This article is from the Koanga Institute Fruit Tree Catalogue, February 2020
I have learned over the past 12 months that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING if you want healthy trees and fruit and lots of chicken food from your forest garden is to feed the soil fungi. We can do soil tests and add appropriate fertilizer but that doesn’t do the best job of feeding the fungi. Fungi feed on carbon..especially ramial wood, the wood from deciduous trees that are branches less than 7cm diameter to the tips of those branches.
Everywhere in our gardens and forest gardens that we have put ramial wood chip we have enormous amounts of white soil fungi. We have been doing this in Koanga forest gardens and in my veggie garden and forest garden for nearly 1 year now, and the results are tangible.
I’m constantly looking for solutions for maximising soil health and ecological health and what I learned this year is that applying ramial wood chip creates positive change in a tangible and relatively fast way.
Leaving a tagasaste tree (8 years old) in the ground after it died has been a revelation too, watching first the fungi that came up through the earth all along the underground roots, and then watching them colonize the tree trunk and branches, all the while imagining the fungi embodying the minerals from the tree then as the fungi grow and die making them available via the soil food web to the citrus and pears around it.. I love that.
So if you are planning on planting fruit trees this winter I would recommend that you first plant the trees you will later coppice to produce your ramial wood chip to feed the fungi who feed your trees..my favourites at this point are basket and other smaller willow (eg Egyptian) that we are trialling and which are available as cuttings from Koanga and are very easy to grow, as well as alders ( rubra and glutinosa are great here). Willows are coppiced annually in winter and alders less frequently. My new version of the Forest Garden Booklet lists our favourite trees for coppicing and which canopy layer they fit into.
If you’re thinking of planting an orchard or forest garden I would strongly recommend you come and check our forest gardens out here, they are really beginning to look and feel amazing, and we have learned lots of lessons. Maybe book in for a Guided Tour or a Workshop