetle. Its colour ranges from yellow-orange to black, and the number of spots between none and 22.


White Aquilegia planted by the birds. The beautiful flower could be an edible plate decoration tonight, and a few leaves might be added to our salad or stir-fried mixed greens.


Jo has a special remedy for spraying on struggling plants. (Details to follow).


Common Self-Heal or Heal-All - Prunella vulgaris. Tipped with snail trail. Although we planted it for wild life, we eat the leaves and flowers. It's a creeping perennial, a vigorous spreader, like mint and now seems to be in various parts of the garden, providing a low ground cover.


Woolly Apple Aphid - Eriosoma lanigerum. A sucking insect that lives on plant fluids and produces a filamentous waxy white covering which resembles cotton or wool. The adults are winged and move to new locations where they lay egg masses. This on the Apple tree.


Ramsons, Buckrams, Wild Garlic, Broad-Leaved Garlic, Wood Garlic, Bear Leek or Bear's Garlic - Allium ursinum. We're looking forward to the pesto we shall make from the leaves and the flowers taste even more strongly of garlic and will decorate the top of a salad.


Hardy geraniums blooming. We eat the leaves (finely sliced if they're a little textured) and flowers.


While most organic pesticides are not as effective as their chemical counterparts, there is one exception, and this is neem oil. Neem oil can not only effectively kill the pests on your plants (without hurting beneficial bugs like bees) but it can also eliminate most fungus problems as well. Mariette sprays the Lime Tree which provides leaves for salad.


Duck eggs swapped for garden plants - together with bought bread goes nicely with wilted foraged greens to make a beautiful breakfast. The garnish is white Garlic Chive flowers, yellow Mustard flowers, and pink and blue Aquilegias.


Late afternoon sun at 5.30pm shows us how the days grow longer.


Frogs are a diverse and largely carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order Anura Frogs are widely distributed, ranging from the tropics to subarctic regions, but the greatest concentration of species diversity is found in tropical rainforests. There are approximately 4,800 recorded species, accounting for over 85% of extant amphibian species. They are also one of the five most diverse vertebrate orders. they are well represented in our garden.


Granny's Bonnet or Columbine - Aquilegia. Looking glorious in this light.


Chives flowering in the foreground with Marigolds in the background. We love the delicate onion taste of Chive flowers that decorate our food.


The path edges are indeed softening as the garden structure re-asserts itself. Jo has reminded us that the mad growing season is March to June. There are not yet as many flowers as there will be in a month's time.


More amazing salad. Each one we prepare is different because it's seasonal.


The first of this season's Alpine Strawberries ripens. In traditional gardening, Strawberry plants need renewing every 4 years because the fruit declines. In forest gardening, Strawberries are used as ground cover, preventing weeds. Once they stop producing fruit, we shall let them stay since not only will they provide ground cover but we can continue to eat the leaves in salads, stir fries or wilted greens.


Raspberry bushes are growing. We pick a few baby leaves from the tips for our salads.


Froghopper - Cercopoidea. The nymph for a type of frog hopper that drinks the sap of the plants that it lives on to survive. The by product of this drinking is a deformed leaf and a white frothy spit that covers the insect and stops it from drying out. The froth also acts as a protection to the insect. Also referred to as Cuckoo Spit.


Hardy Geranium - we have various colours in the garden.


Slug is a common name for an apparently shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusc. The word "slug" is also often used as part of the common name of any gastropod mollusc that has no shell, has a very reduced shell, or has only a small internal shell (in contrast to the common name snail, which applies to gastropods that have a coiled shell large enough that the animal can retract its soft parts fully into it). Most likely a Leopold Slug.


A section through our home-grown garlic.


Snails collected from the edible Forest Garden. Friend Shanda has shown Mariette how to cook them Portuguese style - after 10 days of purging. It's organic protein from our own garden. Snails are an expensive delicacy in France, Greece, Portugal and Turkey.


Sambucus (elder or elderberry) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. Large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers appear in late spring - these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries.


Poppy - A flowering plant in the subfamily Papaveroideae. Poppies are herbaceous annual, biennial or short-lived perennial plants. Some species are monocarpic, dying after flowering. Poppies can be over 4 feet tall with flowers up to six inches across.


Another lot of snails - Mariette now sees them as a resource. So rather than stamping on them, as she used to do, she gardens with a bucket and, by collecting the snails in batches, she knows when each lot has been purged for at least 10 days.


Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius. A colourful crow that is about the same size as a Jackdaw. Jays feed on acorns, beech mast, fruits, insects, small rodents, bats, newts, birds' eggs and young birds. I have seen five Jays in the garden at one time.


Parakeet (paroquet or paraquet) is a name for any one of a large number of small to medium sized species of parrot, that generally have long tail feathers. They can gather in large numbers around our edible Forest Garden and make an impressive noise.


Yellow flag, yellow iris, water flag - Iris pseudacorus. A species in the genus Iris, of the family Iridaceae. It is native to Europe, Western Asia and Northwest Africa.


7-spot Ladybird. An ubiquitous inhabitant of gardens and parks where there are aphids for it to feed on. It is also a migratory species and large numbers fly in from the continent every spring, boosting our native population. Here seen on a cardoon.


Ripening strawberries make a tempting meal for slugs and snails.


The Eurasian blue tit - Cyanistes caeruleus or Parus caeruleus. A small passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. Eurasian blue tits, usually resident and non-migratory birds, prefer insects and spiders for its diet. Outside the breeding season, they also eat seeds and other vegetable-based foods.


A crop of shiitake Mushrooms ready for harvesting.


A harvest of Garlic.


Our inspiration and help - Jo Barker.


Wood Pigeon - Columba palumbus. A member of the dove and pigeons family. Always hanging around looking for a free meal.


The start of summer and a crop of strawberries. Until you eat some homegrown ones, you wouldn't believe the flavour! The smaller ones on the left are wild Strawberries whilst the ones of the right are the usual kind. We prefer the sweetness of the wild ones. And next year, we shall taste Champagne Strawberries - that stay cream coloured when ripe - plants courtesy of our friends Graham Bell and Nancy Whitehead.


The edible Forest Garden also provides an opportunity to practice wildlife photography. With wood stumps placed near the bird feeding stations the visitors can be observed with a long lens from the comfort of the house.


The flowers you see behind the apple bough are edible - hollyhocks in the foreground and yellow evening primrose in the background. Hollyhock leaves are also edible. Since they're very textured, we prefer to slice them finely and then wilt or stirfry or add to a soup. Hollyhocks are hugely prolific. So eating the leaves helps with weeding.


Julian, a small-holding farmer, was brought along by Jo to learn more about practical forest gardening. He kindly did a huge amount of work in our garden over a number of occasions. Here he is creating a bog garden from a sunken, broken plastic container. It holds water for a little longer, allowing the cranberry plants and Japanese fish mint (tastes of coriander) to flourish. Julian has mulched with flints.


The Greek name nymphaia and the Latin name nymphaea mean "water-lily" and were inspired by the nymphs of Greek and Latin mythology.


Our best crop of apricots yet.


View from the West. The black plastic water butts (114 litres each) are gravity fed from the rain water storage in the North Garden. It means we don't have to travel too far to fill watering cans. The edible Forest Garden has been designed to look after itself. So watering is minimal - but sometimes essential in the early years.


Our eating apples.


An impressive crop of pears this year from the only pear tree we inherited. We've planted 5 more pear trees of different varieties so we will have a long window to harvest through to December / January - when those begin bearing.


The simple pergola in the foreground, built from re-cycled fence posts, will be covered with cocktail kiwis in 3 years time. By then, the other fruit and nut trees we've planted will have grown to display the permanent structure of the garden.


With camouflage like this it is surprising that this garden resident doesn't get trodden on.


A neighbour chipped some unwanted evergreens and was glad that we offered to recycle it as mulch on our land.


Signs of autumn and some free leaf mulch fallen from the beech trees growing outside our boundary.


No longer neglected, the inherited grape vine rewards us with a tasty crop.


Planorbidae, common name the Ramshorn Snails or Ram's Horn Snails, is a family of air-breathing freshwater Snails, aquatic pulmonate gastropod mollusks. Bought to help clean up the pond and the rill in the N Garden. This snail, one of many, was taken from the pond - but I suspect it is not Planorbidae.


A very mild autumn allows a hollyhock to flower still. A six year old relative, while visiting from France, was delighted to be eating these easily identified flowers since they also grow freely near her home near Bordeaux.


We finally dug up the skirret - after two years - to divide and create more plants with roots that taste like chestnuts. Delicious just steamed but we're looking forward to roasting them too.


Our work on the edible Forest Garden is recognised by the Kent Wildlife Trust - with a Gold Award.