Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘forest garden’

Perennial Vegetables: Plant them once eat them every year

As we progress with our forest garden we’ve been thinking about how to make it more productive. We’ve already planted some soft fruits and have a lot of herbs propagated in the polytunnel. We’re also planning on extending the forest garden into the old orchard area and making a mixed fruit orchard. I’ve tried to include some culinary plants in each of the layers of the garden but many of these are for adding flavour or tend to be used in salads rather than being a main ingredient in a meal.

 Of course we could simply have a standard vegetable patch but growing annual vegetables needs more input throughout the year and doesn’t really fit with the forest garden. However, perennial vegetables do very much work with a forest garden. I had already planned on having one or two perennial vegetable plants in the forest garden but I think it would be useful to add some more particularly oness that are easy to cook without too much preparation. Since the forest garden is our only garden area we’d also like to have some plants with attractive foliage and flowers.

So what are perennial vegetables ? Some are well known and commonly grown such as rhubarbs, asparagus and globe artichokes. Here’s a picture of some asparagus grown in a garden border rather than a veg patch.

Others are a bit more unusual such as daylily and the ostrich or shuttle cock fern.

Daylilies are beautiful flowers but the flower buds are also delicious to eat. According to my research the yellow flowered daylilies tend to be sweeter I’ve chosen the Stella d’Oro variety which is recommended in many books. The flowers can be used raw in salads, battered , fried or stuffed. Unopened buds taste similar to French beans but the flowers are more similar to courgette flowers. Dried flower buds are widely used in Chinese cooking and known as golden needles. We’ve got a dehydrator so will definitely be making our own golden needles. I’ve managed to find some plants on ebay and plan to grow these on and propagate by division in the future.

I love ferns in the garden so having a fern that’s edible is a bonus. The shuttlecock or ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris tolerates shade so does well in forest gardens. The ‘Jumbo’ variety can grow to 2meters high, which would give a very jungle like feel to the forest garden. The edible part is the young fiddleheads (furled fronds of a young fern) which are picked in spring until they reach 5-6cm after which they become too tough. They do need to be boiled for 15 minutes, have a flavour like a cross between asparagus and broccoli with a crisp texture.

Here’s a picture of a fiddlehead

Perennial vegetables don’t have to just be grown in forest gardens they be planted as a polyculture in ordinary garden beds just remember that as perennials they will need to stay in place rather than being moved every year as you can do with annuals. You can even grow aquatic perennial vegetables such as Arrowheads, Water chestnut, Water lotus and Watercress making your ornamental garden pond a productive part of the garden as well.

There are even some perennial grains that you can grow in the garden. A grain plot 3m x 30m planted up with perennial rye or wheat can yield about 18kg of rye or 25kg wheat it’ll need milling but would be very interesting to try growing some.

For all you need to know about Perennial vegetables have a look at Martin Crawford’s book available in our Amazon bookshop http://astore.amazon.co.uk/hoote-21/detail/1900322846

Forest Garden Planting & Other Jobs

Finally, now the weather is a bit more seasonal we’ve been able to get on with planting up the forest garden and getting the plastic mulch down to make sure we’re not over run with weeds as Spring progresses.

We let the sheep graze the area for a few weeks before lambing so it’s currently pretty clear. I’ve been growing plants from cuttings and bare root plants in the polytunnel and some are quite mature now, so ready for planting out. It’s such a big space that cuttings and growing plants from seed is really the only practical way to get enough plants. Although, I have bought a few of the one off plants from specialist nurseries.

It seems like I’ve spent all weekend digging holes and planting but there’s still so much ground to fill. So far I’ve planted out some of the new trees, shrubs and climbers. These include tree lupins, two shagbark hickory trees, a szechuan pepper,bay, hops, honeysuckle and wisteria. I’ve also established a comfrey patch and planted out soft fruits such as raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. I’ve still got lots of ground cover plants and the herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme to plant.

Here’s a picture of the comfrey patch

And the never ending polythene mulch which we can now put over the areas that the sheep cleared.

The forest garden borders our pond which is more ornamental than natural but we hope to blend it into the forest garden by using plants from the forest garden around the pond. With the help of the sheep we’ve cleared the ornamental plants, brambles and ivy from the area behind the pond and instead planted some Lemon Balm which we’ll also use in the forest garden. We chose lemon Balm because it’s quite robust and will hopefully survive the attention of the ducks and outgrow the brambles and ivy.

Here’s a picture you can see the neatly planted Lemon Balm at the back of the pond by the fence.

The other job for the weekend was harrowing, reseeding and rolling the big pig paddock. Here’s a picture of the rolling, fingers crossed it will be full of grass soon.

Talking of pigs our British Lops were enjoying the Spring sunshine, to keep them cool we let them have a play with the hosepipe

In between all the planting and sowing we also found time for some lamb watching



Blue Skies & Forest Garden Mulching

Today at Hooters Hall smallholding we woke up to blue skies rather than incessant rain here’s a picture to prove it

It was also quite mild with no overnight frost so I took the opportunity to do some work on the forest garden. Over the summer we planted an annual wildflower mix in the forest garden to give it a bit of colour but that’s died back now and we’re left with a lot of brambles and weeds which need to be removed before we plant out the forest garden plants. Once established the forest garden should be self sustaining and there won’t be too much weeding to do as the various layers will prevent unwanted plants establishing. However, at the start we need to intervene because the competition from the weeds will hamper the establishment of any of the forest garden plants.

One of the easiest ways to get rid of weeds and clear the area without using chemical sprays is with a mulch. You can use natural mulches such as straw or grass clippings but on our site these wouldn’t last very long once the wind started so we’ve opted for a plastic mulch. Not as aesthetically pleasing but it is very efficient and will mean that we can establish the forest garden plants properly.

We got our plastic mulch and pegs to hold it in place from the garden superstore here’s the link http://www.thegardensuperstore.co.uk/acatalog/Netting_and_Fabrics.html

I had to cut back some of the more aggressive brambles but then it was a case of just putting the plastic sheeting over all the vegetation and fixing it in place with the pegs. I had 30m of sheeting and I’ve covered about a third of the forest garden. I’ve got some more on order so hopefully I’ll get it all covered this week.

Here are some pictures

We have got a lot of the plants ready for planting in to the forest garden. Some I’ve grown from seed or cuttings and have in pots in the polytunnel others I’ve bought as bare roots. I’m a bit undecided about when to plant them all out. I think I’ll plant some of the bigger trees this week but keep the others in the polytunnel for a few months yet while the plastic mulch does its job. Over the next few months the weeds will die back under the plastic mulch and then we can either plant through the mulch by cutting slits and inserting plants or remove a small area of the plastic mulch at a time as we gradually put all the plants in.

The other job we’ll be doing in the forest garden this week is some pruning of the Elder trees so they have more of a bush habitat which will make it easier to harvest the flowers and berries. We experimented with this on one or two of them last year and it worked really well. As well as making harvesting easier this will also let some more light in.

Here are the links to the other Forest Garden posts so you can see what our plans are:  http://www.hootershall.co.uk/category/blogposts/forest-garden/

In other news this week the ducks have started laying eggs again. I found this next to the pond.

The chickens are still not laying though but hopefully, as the days lengthen and they finish moulting, it won’t be too long before they restart egg production.