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Mulch and herbs in the forest garden

Bowl-turner uses wood shavings as mulch in the garden

Collecting leaves for mulchYesterday, I showcased the trees, shrubs, and vines that did best in two Appalachian forest gardens, but what about the lower layers?  The first thing I was struck by in both Alice and Robert's gardens was their deep mulches.  Finding enough waste materials to mulch with is always a struggle on our farm, but Alice and Robert had both tapped into the copious organic matter being thrown away in cities every day.

Blooming hazel in a forest gardenAlice uses leaves --- a system easy to replicate for any city-dweller --- but Robert's method of finding mulch is even more elegant.  Robert is a bowl-turner who makes wooden bowls in his home studio, so he scavenges fallen trees from the neighborhood.  The trees are cut into pieces to make into bowls, and the curly shavings are spread heavily on the soil of his garden.  Add in some alpaca manure for fertility, and you've got a very healthy, happy forest garden.

Young sorrel leavesAlthough it was too early to see most of the herbs in the forest garden, a few were already poking up through the mulch.  Alice had stinging nettles along the shady edge of her garden and sorrel and horseradish mixed in among the trees and shrubs.  She mentioned that she wished she hadn't planted the horseradish --- the plants are extremely vigorous and nearly impossible to remove if you change your mind.  I'll have to come back in the summer to see the lower level of these two forest gardens in all their glory.

This post is part of our Real Forest Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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I was more than a little concerned about things taking over in my little yard, so I planted my horseradish in big garbage cans. I drilled drainage holes in the sides, so I suppose there's still a chance some has escaped, but so far they seem to be contained.
Comment by trashmaster46 Tue Mar 8 21:43:48 2011
I've heard of people planting aggressive plants (like mint) in buried flower pots, but not in trashcans. Great idea!
Comment by anna Wed Mar 9 07:58:35 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime