Series 2 of Monty Don's 'Big Dreams, Small Spaces' is launched this week on Thursday 18th February at 8.00pm on BBC2 with a visit to Tim and Maddy Harland's forest garden.
In this episode "... Monty gets to work on an overgrown allotment which is being turned into a site for keeping bees. The owner, Nighat, wants to grow her own fruit and veg as well as bee-friendly plants, but currently all that's there are weeds and overgrown trees. After a trip to a stunning forest garden, Nighat is determined to turn this site around."
The forest garden belongs to Tim and Maddy who founded Permaculture magazine in 1992. They started planting the forest garden in 1994 when they managed to acquire part of a field behind their cottage which, at the time, only had a pocket handkerchief sized garden. Back then, there were very few examples of forest gardens in Britain, besides Robert Hart's. To their knowledge, there was no other example of forest gardening started on a bare ploughed out arable field on the chalky South Downs.
Today the quarter acre garden has over 80 fruit and nut trees, soft fruit and shrubs, edible ground cover, rhizomes, climbers, perennial vegetables, a No Dig annual veg area, a mixed native hedgerow crowned by edible standards and climbers, and also spring and summer wildflower areas. The Harlands also keep bees and there are flowering plants in the garden 12 months of the year.
Besides providing edibles, the emphasis of the garden is biodiversity and wildlife habitat. The wildflower meadows (pictured above) are an essential part of the garden as they ensure a balance between pests and beneficial insects and provide habitat for slug eating reptiles (common lizard) as well as frogs, toads and slowworms. "Chalk can be difficult to grow fruit on so we reckon if we are successful, other gardeners are likely to succeed," says Tim.
The Harlands grow different varieties of apples, pears, plums, gages, cobnuts, plus walnuts and mulberry. They also grow more unusual edible plants such as Schzehuan and Nepalese pepper trees, Japanese wineberry, Russian Olive, Japanese quince, Chinese dogwood and bamboo (for shoots).
The garden was also filmed by Geoff Lawton last year when he visited Britain for the International Permaculture Conference. "Geoff really 'got' the garden immediately. He identitified the guilds of plants that thrive on chalk and the value of the meadow areas that bring in the wildlife and ensure the edible plants remain healthy and pest-free," says Tim.
"This is the third time the BBC have visited our garden," says Maddy Harland. "It is always a little nerve-wracking to try and explain the subtleties of forest gardening in a few sound bytes, let alone doing justice to the broad spectrum of permaculture. We really hope that the garden will speak for itself and encourage others to find out more about a form of gardening that goes way beyond organics."
"We would really appreciate it if you could either watch the the programme live or on iPlayer (if you live in the UK). See www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071c2gm. We need more programmes about permaculture and forest gardening and so the public viewing statistics are an important indicator to programme makers. They demonstrate that these subjects are not fringe interests but serious subjects that deserve to be widely explored."
Watch Tim and Maddy on Alys Fowler's The Edible Garden series
For more details on the garden design see 'How To Make a Temperate Forest Garden'