Yesterday I attended a Forest Garden Design and Care class in Bowie, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. I have studied forest garden design and even wrote articles on it, but I’m still learning. This article is about my day, about the class, and about the training site.
The class, Forest Garden Design and Care, was hosted by a company called Forested. The company is owned and operated by Lincoln Smith. They have a 10 Acre forest garden in Bowie, MD that they use for research and to hold classes. The class itself was more of a walk around and talk about how to implement different concepts. This was one of the best aspects of the class. I’ve been taking classes, both online and in person for years, but actually seeing something live in person and being able to hear about it and ask questions is the greatest learning experience. I’ve highlighted some of the things I learned below.
Start of the Day
We started the day off by introducing ourselves and chatting about the history of the site. Then we did a tour of about 1/3 of the property talking about items that a permaculturast would put into a sector analysis, like sun, wind, and water runoff. We looked a many of the different species and talked about why each one is located where it is at.
We then moved to the compost pile and had a long discussion about how to make compost, proper temperatures, and what to do with the compost. They had a thermometer stuck in the pile and it was pushing 140 degrees. Then they moved the pile to add oxygen and mix it up as well as to add a little moisture to keep everything balanced. More compost information is in the highlighted link.
After the compost overview we cleaned up and got ready for lunch. They had some eggs from the goose and we went out and picked some shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms were growing in a wooded area. They had some logs from a cut down tree that were cut to about three foot each. Sometime last year they held another class on mushroom growing and inoculated the logs with mushroom spores and now they are ready to harvest. A picture of the log and the mushrooms are below.
On to the Greens
We then moved onto the greens. They had some chives growing somewhere and cut some of those. I wasn’t involved with that. I was involved with getting our leafy greens. This consisted of leaves from a plant called stinging nettle. I have been told that the hairs cause a stinging sensation. I don’t know because I wore gloves. To neutralize the stinging, you boil them. We did this and then I ate a leaf and it was very tasty. I’ve been told that they are very good for you. This will be a topic for another post. A picture of the stinging nettle is below.
After we gathered the wild edibles, one of the workers cooked everything up and made us omelets. They were absolutely wonderful!
After lunch we talked about sun and shadows and how to plan ahead and how you may have to cut some of the canopy trees down in the future. We then moved out and got a visual of what he was talking about.
From there we moved into the woods and got a look at the ecosystem inside the forest. I found this fascinating and was taking a lot of notes and pictures. One thing I did notice about the property is there was a lot of poison ivy. Mostly in the woods, but I found a few areas where it was growing out in full sun as well.
End of the day
The Forest Garden Design and Care class was suppose to end at 4PM, but we were still going at 4:30. They did say if we needed to go, to just head on out. Some folks left around 4:45. I was there until almost quarter till six. In the after hours session we got an overview of vertical gardening and they gave us some bocking 14 comfrey plants.
The Forest Garden Design and Care class was an awesome experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in the Baltimore/DC area. We did have two separate groups that came from up in north/central PA, so they drove several hours for the class. I learned a huge amount at the class, which is a wonderful thing. They have more scheduled and you can get more information at www.forested.us
The first thing I learned is to have a master plan, start big and move to the small. I have a forest garden at the farm in WV, but I have just been willy nilly throwing plants that I like into the ground. I knew that wasn’t the way to go, but I was anxious to get several of my exotic species onto the property. This training highlighted the fact that I’m going to have issues with my canopy trees as they are too close together. I may have to move or remove some of them that I put in. I hope they are still small enough so that I can move them to the swales when I put them in later this year.
The second thing I learned is that there is an entire ecosystem happening inside the forest. I have very little growing in the woodlands in WV. I was taking a lot of notes during the tour of the woodlands and, last night after I got home, ordered several hundred dollars of woodland perennials, shrubs, and trees. These I do have plenty of space immediately ready for at the farm and look forward to designing and planting these areas. I’ll do a separate post on that in the coming weeks.