Community Forest Garden – Analysis

Community Forest Garden – Analysis

Sector Analysis


MySoil app describes the soil at this site as Clayey Loam/Silty Loam.

The soil sample shows the soil to be Medium Loam.

Deep soil
Undisturbed, fertile soil
Plenty of leaf litter from trees – self mulching
Good pedestrian access to site
Prone to waterlogging
Can be slippery underfoot when wet
Tricky to push barrows when wet
Water holding capacity of ground may mean that less watering is required
Investigate varieties of plant that prefer wetter conditions
Potential to build a seasonal pond
Footpaths to site may prevent delivery of bulky loads (A small pick-up could access site)
No tool storage
Around a foot down is unknown industrial metal waste, excludes growing edible root vegetables on site.


Sheltered position
None observed
Can investigate less hardy plants
None observed


Southern, open end of the site receives a good amount of sun
The majority of the site is very shaded by existing trees
• Frost pocket, especially Southern end
Coppicing, pollarding or felling some trees would let more light through
Investigate varieties of plant that like to grow in shade
We want to keep as many existing trees as possible
Balance human/growing needs against natures needs

I used SunCalc to map sunset and sunrise on both winter and summer solstice. However, due to tree cover at least half the site is in deep shade.


Water is held in the soil – reducing need for irrigation
No sources of water on site
Ground is prone to waterlogging, especially in Northern end
Could include a seasonal pond on site
Investigate methods of planting that will keep plants out of waterlogged soil
Canal is nearby, water could be used for watering
No current structures on site that can be used for water capture


No current evidence of deep damage
Edible native plants on site
Lots of frogs – slug control
Healthy Minds allotment – other people on site to keep an eye out, or help out
Great view of the canal
Invasive weeds on site need controlling
Use of land be could be revoked
Noise from trains
Litter and dog faeces dropped on site from passers by
If site looks unused, it won’t be treated with respect
Passing people = potential interest
Investigate how site can engage with passing people
Keeping it wild will encourage wildlife
Need to keep footpaths accessible
Access and security need to be balanced.

Functions & Elements Analysis

To better understand what was needed on site I undertook a Functions & Elements analysis and then drew up a web of connections to ensure that all elements and functions were well supported.

FunctionSupporting ElementsYields
Support Bio-DiversityTreesWood
Habitats for many species
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Water absorption
Seasonal pondWater
Habitats for many species
FlowersAttracts Pollinators
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
PathsNavigation through site
Less soil compaction / protects soil structures
Protects wild areas
Fruit BushesFruit
Potential income stream
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Grow FoodFruit/Nut TreesFruit
Potential income stream
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Vegetable BedsVegetables
Increased soil fertility
Perennial VegetablesFood
Consistent food supply
Knowledge of unusual vegetables
Potential income stream
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Native Species / Edible WeedsNo work needed
Foraging knowledge
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Mushroom LogsFood
Knowledge of Mycology
Potential income stream
Compost SystemCompost/ increased soil fertility
Habitats for many species
Attractive space to meetA built shelterShelter from the elements
Rainwater collection
Vertical growing space
A place to celebrate
Team cohesion
Knowledge transfer
A place to sit and observe
Sanitation/Toilet facilitiesClean hands
Healthier volunteers
Can stay on site longer
Grey Water
Fire PitAsh
Heat to cook food
Can stay on site longer
SeatingA dry place to sit
Team cohesion
Knowledge Transfer
Enable Transfer of KnowledgeA social Space (see above)
SignageA permanent visual presence
Identifies plants
Identifies harvest times – Less wastage
DocumentationRecord Keeping
Succession of knowledge
Can observe patterns
Improved planning and design
Social MediaAttracts volunteers
Keeps momentum going
Builds community
Site SecurityHedgesWood
Habitats for many species
Leaf litter/ biomass/ compost/ increased soil fertility
Water absorption
Physical barrier
Brash HedgesHabitats for many species
Physical barrier
SignagePublic awareness
GatePhysical barrier
Focal point

Functions & Elements – Connectivity

By drawing a web of connections, it highlights any elements that do not support the functions of the design. A pond, though supporting biodiversity, does not strongly support any of the other functions of the design. The canal is nearby, and is a large body of water. Digging a pond is also an exercise that takes a lot of labour. For this reason I am excluding a pond from my design. Social media and documentation do help with the transfer of knowledge, but I will not include these as a part of this design.


Creating clear paths through the site and also access to harvest and maintain fruit trees will be critical to the success of this design.

Paths Options

I undertook a PMI analysis to explore different path options.

No PathsNo effort No costTrample crops
Soil compaction
No sense of destination
Waste of valuable humus
Wait and see where desire lines are created
No CoveringNo cost No effort
No definition
Will still need some way to define path
Waste of valuable humus
Will become compacted and defined over time
CardboardMinimal effort No costSlippy Looks scruffy
Short lived
Could use under composted brambles
Wood ChipNo cost
Easy to lay
Reduces evaporation
Absorbs water
Looks good
Easy to move/change
Adds to soil fertility
Needs access for bulk delivery
A lot of effort to physically move to the site
A lot of wood chip would be needed
Could be made on site by hiring a chipper
Planks/Pallet boardsNo cost
Materials readily available
Reduces evaporation
Solid surface to walk on
Looks good Easy to define path
Chopping planks/dismantling pallets takes time
May contain chemicals
Need tools to chop
Need a lot of material
Slippery when wet
Pallet dismantling party?
Stepping Stones/PlanksMaterials readily available (if using boards)
No Cost
Looks Good
Helps reduce evaporation
Flexible/Easy to change Less material needed
Quick to install
Will need tools to cut boards/Dismantle pallets
Dismantling takes time
May contain chemicals (but less material involved than above)
Slippery when wet
Make use of space between steps for growing – scented walkway?
Pallet dismantling party?
PavingLooks good
Hard wearing
Heavy to move
No access for bulk delivery
Time consuming to lay

Sticks/TwigsMaterials available on site
Can be cut to size by hand
Adds to soil fertility
Uneven to walk on
Need a lot of material

PMI Analysis of Path options

Decision to be made WITH client, but making a path of wooden ‘stepping stones’, or woodchip seem most suitable.

Vertical Access

The design needs to ensure easy access to fruit trees for harvest.

  • Enough space must be left around the fruit trees to allow access to pick the fruit.
  • Use semi-dwarfing or Medium root stocks (e.g. M26, M116 or M106 for Apple)
  • Trees can be pruned to limit height – enabling picking without ladders.
  • Underplant trees with herbaceous or fruit crops that are harvested before tree fruit ripens.

Boundaries & Security

Options for Fencing/Boundaries

Important considerations: Boundaries – keep low enough so people can see in/out of site, but keeps dogs out.

Leave OpenNo cost No effort
No physical boundary to site
Brash Fence
Wildlife Haven
Materials available
Easy to construct
Partially in place

Can look scruffy
Use as a framework for brambles
Opportunity to share skills
Willow FedgeAesthetically pleasing
Will grow well here
Need to source willow
Needs regular maintenance
Could grow too tall for purposes
Will be an opportunity to skill share
Wire supported climbers fenceCan use readily available cuttings
Minimal cost (Chicken wire isn’t too expensive)
Wire will stop unwanted dogs entering site
Can be slow to growIf using flowering and fruiting climbers e.g. roses, honeysuckle, kiwi, ivy – supports biodiversity & provides yield
Living stick fencePartially in place
Framework for climbers
No cost involved
Slow to grow

As some of these options are already in place, it makes sense to continue with these and improve their effectiveness.

Potential shade loving hedging plants – Berberis, Eleagnus, Cotoneaster, Vibernum could be added to the living stick fence which would bulk out the hedge and provide food and shelter for birds and insects.

For the southern edge, there are no physical boundaries in place. Decision to be made WITH client, however, I strongly suggest the chicken wire & climber fence as can supports many different functions – food, scent, colour, food for birds & insects, supporting bio-diversity.

Growing in ground prone to water logging.

I investigated different approaches to growing in ground that is prone to water logging, although despite a wet winter the ground does not seem as wet this winter as it did in 2020.

Options to consider are:

  1. Use varieties and types of plants that can handle or thrive in wetter ground. This needs minimal intervention, both physical and financial.
  2. Use Hugelkultur techniques that take a plants roots above the level of standing water. We have plenty of wood on site, and nearby that could be used, and if creating paths we can re-use any soil that is removed in this process, We can also create our own compost in due course.
  3. Planting on mounds of soil – Planting on a mound of free draining soil in a shallow planting hole. This ensures that water runs away from the tree roots. The crown of the roots (if a tree or bush) should be about 8″ above ground level. Mulch well with after planting. Herbaceous shrubs can be planted in a similar way – almost like edge free raised beds.
  4. Divert Water – Moving soil, adding drains and ponds could work, but would need very careful consideration. Would changing the flow of water affect the long established trees? Would we damage root systems? Where would the water go? Into the canal? If so, we would need to bypass a solid footpath. A pond has also been (for now) ruled out of the design.

Any of the first three options would work well on the site, Perhaps a mix of all three to see what works well,

Shelter & Sanitation


I looked at two options for the shelter.

Tarp attached to treesLow Cost
Can be taken down when not in use
Quick to install
Would need to leave up if we wanted to collect rain water.
Less secure in poor weather
Would need somewhere to store tarp when not in use
Build a permanent wooden structureShelter might make the site look ‘used’ and attract volunteers
Rainwater harvesting easier
Can grow things up the structure
Might attract unwanted usersUse existing trees/pollarded trees as uprights
Could build in storage and house information about the project

I think using a Tarp as a shelter is a good option until the project is further established. We can then decide if we need something more permanent.


If people working on site are also to eat and socialise here, a handwashing station would be a good idea.

There is no water catchment on site at the moment, but rainwater could be harvested from the shelter easily, water can also be brought from home onto site as a stop-gap measure.

I would recommend building a Tippy Tap. This is a hands-free, low-cost, waste free & simple solution. Building the Tippy-tap would be a fun activity and also a chance to learn a new skill.

Toilet & Urinal

Is the site suitable for a compost toilet?
No, The site is small, and there is not the space to build a toilet. The amount of energy and materials needed to construct the toilet would outweigh the amount of people using the facility.

There is an option of building a urinal, or increasing the seclusion of the compost area to enable the compost bays to be used as urinals. This would mean that urine can be collected and used to help with the composting of waste.

There is a supermarket which has long opening hours nearby. Volunteers may be able to use these facilities.

Compost System

The compost system needs to be located away from the social area and away from the paths (so that they are not used as Dog Poo bins). They need to be located in a shady area. They need to be easily accessible by foot and by barrow from across the site.

Building a pile, makes the site look untidy, and it also means that people may not understand what the pile is.
Building bays means that the compost can be better managed. We can have 2 bays. One to mature and one for new additions. Building bays also makes it easier to add information and signage.


What do we need signage to do?

  • Inform of readiness to harvest
  • What it is
  • How to use it
  • What it looks like (for dormant season)
  • Who we are
  • What goes in compost
  • Where to find out more information
  • Jobs that need doing

NEXT – What decisions formed my final design?