Our food forest or forest garden, ranges from a zone 1 to zone 3. We visit it more in the Summer when harvesting fruit and berries. This is when it becomes zone 2. It’s also one of our special wellbeing places which we visit regularly, sitting by the pond or using the sit spot. This we do even in Winter.
In the Winter we spend less time harvesting so it becomes a zone 3 in this sense. This place is our best demonstration of how the zones change depending on the function of the area.
The elements here are a pond, edible and non edible trees, a bench, bird box, bat box, laid hedge (within the forest garden), pathway. Nitorgen fixing plants, ground cover plants, plants for basketry and fuel. A small copse of hazel. Sit spot. Ditch.
Plants include: trees (pear, apple, almond, oak, bird cherry, oak, alder, hornbeam, hazel, plum), shrubs (broom, bladder senna, autumn olive), comfrey, black, red & white currant, applemint, evening primrose, loganberry, New Zealand flax.
Animals include: dormice, mice, squirrel, blue tits, black birds, rabbit, greater diving beetle, diving beetle, frogs, toads, deer, hedgehog, a variety of insects, dragon flies. This is not exclusive.
Design ideas and Considerations
The forest garden has been incorporated into the already existing trees and woodland, which were planted approximately 20 years ago. Thinning the trees at Wishtree is part of the necessary management. We have thinned some of the trees in the forest garden but also replaced some with edible varieites and support species such as other nitrogen fixers.
There are a lot of common alder ( Alnus glutinosa ), which were already planted. These are nitrogen fixing and provide a source of fertility for the forest garden as well as other species we have introduced such as broom and bladder senna.
Rush was very dominant; we have managed this by scything and using our hands to pull it up. Grass now dominates but is part of the succession towards more benefical ground cover, such as ground cover raspberry, false strawberry and black and apple mints.
We have designed the food forest to be a little sun-trap, and the resulting microclimate means that the temperature is quite different here to elsewhere, with some species growing quicker and larger than the rest of Wishtree. This is also because it is sheltered from the strong winds and has a pond. The pond not only provides habitat but also provides thermal mass, collecting heat from the sun and raising the temperature.
We noticed a pair of bluetits hanging around so hung a bird box up. Instantly they took to it! They now nest in it every year. There is also a bat box as we have seen bats around the pond.
A network of small ditches joining and leaving the pond, runs through the forest garden. This is to drain the water from the surface, directing it to the pond. The overflow leaves the pond into another ditch, which in turn goes into another pond elsewhere.
There are several ditches and ponds at Wishtree, each passively controlling the flow of water away from the surface, storing both water and nutrients where we can, so they don’t leave the land.