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Editorial: November 2009

Adventure in the Forest

The adventure begins on November 7 at 9am, in deepest Hertfordshire, on an organic farm designed with recommendations from Patrick Whitefield (“How to Make a Forest Garden”).  We will begin the first of six day-long workshops with Claire White - artist, horticulturist and Permaculture designer

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Church Farm, Ardeley, is playing host to the course, which takes place over six months.  On each workshop day, participants will learn about Permaculture principles, succession, stacking, polyculture, and all those other mysterious-sounding and wonderful tenets of Permaculture – like low input/high output, no-dig, plant guilds and elements, no watering systems, mulching and edge.

Forest gardens mimic natural woodland, but contain mainly fruit and nut-bearing trees, fruit bushes and shrubs, perennial vegetables and herbs.  They are self-mulching as all the fallen debris goes back into the soil and builds fertility.  They are a haven for wildlife, provide microclimates and ecosystems, and are highly productive because they utilise all the space on the ground and the vertical space all the way up to the ‘canopy’.

Doing a course this way, you learn the right things at the right time of year, and return home confident to proceed with your own plans to establish your forest garden, large or small – field size or backyard.

We will learn the practical skills needed, help to establish the new forest garden at Church Farm, get our hands dirty, our boots muddy, and fill our notebooks with words of wisdom and reminders of which plants, what space, planting times, successional development, soil building . . .

The site at Ardeley is apparently a south-facing slope – which I find encouraging. So is ours, albeit at 250 metres, which I suspect might be a bit higher than Hertfordshire!  We’ve been reading Patrick Whitefield of course, and I have already done a full Permaculture Design Course – but this is specialist and it incorporates all the practical hands-on experience you can’t get from a book.  Over the next six months, I’ll be writing up this adventure as the backbone of the monthly editorial – watch this space.  I hope to have some distilled tips for you, and to create a calendar of activity which the aspiring forest gardener can follow – it should work out fine as Wales is at least a month behind the home counties, climate-wise.

And now I’m plotting – maybe next autumn we will have a little piece of precious earth somewhere in mid Wales to run a similar course right here, so that one tutor can make the journey to us and we can limit our course miles and learn on our own patch.  So, all we need is a willing landowner who wants a forest garden, a lot of plants and trees donated to the project, a course tutor, some funding subsidy, and a willing bunch of aspiring forest gardeners – sorted!

(offers of any of the above to the Coordinator, please).

Roz Brown

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