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Hornshurst Forest Garden – growing food in a forest clearing

As many of you know, permaculture will often have you disappear down a rabbit hole, if not an entire warren. Or, in permaculture-speak, will take you off the well-beaten track to explore those infamous edges.
The Hornshurst Forest Garden is one such edge. It is an acre site, deer and rabbit fenced, within a much larger 160 acre wood. I have been designing it for the wood owner, Doro Marden, for about 3 years.

We are lucky to have relaxed time frames, allowing us to take a very slow and low-risk approach, doing things incrementally and also letting the design emerge over time – especially the people aspects. It is on a north west facing slope and is literally a clearing in the forest.

Trying to grow fruit trees on a newly cut pine plantation (a.k.a – an ecological desert) was never going to be easy and we certainly have had challenges to overcome. I now have some things to report that I hope will be of interest and help you.

Managing the Acidity

With an initial soil acidity of pH 4.1 in our clearing, I can now report localised changes – in some areas we have readings of neutral (pH 7).

How did we get there?

A number of elements have been working towards the function of neutralising the acidity.

  1. What I call my ‘mulch-making’ machines. Several young deciduous trees that had been growing amongst the tall pines were purposefully left. Sweet chestnuts, birch, rowan and oak have been shedding their leaves for three seasons. (Literally feeding the soil some salad leaves for its acid indigestion).
  2. Localised sprinklings of lime – in the major growing sites, about twice a year.
  3. Some localised addition of well rotted cow manure.

    …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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