Centre for Alternative Technology

Update 2010

October 2011The tree layer is made up of an old Bramley apple with a wide, spreading canopy, a newly planted 'Denbigh' Plum and 'White Filbert' Hazel. When big enough, the hazel will be coppiced periodically for bean poles and pea sticks, so providing a double crop of wood and nuts (if the squirrels leave us any).

Planting a forest garden is an ongoing affair – the conditions will change as the plum and hazel grow, casting more shade and giving height to the garden. In the meantime there is room for some sun loving annuals, so I'll be putting in a few peas and beans and squashes to make use of the space and light. .

Growing runner beans up trees is a forest garden classic – the tree gives them physical support and the beans fix nitrogen, so improving soil fertility. However, my only established tree, the Bramley apple, has a canopy several metres wide. Growing my beans up the trunk would put them in quite deep shade, so instead they'll grow up strings running from the ground to the branches, on the sunny edge of the tree.

My String plant, Phormium tenax is not yet big enough to provide string for the beans, but as its long sword-shaped leaves get bigger I'll be harvesting them for use in tying in the trained fruit over the entrance archway.

Unlike the beans, the shade-tolerant perennial salads: wild garlic, Allium ursinum and pink purslane, Montia sibirica, will be very happy under the Bramley, as, I hope, will the oyster mushrooms which I plan to grow on logs there.

Exciting times, but I'm forever wondering if I've learn't enough from past mistakes. Is that red currant a bit too close to the plum tree? What about that worrying patch of ground elder creeping in from the corner?

I'm still learning and experimenting, as gardeners always are, but when you next visit CAT, please take a look at the developing garden. You'll find it right in front of the WISE round lecture theatre.


Chloe Ward, Spring 2010.


See more photos of the forest garden on CAT's flickr pages here

Learn about forest gardening on one of our short courses.


The forest garden is dedicated to Margaret Sheppard, valued supporter of CAT.