At last, I feel I can say that we have a proper forest garden - albeit a very young one - and not just the little foresty bits around the edges that it's been for so long. We've been planning and working towards this for years, having started with an old yard covered in concrete. This winter, with soil preparations suitably advanced over part of the plot, it was finally time to get planting.
And now it's Spring, I'm enjoying watching them all wake up for their first year at Oak House.
So let me introduce you:
Walking along towards the forest garden from the house, we first come across the Medlar, welcoming us through onto the main pathway. This one is for David and I've promised to give it a try, but have to admit it sounds revolting - you apparently leave the fruit on the tree until they've putrified inside and then suck out the gooey middle. It apparently tastes a bit like caremel and David swears it's heavenly. I'll keep you posted!
The borders to the main path are yet to be planted, so we'll head along a little side path up onto the bank.
This is where the chop and drop soil improving plants have had a couple of years getting the soil ready for me and so this is where I've been busy planting out this winter. In the photo above you can see cocksfoot grass and red clover, both of which are fast growing and deep rooting, so help both break up my compacted soil and add lots of humus if I chop them back regularly. All the plants going in here are shade tolerant as this is the northern edge of the forest garden.
Next along this side path, we come across the Califonia Allspice - a suckering shrub whose bark can be used as a cinammon substitute. I can't wait to give this one a try!
This plant is normally dark red flowering, but I'm aiming for a more naturalistic woodland look, so went for a less exotic, green-white flowering variety called California Allspice 'Athens'. The flower buds are just forming now, as you can see above.
Along the path, I've planted several red currants - this is one of the best fruit bushes for shady areas, so planting it along the northern edge of my plot seemed a sensible idea.
In the background of the photo above, you can see one of my many broom plants. I have them scattered around, their main purpose being to fix nitrogen to
feed all my growing plants. I also use them as a chop and drop mulch to
improve the soil. Being a woody chop and drop, it's even better for
helping to create a woodland type soil, feeding the kind of soil
organisms you'd expect beneath trees.
Next to the redcurrant pictured above, I've planted a little aquelegia as an early perennial salad crop - the leaves are very good in a mixed salad in the early part of the year as the young ones are just emerging. It's also good for pollinating insects once it starts flowering in late spring. It's good here, as it tolerates part shade.
A little further along is an apple tree - Tom Putt - a good all rounder.
Travelling around the corner, past more red currant, we come to the lovely Lizzie Plum. Another one I can't wait for. I have to admit to being totally sold on the catalogue photo of the fruits of this one - big, juicy, dark red plums. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it! No flowers yet though, so I'll be waiting a while to try them.
This is underplanted with lupins for nitrogen fixing and pollinating insects.
Nearby is one of my honey berry bushes - these are a non climbing relation of honeysuckle, that produce blue fruits which apparently taste a little like blueberries, but with a honey aftertaste.
Last along the path is the Mulberry. I just had to have one of these as they are my all time favourite fruit. Like giant raspberries, but with way more flavour. Wonderfully juicy, a little tart and extremely more-ish.
Later this year, I hope to get a few more understorey plants in. I've not decided exactly what yet, but am looking forward to selecting a good mix of useful and edible plants. Comfrey, strawberries... Any suggestions are welcome!