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Al William

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since Jan 12, 2020
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forest garden books urban
East of England
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Recent posts by Al William

The previous residents of here had a ~20cm thick layer of pebbles on our small, shady front garden. There was also a membrane underneath, and when we removed all of this the soil was so compacted that I more or less had to chip it away with a fork. Safe to say it was relatively lifeless. We had some top soil delivered, plante things out and, whilst it's still a work in progress, worms have now been spotted, despite the nearest visible soil being out the back of the house. So, to repeat what the above user said: if you build it they will come!
2 months ago
I realise that your post is two months old, but I am not too far from your area and have been to Newmarket a number of times.

How's the allotment going?
2 months ago
Thanks, Hamilton - that's a really useful reply. Will most likely remove the bottom layers (well rotted) and use as compost for flower/insectory bed, and follow your advice on mixing the rest with other materials to balance it out.

What is the rough composition of the manure, you mentioned phosphorous; is it high in nitrogen too? (I think I recall this is why balancing out with carbon-heavy paper littler is good).
2 months ago
Hi all. We have a large bin full of cat and dog poo, mixed with recycled paper-based litter. I understand this should be quite a good mix for composting, which has always been our intention. We are now at the stage where the bin is nearly full (some has been rotting for 2 years) and working out where to spread it.

Our problem is that most of what we grow is edible, and since we are aiming to mimic an early forest we are obviously aiming to have a groundcover/herbaceous layer, which raises problems with contamination from the aforementioned compost.

Would a hugel bed be a suitable way to compost this stuff in place? I'm not experienced with hugel beds (hence asking!) but was wondering if wood piled on top of the compost would do a good job of letting it all break down and not contaminating plants?
2 months ago
My favourite resource for foraging has been Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel. There I learnt the valuable lesson that the best way to begin learning plant ID is through families, not species. For example, the mustard family (Brassicaceae) has over 3500 species that are all edible. So, you don't necessarily need to ID right down to the family to know that it's edible. (Obviously the next step is get more specific!)

In terms of location, it's worth thinking about the edge effect. I live in an urban area but we have a decent(ish) amount of woodland, and it's usually the edges of parks, woodlands and small wild areas that have the most diversity in terms of herbs.
2 months ago
Further to my reply from earlier, in this video of Martin Crawford's he gives a brief tour of his site, which is also 2 acres in the UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa9FHKx6sdM
Gives a good idea of how productive it can be.
2 months ago
We were given some by a neighbour, had intended to make some wine, but never got around to it. Roughly a year later we made syrup out of them instead and had no problems at all.
2 months ago
As someone else looking to do a similar thing in the UK, it's great to see someone else asking similar questions. It's a different situation here to the US, I feel, as land here is dominated by a small group of wealthy farmers and is also very expensive. Look forward to hearing your results!

It would be well worth checking out the work of Robert Hart, and reading Martin Crawford's books as they specifically talk about what is possible in the UK!
2 months ago

s. lowe wrote:For what it's worth, UC Berkeley did a study about urban foraging and after picking leafy greens at various places around the city they found that even leaves from right near very busy roads could be washed with water and safely consumed. Their main advice was to avoid roots and fungi because of accumulation of soil toxins but leaves seemed to only have surface contamination that could be washed off with water

Here's a story about the study with links

https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2018/09/edible-urban-weeds-found-to-be-safe-healthful-abundant-and-theyre-free/



That's really interesting, thanks for posting. So in fact the leaves could be the safest bit after all, and I wonder if the parts with the mucilage content would have any concentration of toxins in them.
2 months ago

J Davis wrote:I wouldn't risk it personally.

But if you time it right, you could harvest seed heads and add that diversity to your property or a pot.



Thanks, I'll go with that. I like the point about gathering seed - in this case it's not necessary as there is plenty of mallow around at other times of year, and tree mallow (Lavatera maritima) growing at home. This wild mallow was more notable for the fact it's survived into mid-winter with a decent amount of vegetation.
2 months ago