We’re Mike and Debbie and together we manage the Incredible Edible forest garden in Prestwich. It’s a hidden gem near Prestwich Clough and this year it’s 10 years old. To mark this milestone, we’d like to reflect on what it has become, how we got there and how we see the garden developing in the future.
Back in 2011 when we were given permission by Bury Council to use the space, we had no idea how it would pan out as a forest garden takes a few years to become fully functional. Would we keep volunteer interest? Would the plants be stolen or vandalised? Would it work in this space?
Well, volunteers have come and gone as is the case with all projects with a couple who have stayed the distance. We couldn’t have done it without our volunteers though. We continue to generate interest, and the garden is as much about socialising as it is for gardening. People use the garden as they see fit whether or not we’re there.
Soon after we started the garden, we became carers for Mike’s elderly parents which has limited the time we’ve been able to give to the garden. The beauty of the forest garden approach though is that it’s low maintenance and self-fertile so we’ve been able to juggle things to keep it going.
We haven’t had plants stolen and just a small amount of damage has occurred but was soon put right. People are welcome of course to take the produce, which they do, and the local wildlife also share it. The space has also proved to be ideal with a south facing slope, a small stream running along the bottom edge plus lovely soil.
Debbie and I are members of the Permaculture Association and have always tried to be sustainable in our approach. We’ve only spent about £100 on the garden for some initial fruit trees, everything else has been grown from seeds, cuttings and donated plants. We also applied to the association to become a “LAND learner” in 2014 with a view to becoming a “LAND centre”. This is a centre of excellence for permaculture in practice. We managed to skip the learner part and went straight to being a LAND Centre – more information here
This year Incredible Edible Prestwich & District is joining the Permaculture Association with the intention of operating sustainably and organically.
The garden is now reaching its full productive potential, although we have plans for some changes and have made a few mistakes along the way. We’ve got mostly fruit trees, bushes and herbs, but we want to grow more wild flowers and perennial vegetables. One mistake was to plant creeping raspberry which duly obliged and crept all over the garden whilst producing very little fruit. So, we’re taking that out and replacing it with Japanese wineberry, which isn’t invasive.
The garden also has a wet area that we haven’t done much with, although that would be ideal in a bog garden.
With lockdown now being eased we’re looking forward to a fruitful and productive year in the garden and are planning a ten year celebration.
Best wishes for many more years of the garden.
Mike and Debbie