All change, water management is the name of the game …

This year has been a shock. The garden has suffered from severe frost and drought and as mentioned last month, I have realised that there has to be a fundamental shift in my approach to the Sombrun Forest Garden Project. Frost I can’t do much about, as this will vary from year to year, and will no doubt continue on a ‘win some, lose some’ basis. But there is a high likelihood of extended summer drought from now on due to climate change, and I can at least plan to mitigate this.

It means that the immediate focus needs to be on water management, to develop further from the swale ditches already installed in order to help the trees, shrubs and other plants to survive. This will now take priority over further planting (although there will be some, see below) until I can see the way forward to resume. My thinking is that unless I can give Nature a helping hand to improve the conditions for survival, the Forest Garden will always struggle, given the initial poor soil and the slope on this site. I was even watering this month, September, which has never been needed before.

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Wild flower census, the weather and luxuriant growth …

Having worked through the month on the Wild Flower Census, I think I may have been a little over-enthusiastic with species numbers last year! I have found that it is very easy to confuse species within the same family or genus of certain plants, especially those in the Daisy (Asteraceae) family – for example the sow-thistles, hawkbits, hawksbeards and hawkweeds – and thus inflate the numbers! But in spite of this, May this year saw 67 species of which I am certain (2021: May = 59; June = 62), and this is a record! It also means that the Forest Garden is maintaining and increasing its diversity in wild flowers, all part of the evidence of increasing soil health, even with the disturbance to ecosystems brought about by planting, creation of the lentil patches (the Carr├ęs), walking where I shouldn’t be walking, and so on. The total number of species over a year in the garden is already over 100. The full census report is in the link below.

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