The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A forest garden island

Centipede in the forest garden.Remember my ambitious plans to construct a forest garden between the baby fruit trees near the barn?  I planted a couple of beds, then the normal gardening season started and the project got pushed onto the back burner.

Since then, I've started a slightly less ambitious method of forest gardening, one that fits in the scanty time gaps between vegetable gardening.  Instead of trying to create an entire forest garden in one step, I've been creating "forest islands" by slowly extending the raised beds around each tree.  Whenever I pull weeds and don't have anything better to do with them, I'll dump a wheelbarrow load against the side of a tree's raised bed.  A few weeks later, the weeds have rotted down into rich soil.

Creating a forest garden island around a peach tree.My oldest peach tree has been receiving this treatment (albeit in a more willy-nilly fashion) for nearly three years now.  Wednesday, I pulled out another mass of weeds and poked around at the humps of soil which now expand out in two directions from the raised bed.  White threads of fungi, a startled toad, and a brilliant centipede all turned up --- signs that my little ecosystem is healthy.

A little judicious shoveling and transplanting later and I've created a forest island there.  I planted comfrey and bee balm under the peach's canopy, and fennel, echinacea, rhubarb, and Egyptian onions further out from the trunk.  My primary goal with these plantings is weed control, with a secondary goal of strengthening the soil using dynamic accumulators, and a tertiary goal of feeding hummingbirds and parasitic wasps.  Of course, I also chose the plants because I have masses of them that need to come out of other parts of the garden.  I'm excited to see how this new forest garden island will take hold!

Shame-faced plug: Create your own unique chicken waterer with our DIY instructions.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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