Find a suitable site
Is there a small space in your school or local community that could benefit from more biodiversity? Do you have at least 6 square metres that could be dedicated to a Small Pocket Forest? If so, this is the project for you! Small Pocket Forests are often planted in schools, on the grounds of community centres or in any small corner of disused community space that could do with a biodiversity boost.
In identifying a suitable space, here are some important factors you should consider:
- You need to ensure there are no pipes under the soil or overhead power lines, so it can be best to check with your local authority about the services in the area.
- Check to see if the site contains builder's rubble - use a fork or spade to dig down. A spade's depth is needed without any major rubble.
- The site should be at least 6 square metres to accommodate 5 trees and 6 native shrubs.
- You'll need permission from the owner of the site to plant a forest. Make sure to clearly communicate the benefits the forest will bring when asking for permission
- See below for just some of them!
Benefits that a Pocket Forest can bring to your community:
- A burst of biodiversity. These forests can be 100 times more biodiverse than a lawn and require less maintenance in the long run.
- Placemaking. Because communities are involved from the soil up, Pocket Forests become unique amenities with lasting connections to the people who helped plan, plant and keep them.
- Accessibility. We have created a system where the work is light and manageable by people of all physical abilities, genders and levels of gardening experience.
- Breathing space. This is a regenerative model of planting which grows in richness over the years and can contribute to soil regeneration, ameliorate flooding, absorb heat, pollution and noise, while sequestering carbon in the soil.
- Health, wellbeing and equality. The health benefits of community access to healthyecosystems are both physical and mental. Those communities who need these spaces the most are often the most nature-deprived.
Gather some volunteers
A small team of people will be needed to prepare the soil and plant the trees. Community involvement is one of the key pillars of any Pocket Forest. It's so important to involve the people whose home, school or business is alongside the forest from the beginning. People can then feel invested in the Pocket Forest and learn about the benefits of woodland ecosystems. The collaboration of the trees is reflected in the collaboration of the people who plant them. People with no experience of gardening or forests can participate in soil preparation. This is planting with low-maintenance and high-enjoyment of the forest!!
You'll need at least 2 volunteers but of course the more the merrier! There are two main stages to the forest: soil preparation and planting. You can find two separate teams to do each one or have the same volunteers do both. Check if you need public liability insurance to work with volunteers and also Garda clearance if you're working with a school.
Check your soil and explore tree types
Take a good look at the soil in the area where you're planning to plant. See how deep it is, whether there is a lot of life in it - earthworms, beetles, etc. Is it very gluey and full of clay or will it be well-draining soil? Have a look around and see what's growing well in the area and research native trees and shrubs.
Peter Wyse-Jackson's book 'Irish Trees and Shrubs' is a great starting point. The National Tree Council's Our Trees is also a real bible. You can also take a look through their online resources to find out more about Irish native trees.
All trees are wonderful but Irish native trees are a richer resource for our native flora, fauna and fungi. We plant a minimum of 11 different species in a Small Pocket Forest.
Now's the time to get in touch with Pocket Forests and we will schedule an online video call with you to talk through the nitty gritty of your site and what you will need to do for the next stage.
Picture your Small Pocket Forest
We will talk you through the options for designing your Small Pocket Forest.
Once you've done this and you have a plan in place for the area you can ask your team to gather some of the materials you will need for the soil preparation. These include:
- used cardboard (with tape removed) bike shops are a great source as they have plenty of large heavy duty plain cardboard from bike boxes
- small untreated logs and sticks - local tree surgeon or arborist can be happy to donate these or they can be foraged in the area.
- grass cuttings, leaf mulch and home-made compost
- coffee sacks - find your local roaster and ask for their empty jute sacks. They should be happy to supply these.
Schedule your soil preparation day
Your Soil Preparation Day
This will ideally happen in September. The Pocket Forest Team will be onsite on the day to help you and will support you.
A little more about how it works:
We use a “no dig” soil preparation method using a layering method to prepare and nurture the soil for planting in winter. In as much as possible we repurpose waste materials from the surrounding area: like cardboard from local bike shops, grass cuttings, leaf mulch and locally made compost. Once the soil is aerated and mulched it is “put to bed” by a covering of cardboard and woodchip to rest while an army of soil life gets to work..
Once you've prepared the soil, you can begin to think about your planting day which can take place between December and February. This is another day of community engagement led by the Pocket Forests team. All trees and plants are bare root plants so they are easy to distribute and plant in. All of the trees, shrubs and ground cover plants are planted and the area is re-covered with a layer of woodchips. We finish with an edge planting of woodland wildflowers..
Once planting is done, it won't be long before you can begin to enjoy the benefits of your new Pocket Forest. The team will give you some handy resources to look after and maintain your trees and plants, ensuring that they thrive. You will receive a maintenance booklet, poster and a site sign to explain what is growing in the area..
Schedule your soil preparation day Your Soil Preparation Day