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A Community Miniature Forest

by Staff
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We visited Kat Kinch’s new home garden recently (Heritage and Habitat), and today Kat is sharing a cool community gardening project in Ontario, where she lives.

The Warkworth Little Forest is the best of community initiatives: organized with a minimum of meetings, by a group of helpful volunteer contributors known as “forest gnomes,” and for public benefit and enjoyment. Placed at the gateway to a popular local walking trail where an annual lilac festival is held, this 13-foot by 13-foot site is home to approximately 40 trees and shrubs that are local to our watershed and chosen for their wildlife value for butterflies and birds as host plants and habitat. The planting is comprised mainly of upland species, suitable to a full-sun location with moderate soil conditions.

The little forest is planted in the Miyawaki method, a style of urban reforestation that involves very dense planting of canopy and understory trees and plants. Such miniature forests grow very quickly due to their internal competition, forming an interconnected thicket of high-quality vegetation in a relatively short period of time, and establishing in years instead of decades.

The Warkworth Little Garden site was prepared as a no-dig bed, with the underlying grass covered with cardboard, and was heavily mulched in the late spring. (This first photo is by Kat’s friend Linda; the rest she took.)

new trees and shrubs in their nursery potsThe trees and shrubs were available as a kit, but concerns for spongy moth predation caused us to foster the trees at community homes over the summer for early fall planting. By fall, the no-dig area had no remaining cardboard and was relatively weed free.

volunteers planting the trees and shrubs in the new garden bedAll of the foster plants went into the ground on September 5, 2022, as part of a volunteer planting event. The site got a good watering on planting day, and then afterward it remained well watered by rain, which was then retained by the deep mulch.

close up of new tree with red fall foliageThe trees were all in good condition heading into the fall, even making a show of fall colors before heading into winter dormancy.

completed community forest with newly planted trees and shrubsWe are excited to see the Warkworth Little Forest grow, first with a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance native-plant flower garden across the front edge of the little forest, and then hopefully with a second little forest “wet meadow” site in the floodplain of a nearby creek, filled with trees and shrubs resilient to seasonal flooding. Both of next year’s planting projects are already funded by a very generous donation from the Northumberland Master Gardeners, our local Master Gardener group.

volunteers posing behind their community gardenUntil then, we’ll enjoy watching the first little forest come back next spring, bigger and better for a winter putting on roots.

 

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