Garden projects: Early Spring in the fforest gardens, veg patches & polytunnels

The fforest gardens are as old as fforest, 10 years to be exact. From the very beginning we knew that if we were to be serving food, then we would grow what we could ourselves. And so, the fforest gardens were designed to provide fresh produce for our kitchen.

Our lovely gardener, Brook, gives an insight into the work she's currently doing in the fforest gardens; what she's been planting and why. Get your planting tips here!

Late Winter / Early Spring


The first thing to be done is sow the tomato and chilli seeds in a propagator to get a crop as early as possible. This is done in mid February. At the beginning of March I start sowing lettuce to grow in the polytunnel, and some flowers for the accommodation. Through mid to late March and April I'll start the sowing of chard, french beans, kale, cucumber, courgettes, beetroot and lettuce at roughly 2 week
intervals to try and get a continuous crop. In late April I'll sow squash for the autumn.

Late Winter and early Spring is when the set up for Spring planting needs to be done as well. The autumn fruiting raspberries are cut back to the ground to re-shoot. The other berries we have (blackcurrant, red currant, white currant) are also pruned at this time. We're also hoping to grow some strawberries this summer! The beds get mucked and fertilised. Garlic that was planted last autumn is fed with blood fish and bone feed. The polytunnel gets cleaned to try and get rid of any pests and diseases and also to try and maximise the light getting in.

Summer


The best thing about Summer in the polytunnel is the tomato plants! We grow about 120 plants; a mix of different varieties in red, green, yellow, orange, purple and even striped! My favourites are Dr. Carolyn Pink, Emerald green and Orange Banana. Nearly all the seeds we get are from Real Seeds, you can get some really interesting varieties from them and they have good germination rates. This year Sian had requested we grow some Japanese veg after their trip: Daikon - a white radish and Shiso - a herb that looks similar to nettle. Other things we grow for the kitchens are courgettes, chard, kale, lots of rocket and lettuce, oriental greens. This year I'm trying out an amazing squash I discovered at Glebelands which is Buttercup Squash.
Where we can we keep the gardens as organic as possible, using organic fertilisers and feeding the tomatoes with comfrey tea. We also use companion planting to try and deter pests, some companions are meant to encourage the growth of what they are planted with. Having good pollinator flowers around also encourages natural predators to pests such as the ladybug which eats aphids.

'With the cut flowers we have we're trying to grow a number which are good for insects, as their numbers are dwindling and their natural habitats are becoming ever smaller. It seems right to do our bit and provide some food and space for them.'



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What Sian's reading: An enchanting book by Clare Leighton, describing a year in her garden

A beautiful book by artist and author Clare Leighton, her famous wood engravings are as enchanting as her nature stories.

Born in London in 1898, the English/American artist is best known for her wood engravings which, in this book, lovingly illustrate the essence and beauty of the seasons, and the joys and hardships of a gardener. Thanks to her work as an accomplished wood engraver, she inspired a revival of the craft in Britain and North America. 

She produced a remarkable body of work in her lifetime including over 840 wood engravings, twelve books that she both wrote and illustrated, as well as paintings, glass and ceramics. She was also commissioned to produce twelve engravings for an American illustrated edition of Wuthering Heights in the 1930s (as seen below).

Read reviews and buy your own copy here



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Grab your seeds, trowels & pots, it's time to plant your sunflowers!

Its time to sow your sunflowers! Mid-April to the end of May is the perfect time to plant your sunflower seeds and with a bit of love and attention, your sunshine plant will flower in August. Here's all you need to know about planting & growing sunflowers...

Growing conditions

Sunflowers like to grow in full sun and in well-drained soil. Individual seed packets vary so make sure you read the instructions on the back before you start.

What to grow

You might want to choose a tall variety of sunflower such as 'American Giant', which can reach up to 4m tall, or a sunflower that is a little smaller such as 'Teddy Bear' (60-90cm) or 'Big Smile' (30cm).

What you need

  • Choose a packet of sunflower seeds - remember to look to see how tall it might grow
  • Gardening gloves
  • A rake
  • A trowel
  • Plant label & a pencil

How to grow

  • Sunflowers can be sown straight into the ground where they are going to flower, so make sure the space you are going to sow is weed free by using a trowel to remove the weeds.
  • Rake the soil to a fine tilth (a fine crumbly texture) and make some drills 12mm deep. Leave a10cm space between each seed.
  • Place the seed in carefully and cover them up with soil. Don't forget to water the seeds gently. As they grow, if the plants are crowded, thin them out to about 45cm apart leaving the strongest, tallest plants.
  • Be careful as slugs and snails like to eat the new shoots. You may want to protect the seedlings by cutting the top off a plastic bottle and placing it over your seedlings.
  • As your sunflower begins to grow taller than you, you will need to help support the stem. Place a cane near the stem, loosely tie the cane to the plant with string, this will help your sunflower stay tall in the sunshine and grow even bigger.
  • The only thing left to do is to watch your sunflower grow and grow and grow and grow...
 photo by sian   @coldatnight

photo by sian @coldatnight

Send us your photos so we can see your progress, and of course to show off your fully grown, giant sunflowers! Tag us @fforest on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter

Text is adapted form an article by The Royal Horticultural Society



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Rich Landscapes: 2 Welsh brothers creating beautiful & practical gardens

'We believe in a fusion between landscape and architecture. An important relationship that encourages a more rounded approach to an outdoor lifestyle, creating not only beautiful but practical spaces, inspiring people to use their gardens.'

- The Rich brothers

Brothers Harry and David Rich (professionally known as Rich Landscapes) are leading representatives of a new, younger generation of landscape gardener.

In 2013, the Welsh siblings made their first appearance at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Drawing inspiration from their formative years, their extraordinary ‘Un Garreg’ show garden featured a 425 million year old sandstone. Arranged to form decorative boulders and supporting a floating timber bench, they added lengths of dry stone walling as a subtle reference to the Welsh hills. Awarded with a gold medal for their installation, the pair were then invited the following year to create a full scale show garden. Titled ‘Vital Earth The Night Sky Garden’ their show garden was granted a silver gilt medal.

This year, the Rich brothers have created a design for the Cloudy Bay winery in New Zealand, which they discuss in the accompanying video. They have a very clever way of blending architectural elements within natural surroundings. Their 'Shack' element of the garden is added to close the gap separating buildings from nature:

'The shack is constructed from raw, native materials made in an honest fashion. For us it needed to compliment the garden and blend organically within the space, not to be seen as a separate element.  We wanted to create a piece of architecture that could adapt, reform and re-orientate. A translucent sculpture that, with the change of direction could become a solid form, constricting views from and into the garden.'

We are patiently waiting to see what's next for this talented pair. In the meantime, their website provides a catalogue of beautiful past projects for you to look at.

Visit their website here



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Alice Holden: How to start growing your own veg

'Cooking the food you've grown and sharing it: that's an emotional and creative thing to do.'

- Alice Holden

Alice single handedly set up the fforest garden that now flourishes year round back in 2008, during the 3 years she worked for us. With strong beliefs in permaculture and organic growing, the garden was designed to provide fresh produce for our kitchen.

We first met Alice when she called into fforest with her green fingers holding a basket of homegrown strawberries to sell. It wasn't so soon after that, that she started working for us at the farm. 

She built the raised beds, put up the poly tunnel, started the composting systems, planted and set the seeds in motion. Her preliminary work in our fforest vegetable garden started what has become a thriving patch, providing a great range of different edible flowers, herbs, fruit and veg that we use for many delicious suppers, events and occasions. It really is special to know that some of what's on your plate has been sown and grown just yards away.

In an article for the Guardian, Alice provides the basic knowledge to encourage everyone to start growing their own vegetables. Just like we needed a bit of help starting our veg patch, she can give you a hand with yours. 



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