Learning about Forest Gardening and Permaculture with Graham Bell
A wonderful day was spent with Graham Bell and other permaculture students at his
nursery, called the Red Shed Nursery on the Scottish Borders.
Graham is a leading authority of all things permaculture and forest gardening in the
United Kingdom. He started his 1/5th of an acre forest garden with his wife Nancy in
an old walled garden in 1988, and 31 years later it produces over 1.25 metric tons of food and 15 tons of compost a year. When you compare this to conventional agriculture,the average yield is 7.8 tons per hectare (according to the government), and this
figure is in a downwards decline.
These excellent results come from a strategy of working closely with nature, and
replicating what she does. She builds the soil continually and this becomes evident
when you visit a forest- the soil is rich, deep and very good at retaining water and
nutrients. Each tree feeds off the forest floor, eventually becoming food itself.
Nothing is wasted in nature.
Graham (and the rest of us Brits) live in Zone 8/9 which is soggy at best. It was
amazing for me to see many different plants flourishing in very close proximity -
fruit bushes, fruit trees, herbs, veg and fungi. A complete web of food on just 1/5th of an acre- it really is impressive.
As part of the experience we picked our own lunch. We were warned that some of the
plants are poisonous, so we went around with Nancy and learned about what you can eat,when it tastes good and what to avoid.
Lunch was delicious!
In the afternoon we learned about the other visitors to the gardens. As well as many
human visitors throughout the year, including volunteers, the garden is also visited
by over 70 species of birds, with a vast array of habitat for them with extremely wellestablished trees and bushes, with new ones just planted in the undergrowth.
The garden also produces 500+ trees for sale each year and close to 5000 plants for
sale. It has definitely given me a long term goal to aim for and has given me lots of great ideas!
The land is alive, abundant, vibrant and green. There is a real sense of peace, calm
and tranquility as you wander around the garden- probably my favourite part of the
visit. It really is a small area but it feels enormous walking around as there is so
much variety and difference. I really did think that I may have to revisit my plans
for the gardens.....
We also learned how to train berry bushes so that they are much easier to pick- it is a bit of a faff but will make picking the thorny ones much simpler!
I am delighted to say I now have 8 cuttings of Worcester Berries that may even fruit
as early as 2020? We shall see, and the thorns on them are brutal!
It was a really inspiring day and if you want to find out more about Graham and his
teachings you can find him on Facebook, and all major book outlets- he is a prolific
book writer and teacher as well.
All photos are credited to Alan Charlton, thank you for allowing me to use them.
In summary then, it was a wonderful day (apart from breaking down on the way back, butluckily I had got all the way to Darlington so could walk the rest of the way!) in
which I learned a lot and came away inspired to do wonderful things with the plants
that I have when the land is found.
Thank you for reading this and I hope that it is of use.
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