Friday, August 02, 2013

Year Three in the Forest Garden

I am really enjoying my forest garden experiment.  It is so interesting to observe how this garden progresses in time.  This year, the dominant plants are raspberries and ferns.  Now ferns like moist areas, so I wonder if my digging swales throughout the garden earlier this spring are a factor in the rise of the ferns.  Raspberries also produce better when given extra water, and the bushes are loaded with berries.  They have just started ripening and I have already picked a quart of berries. 
raspberries ripening

Year of the Ferns
What I notice this year is the lack of insect damage.  Remember in the first year of the garden when my red currants and gooseberries were chewed down to nubs by nasty little worms?  Well, the following year I had wasp nests everywhere.  This year there are no wasps and no insect pests.  I discovered that wasps are great beneficial insects.  Most of the plants in the forest garden are healthy and growing wonderfully.  You should see the black currants! While there were no wasps this year, I did have a tremendous number of dragonflies that ravenously munched on our pernicious mosquito hordes.  I was very grateful!  All of the fruit trees, including the new apples planted this spring and the pears, which are very iffy in my location, look great.  I notice that the ferns and raspberries like growing around the fruit trees.  Perhaps this growth pattern helps protect the trees from marauding four-legged foragers.

 I have come to understand what "progression" means in a forest garden. Some of my herbs that did so well the last two years are now being crowded out by other plants.  I will need to move them to the new raised bed herb box.  For example, the oregano and peppermint can be found only by walking on them and I can smell their delightful fragrances.  The lovage definitely wants to be somewhere else.  Valerian on the other hand seems to have acclimated quite well to its location atop a rotting stump.

Determined Chocolate Mint

Unhappy Lovage
As I strolled through the garden yesterday picking raspberries, I wondered what might be the dominate plants next year, and it occurred to me that I noticed little trees growing strongly everywhere underneath the raspberries.  My guess is that trees -- maples, basswood, cherries, and yellow birches, as well as others, will take off next year.  If so, they will be the trees I dig up and transplant down by the creek buffer zone.  Transplanting my own trees will save me loads of money otherwise spent at a nursery.  The only trees I want to buy now are butternut trees.

Wild and Wooly in the Forest Garden
All in all, the forest garden looks wild and wooly, but if you know what to look for you can see the pattern of it.  Perhaps the hardest part of monitoring this garden is resisting the urge to take pruners in hand and make it "neat".  I have disciplined myself to cut only walking paths throughout.  I think the garden likes that.

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