Published: 28 April 2014
Sue's Views: Week 19
Recent visits to places where the diversity of plants has proved an inspirational for Sue.
The highlight of this week has to be our visit to Martin Crawford’s nursery at Little Hempston. We felt very privileged to go as it’s generally an online experience. Apparently locals can pick up plants directly if they arrange to do so in advance. If you want some fruit trees or more unusual perennials then you should definitely have a look at his site, the Agroforestry Research Trust. 
We spent a couple of hours looking around his nursery, which is fairly new to him. I can’t believe how much he’s achieved since he’s been there. It’s really exciting (to me anyway) to see so much innovative work happening. There are a couple of new forest gardens he’s beginning to plant. An area of different woods for coppicing: everything from sequoia to walnut, autumn olive, pineapple guava plus grafted apples, pears and quinces. There were loads of plants that I didn’t recognise at all. The grafting implement was interesting – kind of like a heated drainpipe. Chestnut trees in particular like to be warm at the graft site for it to take, but not too warm on roots or leaves so that it shoots into growth too fast. Quite a complex process.

We talked about the practicalities of setting up a nursery, from purchasing the land to planning permission to assembling polytunnels and reservoirs and connecting to electricity supplies. Something I really like about Martin is that he says it how it really is. No idealism just full on facts. I could totally identify with his ‘almost organic’ approach and found it very helpful that he was prepared to talk about finance very specifically. So many of us love the organic philosophy and emphasis on Gaia, but if you are dependent on an income to feed yourself and your family it’s also extremely important to balance the books.

I’m really looking forward to my placement now. Tina and I have got 2 days with Martin at the end of the month. Then I have a day with my friend Bill, who is a forestry manager and three days at Shillingford Organics. It’s going to be a great couple of weeks. My only problem is that I’ve lent my copy of Martin’s Forest Garden book to someone. I just heard today that she’s gone skiing. I rashly promised Martin today that I’d memorise his book before the start of my placement. OK so I was joking – it’s quite a tome- but I had hoped to at least open it!
Reported by Sustainable Suzi  

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