Snapshots of the Forest Garden — Season 1

We’re in the midst of a classic bout of Kanazawa weather, with days on end of rain and wind knocking the leaves of trees and making it undeniable that fall is fully upon us. Before these last few days, it has been deceptively warm and pleasant for early November, but that seems set to change steadily descend towards winter.

So this is a ‘farewell to sunny days and green things’ sort of post that can capture how much progress the forest garden made in its first year of life.

But first…once I got fence building, I couldn’t seem to stop. I ended up extending it along the front of the yard, all the way to the driveway. I also added a portion behind the driveway, which you can glimpse behind the mini-van. So now all I need to do to make the yard chicken-proof is to add a gate at the end of the walkway leading to the house, seal up the sides of the driveway from the fence to the future gate, and probably seal off the back of the property to some extent. I’m planning on giving the chickens free range throughout the yard. If I decide to limit them to some portion of the yard, then I won’t need to do as much work.


The pond is looking great, full of rainwater. I think by this time next year it will be practically full of cattails (I planted just four baby plants last fall), and I’m hoping they won’t spread much beyond that. If they do I’ll need to put in some kind of barrier to keep them from taking over. I’m still not sure how much water/how wet the soil needs to be to keep them healthy, but I’m hoping once they hit drier ground it will halt progress. I’ve been looking around recently for ways of improving water retention for the pond without using a plastic liner. One option is to use a type of clay called sodium bentonite which is applied to the bottom of the pond. When it gets wet, it expands and prevent water from seeping through. Another interesting technique is to create a layer of something called ‘glay,’ which is an organic layer of slime like you find in natural bodies of water. I’ve found several recipes for creating glay that don’t seem too difficult. I like both of these options since they are natural and can be easily repaired or remade if/when they aren’t effective. For the time being, we’ll be getting enough rain and snow to keep the pond full until the spring, so I have time to decide which method to use. DSC_0132 In the main garden, cabbage, hakusai, and broccoli are all doing well. Last year my hakusai was decimated by little purple caterpillars, but this year they are around in few numbers and seem to be fixated on the daikon leaves. The bigger issue is slugs, which I haven’t had problems with before. I found a great recipe for slug repellent — mix 100 ml ammonia with 500 ml of water and a dash of dish soap in a spray bottle — and have been having a grand old time sniping slugs off of my plants each night. The repellent turns the slugs into writhing piles of goo and doesn’t harm the plants at all. Highly recommended!

DSC_0136 Speaking of daikon, here’s the daikon and red turnip patch looking healthy. DSC_0142 I’ve been totally impressed with how much the larger trees — the black locust and the acacia — have grown in just one season. Here’s the black locust with some fall color. It has easily doubled in height and girth over the summer.

DSC_0140 The acacia was bit scraggly when I planted it in the spring, but it has filled out really well over the last few months and continues to put out beautiful, vibrant purple new growth well into the fall. The acacia is a gorgeous tree that whose color looks different depending on the light. It also came close to doubling its height, but the trunk is still too thin to support its entire weight. Hopefully by the end of next summer I can remove the hideous supports I cobbled together to keep it upright. DSC_0144 On the other side of the year, garlic has already sprouted through and gotten in some good growth before the winter. The red onions are doing the same. DSC_0152  Some things I’ll be thinking about over the winter: -chicken coup design -plants for increasing ground cover -tool shed design -things that worked and didn’t work over the summer (especially my approach to polycultures) -putting together a list of all the species of trees and shrubs that I currently have But I’ll save those musings for the long winter days and nights when I’ve got nothing better to do than sit in front of the computer. We aren’t stuck inside quite yet!


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