Forest Garden Design Course notes 2016

Japanese Rose hedgerow

Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose) windbreak hedge

Notes from Martin Crawford forest garden course back in the summer of 2016

Traditional agricultural science can’t cope with complexity of forest garden, 100+ species of plants.

Science & complex systems (thinking of chaos theory)

Energy efficiency

Forest Garden 1:40 Arable 1: 4 Animal 1: 0.8

Yield and input


  • Berberis as windbreak, useful for easterly protection
  • Bowles Hybrid willow, 1.2m wide, non-competitive roots, vestigiate
  • People space where paths converge
  • Batboxes in trees


  • Sweet chestnuts coppice crop 6 years for fence posts - last 10-15 years
  • Hazels
  • Redwoods for fenceposts

If you forecast the future, you will be doomed to fail


  • Tree spacing ¼ – ½ of combined tree diameters
  • But, can plant small trees under high trees eg Italian alder
  • Windbreak protection is 3 * the height, eg 2m hedge gives 6m protection
  • Cross pollinators 2-3 trees apart
  • Nitrogen fixing trees can be 30–40m away
  • Ash roots as wide as high (same for poplar). Normally 1/3 of height.

Many small errors multiply and lead to great unhappiness

Out in the garden

  • Toona sinensis - pollard every winter
  • Tilia cordata - pollard every 3-4 years
  • White mulberry - leaf crop cooked, high in protein
  • Cornus kousa - 25m in 20 years
  • Valerian - potassium accelerator cut for onsite mulch
  • Plum yew - ripe in November
  • Phyllostachys
    • shade tolerant
    • can grow 25cm per day!
    • can spread 2-3m per year
    • maintenance 1-2 times per year
    • 5m high, 2cm canes
    • 80 canes
    • 120 shoots
    • 10 shoots per meal
  • Pear, medlar, hawthorn can graft on existing hawthorn
  • Crataegus ellwegariana - tarpaulin on ground, shake branches
  • Black locust for timber 20-30 years

Most attractive fruit colours to birds

In descending order:

  • Purple
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Black (mulberries)

  • Cornus capitata - edible fruit 3.5-4cm end Nov, banana flavour
  • Zanthoxylum schinifolium - leaves for flavouring in spring
  • Pineapple guava
  • Sweet chestnut Marigoule, early ripening 30-35kg. Harvest with tarpaulin, frequently especially if windy. Knock the branches.
  • Syrian hawthorn, thornless, delicious raw
  • European bladdernut - shade tolerant, understorey, pistachio flavour nuts, 1cm
  • Bog myrtle - N-fixer, armoatic leaves, insect repellent, lovely
  • Tibetan whitebeam - fruits 2cm like marzipan
  • Bamboo for playground
  • Shrubby alders for extra N, lie prunings flat
  • Zanthoxylum alatum Nepalese pepper, fragrance like black pepper
  • Compost toilet in tent
  • Swamp cypress, v. tolerant of damp, hard wood, coppice for fence posts

Outside again, Saturday afternoon

Self-seeding only happens in context

  • Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), aromatic, good cover, good bee plant
  • Japanese & Chinese yam, hardy in UK, raosted
  • Turkish rocket, cooked. Evergreen in UK
  • Ostrich fern - for shrubbery late March
  • Lemon balm, mint, oregano, possibly anti-bacterial, anti-fungal
  • Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonicus)- damp shade
  • Solomons Seal, Polyganatum biflorum - damp shade
  • Let raspberries move
  • Turkish rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) - fairly shade tolerant
  • Gunnera - N-fixing, in leaf stalks by algae
  • Sweet cicely - perennial: leaf, seed and root crop
  • Hops for shoots
  • Nepalese raspberry - shade, fanatastic ground cover for woodland

Maintenance: 1 day per week for 2 acre garden over the year. Efficient.

  • Most perennials 1-5 months germination!
  • Purslane - bettroot flavoured, shde, self-seeding
  • Pulmonaria - bee plant & accumulator


  • Hop
    • Grow up lower branches of Italian alder
    • 1 plant provides 100g dried hops, enough for 50 litres beer
    • 3-4 shoots going up, Apr-Jul/Aug - for the rest, harvest the hop shoots
  • Meadowseet - lovely feathery cream flowers, 2m, bee plant
  • Babbingtons leek
    • harvest as leek, cut shot
    • distribute bulbils by broadcast in light groundcover
    • garlicky flavour
  • Korean raspberry good for shade under treas

Ground cover techniques

  • Mulch strip, moving plants
  • 3-10 plants per m²
  • Set up mother beds
  • Dwarf comfrey, good spreading cover. Don’t cut for mulch.
  • Periwinkle - flowers all year, good evergreen cover for shade

  • Swiss mint - type of mint for teas, not particularly spreading
  • Tropaeolum tuberosum (Mashua) perennial nasturtium
    • tuber very productive
    • leave in the ground, just harvest what you need, leave tubers to regrow


  • Prof. Martin Wolfe, Organic Research Centre
  • Integrated Forest Gardening - worth a read
  • Eric Toensmeier ‘Edible Forest Gardens’ 2 vols, quite academic


  • Aim to facilitate visits to other members gardens
  • About 200, 160 in UK

Nutrient budgets

  • Heavy cropping fruits require extra N, 6-10 g/m² per year
  • Rough rule - 2/3 area of heavy cropping plant to be N-fixing plants
  • Portable compost toilet
    • Dig hole
    • Use for one season
    • Fill and move
  • If pH les than 6.0, then lime

In the new forest garden

  • The Forest Garden Greenhouse by Jerome Osentowski
  • Transitional ground cover - trefoil, clover, mustard etc

Transitional ground cover process

  1. Put down chipped bark
  2. Plant perennials and long term cover (eg strawberries)
  3. Plant temporary cover thickly
  4. Strawberry expands
  • Plant comfrey around fruit trees!
  • All mallows have edible leaves
  • Train bramble fruits (thornless) on to Elaeagnus umbellata
  • Liquorice, horseradish - eat young leaves in spring
  • 400m² (1 acre) enough for family of four

Sea buckthorn harvesting

  • Cut whole fruting branch
  • Freezer for 1 hour
  • Tap & fruits come off
  • Harvest from sides, not upward growth


  • Seaweed solution
  • 3 days nettle & comfrey feed
  • Mulch 6 months for grass, 12 morths for docks & dandelions

Predator strips

  • Senecio (Brachyglottis)
  • Meadowsweet
  • Sweet cicely

For land-based work, you have to be efficient

Harvesting nuts & apples

  • Tap the branches with big stick if it hasn’t been windy
  • Harvest nuts frequently, every 2 days
  • Each tree has approx 2 week harvest
  • Nut Wizard £60 - can use with chestnuts once free from burr
  • Chestnut harvest end September
  • Make sure ground cover under nut tree is short or mown eg wild garlic dies back or cut comfrey
  • Silky 3.6m telescopic pruning saw
  • Nut drying machine 35°C - 1kW heater with fan

Preparing chestnuts

  • Chestnuts 60% water (cf walnuts), need 50-55°C in shell to dry, 3 days. Shells crack easier when dry.
  • Put chestnuts in hessian sack, bash on concrete, skin comes off
  • To use dried chestnuts, soak overnight in water
  • Cook 40 minutes
  • Hawos electric stone mill, designed for grain, will smash nuts


  • Oyster
  • Shitake - easiest
  • Fresh logs, no less than 2 months old
  • Denser wood preferred
    • Oak - 10-12 years mushrooms
    • Alder - 6 years
  • Anne Miller, Scotland, for fungus spawn & food grade wax
  • High protein crop
  • Store logs somwhere shady and damp
  • Chaos funorum for edible fungus inoculant
  • Paul Stamets - ideas and books

Shocking the Shitake log

  • Soak the log overnight
  • Bang hard
  • Keep out of way of slugs
  • Buds appear after week
  • Rest for 3 months
  • Shock every 3 months
  • Harvest shitake 7-8cm, quickly
  • 1 kilo every 3 months, 30 kilos over 10 years

Propogating mycelium

  • Put inoculated log into thick plastic sack
  • Keep for one year, winter to winter
  • Scrape off mycelium, put into holes

Cleft grafting

  • Sloe - graft plums
  • Hawthorn - graft medlar, pear
  • Buy graft wood from Brogdale
  • Cut graftwood in January on dry, sunny day
  • Put in fridge for up to 3 months
  • In spring, graft in April/May
  • Cleft graft easiest
  • Straight split, no side branches. Lever with screwdriver
  • Graftwood 1cm-70mm
  • Leave 2-3 buds
  • Line up inner edge of dark bark
  • Wax over surface using grafting wax
  • Will grow to full width
  • As existing tree, will grow vigorously
  • Italian grafting pliers available (Brondesbury Garden Centre)

Apple grafting

  • Plant apple rootstock
  • Let grow for 2-3 years
  • Cut 2cm branch
  • Graft wood on


  • Climbing kiwi
  • Coppice with tree every 3-4 years
  • Grow on South side