Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using Grow Bags in Forest Gardening

This article was originally published in 2009 on an old blog of mine. If you are unfamiliar with Forest Gardening, please read my Introduction to Forest Gardening.

I have been in touch with my friend Frank Bowman from the UK, and he has been kind enough to share his thoughts, as well as some other great resources, with me regarding my Forest Gardening series. I wanted to pass along some of that information in this special edition.

Using Grow Bags

Frank mentioned the use of grow bags as a fast method to start tree seedlings. Basically, you get a grow bag (a bag full of nutrient-rich soil ready for planting), poke holes in it in a grid pattern, pushing in a seed or nut, then filling in the hole. Keep it watered - it won't take much since the bag will hold in moisture. Before you know it, you will have lots of trees seedlings. Anyway, that is the thumbnail explanation. Here is a photo Frank sent me of some of his success with this method. The tree seedlings are hazels and sweet chestnuts.


Click photo to enlarge

Frank has grown hazels, sweet chestnuts, walnuts and plums this way and is experimenting with many other varieties.

He recommends keeping the grow bags up off the ground and clean to discourage small mammals from feasting on the nuts and seeds.

Here is a quote from Frank on his experience with this method:
"Now, last year I had 20 growbags, costing £20, and in total, only spent 3 hours collecting 1000 odd Hazels, and 1.5 hours collecting 750 sweet chestnuts, from good places that I know where lots grow, in Flint and Ruthin. Its not time consuming. I now have a way of storing them away from the "peskies", and that is by storing the whole lot in a deep mixture of soil and compost, so that it ends up looking like a dirty fruit cake mix. I cover them outside in a couple of wood boxes, and forget about them, and that takes 30 minutes. Around March, April I’ll be looking at them, in the boxes, to see if there's any green roots starting to poke out of them, and when there is, Ill plant them in the growbags and put them out onto the tables, to grow. Preparing the growbags and planting them, is a bit laborious for one person and it might take me one and a half days, and that’s it, done. You simply wait for them to grow into trees by July and August. It is very satisfying and pleasing work, to see them grow, and you think, well I have got green hands, aren’t I clever to do that, but its really both of you are clever! Hundreds of them, and one of you. In total, Ill have spent about 5 hours collecting seeds, and storing, and a couple of days planting in growbags, in a year.
To get them planted out, I put a table up by the lane to our farm, and put a sign saying free trees, donations welcome, come with a bag and take what you want, in Welsh and English. They take them and they plant them. (one or two might put a couple of quid below the bags, and I use that for the following years grow bags) I took 200 to the St Asaph Woodfest, and they went like "hot cakes", children took some to plant, one person wanted to plant a sweet chestnut half way up Snowdon, one couple took half a bag of Hazels to plant on there boundaries on Angelsey, all were very pleased to get them, surprised that they were free, and they provided there own bags to take them. I took some to the Bangor Forest Garden for visitors to take, if they wished, and took some to friends who I asked for them. My next door neighbour farmer took some for his farm. I got plenty of donations in all, to buy more grow bags."
To read other posts on Forest Gardening, just click here.

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