Food forest beginnings

Round the back of the house, there’s a pretty big area that I can see from my kitchen window. For a year now I’ve been dreaming of turning it into my main kitchen garden but there have been other, more pressing, areas to attend to.

But.

Steve has finally been able to take some days holiday, *and* not been taken ill, so we’ve started on it! First things first, it needed mowing. It’s going to need mowing constantly, and lots. Even just once it was mown it looked so much more inviting to go and work in.

We walked around it, talking and thinking, trying to visualise where things would be. Trying to see what it was already becoming. There’s a stretch running directly from the kitchen window, along the line of chestnut trees, that is a perfect shape for crop rotation beds so that’s what will go there, although I will also build up the tree line with some sun-loving perennials. And then, in between a handful of assorted trees, with a fairly small oak at its centre, I am starting to build up a food forest garden.

One edge of it has already been bordered by a dead-hedge habitat pile along a fallen birch that has already melded into the ground, and I spent a few hours yesterday building a new “fedge” – a dead-hedge fence – to partition the crop rotation beds area from the food forest, and to give peas and beans and nasturtiums something to climb up.

The poles were cut from horse chestnut saplings that were growing too close to the established trees, and the filler for this fence/hedge/fedge is various dead branches and other bits gathered from around the area. Lots of rotting branch pieces along the base as well.

Then I raked up and pulled up a lot of the ivy and nettles that have encroached from the conifer woodland, and finally got round to setting down the first section of no-dig bed – no-dig to give me a fighting chance against the nettles, mainly! Erika and the cats helped plant the kale, rosemary, and red peas. My arm and back hate me today but it feels such an achievement to finally see this part of the garden being transformed.

Today I had chance to get some more done on it. I found a stash of cardboard up in the loft, enough to finish off along the fence (must remember to put some nasturtium seeds in tomorrow, and get some runner bean seeds germinating) and put down on the other side of the oak tree. I’ve pretty much run out of compost though, there’s only a little bit left, so the food forest will have to grow slowly, as and when each compost heap is cooked! I did think I’d need some taller supports for the runner beans but I’ve decided to string a rope between the two trees at each end of the fedge, with some strings hanging down for the beans to climb up. It should make for an interesting curtain if it works!

Over in the small vegetable garden (which will become the boys’ veggie garden once they start showing enough interest to take it on) Erika and I have been weeding and sowing seeds. We’ve got sprouts, carrots, and broccoli seeds in the ground, and the peas I germinated indoors a few weeks ago are coming up nicely! Tomorrow if the rain holds off we’ll put a new no-dig patch down next to the potatoes, and put some beetroot seeds in there, as Charley wants to grow his own beetroot for beetroot chocolate brownies!

And Charley and Ben – particularly Charley – have been learning to and practicing chopping wood for kindling. Between them over the past few days they have filled the basket in this picture with kindling they’ve chopped themselves. It’s fantastic that they are learning this skill!

Anyway. We can be glad for the rain if it comes tomorrow, and we can be glad of some extra building time if it holds off.

And maybe, now there are things being Done again, I might be able to post updates a little more often!

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