Sunday, January 22, 2012

Surveying our Forest Garden


This week, I ’ave been mainly planting trees!  On our Christmas visit to visit family in England, we collected this year’s order from Martin Crawford at the Agroforestry Research Trust.  We’ve also sourced trees at local pépinières (nurseries) but they don’t do such arcane arbres as the blue bean (Decaisnea fargesii) hence sourcing trees from afar as well as locally. 

It’s a real pleasure to convert long hours of reading, decision making and plan drawing into digging holes: from coloured circles on the forest garden map into tangible trees.  We are starting to imagine what it might look like in five, and then ten, year’s hence; it’s exciting.

When we returned from our seasonal travels, we quickly planted the bare-rooted trees into some soft earth in the potager.  We could’ve planted them all in the forest garden in just a couple of hours excepting that we need to construct robust tree guards to protect them from our Ouessant sheep, who’ll share the field for a few years yet. 

The sheep look fluffy, act nervous but don’t let that deceive you: they’re cunning bastards.  They’ve overcome several of my previous efforts to keep them out and even learnt to walk on two legs in order to nibble at overhanging branches.  Never mind the ring barking of trees by rabbits and squirrels, these cuddly creatures bastards would reduce our nascent forest garden to dead sticks under an hour, if it wasn’t for the pallet palisades.

Not quite in an authentic permaculture design order, as all the surveying should have been done before the design ‘proposal’, but we profited from the loan of a laser level and the annual Halloween visit of our technically-super-competent engineering friend, Kristen to create a contour map.   

The laser level was very easy to use: up-a-bit, down-a-bit, beep, beeb, beep, take the reading.  While we cooked supper, Kristen dabbled around on the computer and produced this useful contour map (see top image).  What was interesting to both Kristen and I was that we were both massively deceived by the amount of fall over the length of the field.  That’s to say that, by eye, we thought the difference no greater than our own height but ended up extending the measuring rod to its limit, well over double that.   

This information will help us in digging fish-scale swales (according to Toby Hemenway) to keep our trees watered in the dry summers evermore typical in Brittany.

3 comments :

Val Grainger said...

What is the area and scale of your plan? is it a woodland a woodland pasture or forest garden with a ground layer? eg ground cover, bush layer shrib layer and then tree layer? What will you envisage happening when some of the trees such as sweet chestnut get to maturity?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi Val,
The field is around 1700m2 and will be a forest garden that we are planning using Martin Crawford's excellent book.

The tree layer is marked on this plan and we are in the process of planning the shrub layer.

Ultimately, the sheep will move out of this field so what we'll probably do next year is fence off the north or east quarter (the access gate is in the SW corner) of the field and install the shrub layer as it will be impossible to effectively sheep-proof the amount of shrubs we'd be adding.

We'll mulch out the rest of the ground of that fenced off area and plant up once the mulch has done its thing.

The year after, we'd fence another section and continue until the area of pasture left is not worth the fuss.

There is an area for pigs and we'll also accommodate chickens, ducks and rabbits, just no sheep.

The planting distances accommodate the sweet chestnuts at full size. I'll post more on our plans soon.

Val Grainger said...

Great....i think 1700m2 is just under half an acre? sounds good...look forward to the next instalment!