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13-05-2013, 13:19   #1
Eoghan Barra
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Forest gardens in Ireland?

Hi folks,

Am interested in the whole idea of creating a forest garden, but have been put off by the following:

"The experience of Fruit and Nut is that food yields in forest gardening situations in wet cool climates tend to be very low - one rule of thumb being ten percent of the yield that might be expected in a conventional orchard or vegetable plot." (http://www.fruitandnut.ie/forestgardening.html)

Has anyone else had any experience of this in this country? Sounds like a great idea, but maybe our climate is just plain wrong for it?

We live in the southwest in what would be a relatively exposed coastal location, but there is an abundance of native trees - oak, holly, birch, hazel etc. - growing wild all around us, so the land definitely suits (some) trees.

Any thoughts welcome.
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15-05-2013, 11:18   #2
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I have started a sort of forest garden, more a coppice with an orchard and cane fruits surrounding it. I dont think yield will be an issue as this is wood/fruit for the house, so not a commercial venture. If it is for private use then do not be put off. Look what is doing well around you and continue the theme. I have just been on a grafting course so that next winter I can collect local varities that are doing well to add to my collection.
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15-05-2013, 11:46   #3
Eoghan Barra
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I have started a sort of forest garden, more a coppice with an orchard and cane fruits surrounding it. I dont think yield will be an issue as this is wood/fruit for the house, so not a commercial venture. If it is for private use then do not be put off. Look what is doing well around you and continue the theme. I have just been on a grafting course so that next winter I can collect local varities that are doing well to add to my collection.
Hi Oldtree,

That's all good advice, thanks for your reply; I'll be turning it all over in my mind for a while before deciding how to proceed. If a forest garden is only going to yield 10% of a normal vegetable garden then it probably won't be a runner, as the idea is to try to move towards increased self-sufficiency in a real way. We would only have about half an acre to play with, so it would have to be one or the other (i.e. forest garden vs. more standard vegetable garden with polytunnel etc).
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16-05-2013, 11:58   #4
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Hi Oldtree,

That's all good advice, thanks for your reply; I'll be turning it all over in my mind for a while before deciding how to proceed. If a forest garden is only going to yield 10% of a normal vegetable garden then it probably won't be a runner, as the idea is to try to move towards increased self-sufficiency in a real way. We would only have about half an acre to play with, so it would have to be one or the other (i.e. forest garden vs. more standard vegetable garden with polytunnel etc).
A half acre isnt going to allow full self sufficiency, more along the lines of self sufficient in some things. I have a polytunnel (grow all in pots and play room for the kids in winter, mypex floor) and they are invaluable for things like tomatoes and herbs. I have 4 raised beds outside so potatoes in one, onions, peas, rasberrys, rhubarb, cabbage and the such like.

One thing to consider is that it all takes a lot of work so I moderate my plantings to a level that is an enjoyable hobby and not a chore.

It is my understanding that full self sufficiency would take at least 4 acres, includes animals, and requires full time year round work.

I would suggest the polytunnel and 4 raised beds about 5-6 meters long to start with and to plant a number of fruit trees and canes, and see how you go from there. Think about it this year and maby do a bit of planning the layout, compost heaps and wind breaks and where to source polyt and save up and then have it all ready to go next year.
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17-05-2013, 16:21   #5
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Ginseng is grown in forests. Raised beds under trees. Its not easy and it takes years and I dont know about tree types. But I believe as a result you can get a good price for Ginseng. I realize its getting away from gardening ad into farming though.

Anyone know whether its appropriate for Irish Woodland? It grows in the eastern provinces of canada which is a very similar climate to ireland.

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/354/354-312/354-312.html

Last edited by InTheTrees; 17-05-2013 at 21:35.
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18-05-2013, 16:11   #6
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Yikes. I asked the same question in the "farming" forum and got soundly ignored.

I brought it up because my sister and I own aprox 70 acres of old woodland that adjoins her farm. Its going through a rhodedhendron removal scheme right now thats going to take another three years but we're looking at any way we could generate some cash from the place in an ecologically sound way.

As far as I've found there's only one wild ginseng producer in the UK even...

Considering you can get up to $400/lb I'll do some more research.

(Sorry to divert the thread!)
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18-05-2013, 19:52   #7
Eoghan Barra
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Yikes. I asked the same question in the "farming" forum and got soundly ignored.

I brought it up because my sister and I own aprox 70 acres of old woodland that adjoins her farm. Its going through a rhodedhendron removal scheme right now thats going to take another three years but we're looking at any way we could generate some cash from the place in an ecologically sound way.

As far as I've found there's only one wild ginseng producer in the UK even...

Considering you can get up to $400/lb I'll do some more research.

(Sorry to divert the thread!)
Just to divert the thread a little further...

What type of old woodland is it, out of curiosity (i.e. tree species etc)?

Who is funding the rhodo removal works - I know these are labour intensive and therefore costly
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20-05-2013, 11:31   #8
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did a quick search out of interest on ginseng and got put off straight away:

Ginseng can be a profitable crop, but it requires an enormous commitment of time, money and labor for successful commercial production

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/ginseng.html

Ideal growing conditions for ginseng are more difficult to find in low-lying regions than they are in the mountains. The forest floor in most woodland areas is too hot and dry during the summer for ginseng to survive.

http://www.aftaweb.org/forest_ginseng_production.php

sounds like a very finikey crop and a long time before the crop would be ready. Maby you could start on a small scale and see how it goes.

You probably came across this too but put it here anyway:
http://ginsenguk.webs.com/
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20-05-2013, 15:13   #9
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might be worth your while having a look at this forum:

Forestry and Trees:

http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=1529
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20-05-2013, 15:45   #10
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Originally Posted by Eoghan Barra View Post
Just to divert the thread a little further...

What type of old woodland is it, out of curiosity (i.e. tree species etc)?

Who is funding the rhodo removal works - I know these are labour intensive and therefore costly
Quick disclaimer; I'm the brother who ran off to america and my sister is still on the family farm (Galway). So I tend to be more of the dreamer than the realist. Anyway...

The woods are predominately old oak, and associated deciduous (i'm awful at tree ID's!). There's some beautiful scotts pines.

I will thank God for the rest of my life that the Rhodie removal scheme was started before the financial crash so it has continued even through the dark days of the last few years. Basically Sister was approached by the Eco contractor who does the work and they really walked us through the Government Grant process. We had to put up a bond/deposit that was repaid when the grant came through (this was 5+ years ago now). There was a lot of fencing to be done to keep the sheep from the farm out.

The removal guys were amazing. They had a team of four and they camped out in a teepee for weeks at a time, moving through the trees hacking the rhodies down. That took about 2 years. The place looked like those old pictures of the vietnam war when they used agent orange. Massive mounds of dead Rhodie.

Now its rotting away and the team come back for a few months every summer going after the new growth. That will go on for a few more years. During which time we really cant do anything but leave them to it. The Forestry dept send an inspector every six months or so and we walk the place with him. They seem impressed so far. Its a rare stand of trees in connemara. It adjoins a large are of commanage/bog and is pretty isolated from other woods so the eco system is unspoiled.

And the place is transformed now. I remember as a child playing in the rhodhedendrons. It was fun to climb up inside and throw your self into the branches. We never realised they were slowly killing the woods then. Now that they're gone you can really feel the trees breathing a sigh of relief. The rhodies were a disease that were killing new growth and the woods were slowly dying and I think now that has been corrected there is certainly a different atmosphere.

Last edited by InTheTrees; 20-05-2013 at 15:51.
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20-05-2013, 17:58   #11
Eoghan Barra
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Quick disclaimer; I'm the brother who ran off to america and my sister is still on the family farm (Galway). So I tend to be more of the dreamer than the realist. Anyway...

The woods are predominately old oak, and associated deciduous (i'm awful at tree ID's!). There's some beautiful scotts pines.

I will thank God for the rest of my life that the Rhodie removal scheme was started before the financial crash so it has continued even through the dark days of the last few years. Basically Sister was approached by the Eco contractor who does the work and they really walked us through the Government Grant process. We had to put up a bond/deposit that was repaid when the grant came through (this was 5+ years ago now). There was a lot of fencing to be done to keep the sheep from the farm out.

The removal guys were amazing. They had a team of four and they camped out in a teepee for weeks at a time, moving through the trees hacking the rhodies down. That took about 2 years. The place looked like those old pictures of the vietnam war when they used agent orange. Massive mounds of dead Rhodie.

Now its rotting away and the team come back for a few months every summer going after the new growth. That will go on for a few more years. During which time we really cant do anything but leave them to it. The Forestry dept send an inspector every six months or so and we walk the place with him. They seem impressed so far. Its a rare stand of trees in connemara. It adjoins a large are of commanage/bog and is pretty isolated from other woods so the eco system is unspoiled.

And the place is transformed now. I remember as a child playing in the rhodhedendrons. It was fun to climb up inside and throw your self into the branches. We never realised they were slowly killing the woods then. Now that they're gone you can really feel the trees breathing a sigh of relief. The rhodies were a disease that were killing new growth and the woods were slowly dying and I think now that has been corrected there is certainly a different atmosphere.
Thanks very much for that reply, InTheTrees.

What you and your sister are doing is very important and valuable: mixed old oak woodland is one of the - if not the - richest of natural habitats in Ireland, and almost everywhere you find surviving remnants they are devastated by rhododendron. It's difficult to get rid of, but not impossible - we have a fairly similar situation to yourselves with mixed old oak woodland that had a significant rhodie problem but they're pretty much all gone now, though every time I go in there I still find and pull out a half dozen seedlings trying to establish themselves.

Anyway it sounds like you have something really good going on there. Did you apply for the Native Woodland Scheme? (I've never heard of an actual rhodo removal scheme other than the NWS.)

Last edited by Eoghan Barra; 20-05-2013 at 18:21.
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20-05-2013, 21:09   #12
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Thanks very much for that reply, InTheTrees.

What you and your sister are doing is very important and valuable: mixed old oak woodland is one of the - if not the - richest of natural habitats in Ireland, and almost everywhere you find surviving remnants they are devastated by rhododendron. It's difficult to get rid of, but not impossible - we have a fairly similar situation to yourselves with mixed old oak woodland that had a significant rhodie problem but they're pretty much all gone now, though every time I go in there I still find and pull out a half dozen seedlings trying to establish themselves.

Anyway it sounds like you have something really good going on there. Did you apply for the Native Woodland Scheme? (I've never heard of an actual rhodo removal scheme other than the NWS.)
Yes, I think that's it. Sorry to be vague!

I know exactly what you mean about pulling out the seedlings. I dont know thats there's any way of getting rid of them completely. At least they will never get beyond shrub sized any more. We have a good starting point now to keep an eye on them.

We still have a lot on the farmland adjacent to the wood which the "forestry" people wouldnt touch, so its going to be a constant battle. The farmland is more exposed though and they dont seem to like too much wind, thankfully, so they're stunted. I've considered spending a month there with a chainsaw and see how much I could get through.

Thanks for the encouragement, its terrible the damage they're doing around Ireland.
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20-05-2013, 21:30   #13
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We still have a lot on the farmland adjacent to the wood which the "forestry" people wouldnt touch, so its going to be a constant battle. The farmland is more exposed though and they dont seem to like too much wind, thankfully, so they're stunted. I've considered spending a month there with a chainsaw and see how much I could get through.
That's a really good idea. It's essential to get rid of all mature (i.e. flowering) plants first, as each one is capable of generating millions (literally!) of seeds each year. So until all of the mature plants in the vicinity have been sorted out, pulling seedlings will be a thankless task.

As I'm sure you know, removing rhododendron by cutting doesn't work on its own, as they will just grow back, so the stumps need to be treated immediately with diluted glyphosate. I found these links particularly useful in advising on how to eliminate rhodo: http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie/Rhododendron.htm

Best of luck with it all anyway, it sounds like you have something very beautiful there that will continue to reward your efforts for the rest of your days.
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21-05-2013, 10:16   #14
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I did some rodo clearance in an oak woodland in the UK. The rodo was like a forest in itself. it was murderous work but very satisfying.

Firstly we had to cut our way in and cut it down leaving 3 foot stumps.
We then winched the stumps out.
We then burnt the rodo as it can root from cuttings very easily.
we dug a trench ariound the fire to prevent an underground spread of the fire.
care must be taken with the smoke as it contains some nasties.
If you havnt burnt it keep an eye on the cut piles for regrowth and dose if any reappears.
I would dose and mark the seedlings as they may be regrowth from bits left in the ground, then pull up when dead.

This was a very thorough method as evidenced by cleared areas in previous years.

it sounds like you should now get on with interplanting to restore the wood.
possible idaes for some earnings would be fire wood production from the wood management (not forgetting ecology), short rotation coppice in the adjacent non-farmed fields and even sounds like you could get some tourist activity going, hikes, b and b, caravans, bicycle track, etc. There is no easy route to earnings though.

Last edited by Oldtree; 21-05-2013 at 10:29.
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21-05-2013, 12:20   #15
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Hi folks,

Am interested in the whole idea of creating a forest garden, but have been put off by the following:

"one rule of thumb being ten percent of the yield that might be expected in a conventional orchard or vegetable plot."
10% sounds low, but don't forget trees are also making wood

might make an interesting pick your own fruit in the forest / orchard with a difference park
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