Tag Archives: nut trees

Forest Garden – pros and cons

One of my reader’s, Helen from Silverbells, asked if I would do an update on our forest garden as I describe on Murtagh’s Meadow about page. Really the forest gardening I leave to my husband, while I concentrate on the vegetable patch, and the flower garden, though it doesn’t stop me using the produce.

To quote the Agroforestry Trust in the UK , forest gardening is a designed agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants. The idea being that you try and re-create a sustainable natural forest with all it’s complex product producing layers. So food products may include fruits, nuts, leaves, and possibly medicinal plants and spices. In addition, you may have plants that produce fodder for animals or resources such as bean poles, wood for fuel and so on.

From our point of view it has been a bit of a struggle. To start with you are constantly battling with weeds and in our case grass, and until we get some kind of canopy cover this will continue. So any low growing shrubs have really struggled to get a foot hold. And  even plants such as raspberries, which are naturally a woodland edge plant, struggle to keep going. Perhaps, if we had more time (this is supposed to be a low maintenance form of gardening) it would be better, because in reality you’d need to be out every few days cutting the grass back from spring right into late autumn.

Somethings have done well, such as the chokeberries. But then the birds come along and eat them all before they are even ripe!!! We have Nepalese raspberries which are good ground cover. They certainly are, and they try to take over. What is more I have yet to find any fruit – though the carder bees do seem to appreciate the flowers.

The cobnut shrubs look good and are healthy but we have yet to get more than a handful of nuts. The nuts we did grow this year were nearly all empty and those that had fallen to the ground has been opened by mice (but I wonder if they found them empty too?). Though this coming year we should have some very decent bean poles.

The slugs loved the bark of the Szechuan pepper (a substitute for black pepper) and ring barked it a couple of times before we put it in a pot.

The autumn olive flowered but did not set fruit this year, but there were some fruit last year (see photo). We had a good crop of sea buckthorn which again are thriving (though last year did not crop so well). And this is the first year we have had quinces (a grand total of six!).

In general, success has been better with the more traditional orchard trees, apples, plums and to lesser extent pears. Having a number of varieties seems to be the key, as not all well fruit well every year.

In terms of work, you need to be prepared initially to do a lot of maintenance. And it is certainly trial and error with what will crop well in a given year.

October Joy


The weather for October is unseasonably mild and sunny. Misty mornings are leaving plants covered in a fine dusting of dew.

All around the garden leaves are turning red and orange.

Nuts and apples are ripening, and even the autumn raspberries which weren’t looking very promising early in the season are coming into their own with the mild sunny weather.

And the last flowers of the summer are hanging on. So there is much to be grateful for.






Sunday, the first of February, was Ireland’s Saint Brigit’s day and seen by many in Ireland, as the first day of spring. Outside it is cold with wintery showers of hail and sleet, but the sun is shining in between. In the garden, there are signs of life. A beautiful Hellebore I got from my sister, is in flower; daffodils almost ready to open; my Brigid’s cross made from rushes; bluebell shoots from seeds I planted two years ago; hazel catkins opening and elder catkins looking nice again the blue sky.


Further fruit and nut plantings

A beautiful spring day today and just as well with so many jobs to do in the garden. Part of the field to the south of the house has also been landscaped for new planting. This is a sloping area. The top is gravel and the bottom is peat so very different soils. This time swales have been created. These are mounds running across the slope to manage rainfall and nutrient loss. Sea buckthorn have been planted on the top mound, followed by cobnuts interspersed with apples and then small leaved lime. The bottom area has just been dug over and here I hope to plant potatoes, cabbages and onions.




Ponds and Cobnuts

One problem with expanding the garden is that there are suddenly lots of jobs to do outside and therefore little time for blogging. The pond is slowly filling up with water – naturally from below and also from the rain. Yesterday we gathered some wild mint and bull rush from the drainage ditch just below the field and planted those in. Today we transplanted some reeds from one of the fields close to the river. And we have already seen some whirligig beetles on the surface.


New pond slowly filling with water

Along the fence line, behind the pond, we have created another mound and planted a hawthorn hedge. Plastic has been used to help control weeds as this has been proven to speed up the hedge growth. Two Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) have also been planted into the hedge. These are not true cherries, but belong to the family Cornaceae – the dogwoods. The fruits are good to eat, though it can take the tree some time before it starts producing fruits (in one book 20 years was quoted, so patience may be required).

On the other mound, 27 cobnuts have been planted. The majority are ‘Hall’s Giant’ because this variety is already doing well in our garden. It’s a hardy and vigorous variety. The other varieties planted are Nottingham (Pearson’s Prolific) and Lange Tidling Zeller. All our cobnuts have come from fruitandnut.ie.

Mounds with Cobnuts

Mounds with Cobnuts

I know it doesn’t look like much now but hopefully in a couple of years this will be a productive strip.



Expanding the garden

My parents have kindly given us the field below the house. And today, our neighbour and friend Willie arrived with his digger. The field is quite a wet area as the soil is peat. The plan is to create a number of mounds on top of which cobnuts, blueberries and a couple of apple trees will be planted. It is hoped that the mounds will allow free drainage around the trees.

Creating soil mounds

Creating Soil Mounds

Another mound along the southern boundary will be planted as a natural hawthorn hedge. The extra area will also us to expand our poultry flock. We will be creating a pond area for the ducks. We’re hoping not to line the pond but will allow it to fill naturally (with additional water coming from the roof of the workshop). The plan is to plant reeds around the edge. The reeds grow naturally just a couple of fields away near a small river.  There are also bull rushes in the nearby drain and we hope to incorporate these too. Hopefully you will see the progress over the next few weeks.