when those parts of them which are not eaten by humans are returned to the soil. An ex-
ample is comfrey, which specialises in extracting potassium from the soil.
The plants are carefully chosen to go well together. The trees of the canopy cast a re-
latively light shade once they come into leaf. You could not make a forest garden with a
canopy of sweet chestnut, for example, which casts a heavy shade. (There is a great poten-
tial for using sweet chestnut in permaculture designs, but not in the forest garden.)
For their part, the shrubs are relatively shade tolerant, as many of them have their natural
home in woodland. Hazel nuts and red and white currants can all be found wild in British
woods. The varieties grown in the forest garden are cultivated ones, bred to give a high-
er and more reliable yield than the wild ones, but they still have enough of their ancestral
qualities to stand a little shade.
Some of the shade-tolerant herbs and vegetables grown in the forest garden are also nat-
ive woodland plants, for example the wild garlic or ransoms. Some herbs have a particular
part to play in controlling pests and diseases, for example the umbellifers (members of the
cow parsley family) including herbs such as lovage and sweet cicely. They attract insects
into the garden which prey on pests such as caterpillars and aphids.
All the plants are either perennials or self-seeders, as this is very much a no-dig garden.
The soil is kept well mulched and any plants which threaten to overwhelm their neigh-
bours, whether weeds or over-vigorous crop plants such as some mints, are either clipped
back with shears or gently uprooted when the soil is soft after heavy rain. There is very
little other work to do in the garden other than harvest the food.
The forest garden provides fruit throughout the year, from the first gooseberry thinnings
in May, to the latest keeping apples the following spring. The green food is limited to the
spring and summer seasons so a conventional garden of annual vegetables is used for the
winter. There is also an area for sun-loving perennials, including chicories and herbs like
thyme and yarrow.
There is no prescription for the ideal permaculture garden. Each must be designed ac-
cording to the physical conditions on the ground and, equally important, the preferences of
the individual gardener. Each of us will grow the things that we and our families like to eat
and we will do it in the style we feel comfortable with. Permaculture offers many ideas that
each of us can incorporate into our own style.
Making a Sheet Mulch Bed
There are many ways of using mulch in the garden. One of the most valuable ways is when
starting a new garden from scratch on a site full of perennial weeds. A task that looks ut-
terly daunting when you think of digging it becomes quite easy when you use mulch. Here
is how to go about it: