Free Food: October 2020 and the start of a new challenge at Frugaldom. This autumn, I am attempting to create a forest food garden on the edge of our 'Legacy Woodland' tree planting project, which borders marshland and is flanked by a small river. The plan is to do this at zero cost so it provides us with free food in the future.

The edge of the new woodland

This is the path that leads down through the willows and rushes to the marsh, which is subject to flooding if the burn bursts its banks during prolonged and severe rain. This area was previously part of a sitka spruce plantation that was clear felled some 15 years ago and he neighbouring forest has just recently been cleared, so run off is at a maximum while there are no trees up the hill to soak up all the water from our wet weather. A few birch, rowan, alder and willow saplings have been planted over the past few years but the aim down in this part, is to create a border hedge of willows where the marsh meets the former treeline and then leave everything in that area for nature to do its job. Further up the slope, where it is drier, I have started marking out the first part of what I hope will become the woodland food garden. 

In creating this food garden I will be loosely combining the assorted principles of permaculture, biodynamic gardening and a frugal hugelkultur concept that should allow me to make the absolute most of everything that is around me in this particular area. To start with, it is covered in the old brash leftover from tree felling - logs, branches and other decaying plant matter. This should provide a great start to the hugelkulture beds, which can be buikt up to whatever height suits.

Brash left behind after felling spruce

Hügelkultur entails layering organic materals to build a no-dig, raised bed  It is a horticultural technique where a mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is planted as a raised bed. Learn more about hugalkultur here.

This is my autumn project. The first step has been taken in identifying where to create the forest / woodland food garden. The rotting wood is already in basic piles so the next step is to start adding materials such as leaves, straw, cardboard, manure and compost. This will tie in nicely with clearing out the old straw from the chicken shack, even if it does mean barrowing it all the way from the barn. Our composting corner is just as far, as is the manure heap, so this could all take quite some time. The plan is to grow fruit and possibly some vegetables but I have to be sensible about what can survive in an area where we have deer and rabbits, not to mention all the slugs and snails.

Things needed for starting this project:

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gardening gloves
  • Wellies
  • Posts to mark out the area
  • Mallet for bashing in the posts
  • Rope or tape to tie around the posts and define the garden area

Depending on how exposed this patch of land is, I may try to plant a willow fedge (fence hedge) along the north side. We are starting to coppice the willows so there should be enough Salix Viminalis to plant a fast growing windbreak.

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