In this series, we are going through the stages and steps to create a mini-forest, based on the Miyawaki method.
The previous article focused on the second stage – Plant and Collect – and today, we will look into the third – Implement and Connect.
Implement and Connect
Task 7: Prepare the ground
This is the stage where you’ll have more people involved.
Prior to planting, prepare the ground that will receive the new plants. There are four important activities to implement: (1) weeding, (2) mobilizing and (3) enriching the soil, and (4) mulching.
One. Depending on the characteristics of your mini-forest you can take different approaches. In a small plot, you can consider placing cardboard on the floor, covering it with compost and mulch, and planting directly on top of it. For larger plots, or plots greatly taken over by pioneer species, you will have to manually de-weed the best you can. If possible, avoid tilling the soil, so that you don’t destroy the mycorrhizal network underneath.
Two. Creating swales can be an interesting strategy for your plot. It can help you make better use of water, by keeping it in the soil for longer. Other elements like permanent or temporary ponds and walking paths also need to be implemented at this stage.
Three. Adding compost to the soil will feed all the life living inside it. Plants don’t need to be fed. They will find their own food when available. On the other hand, healthy soils will give rise to happy plants. When adding compost, you are nurturing life within the soil, all the fungi and the bacteria and the insects. These little fellows will make sure your plants grow healthy and strong.
Four. Finally, mulching mimics the effect of dead organic matter (leaves and dead animals) on a forest floor. It will protect the soil from solar radiation and prevent excessive water loss.
Task 8: Plant densely
Now that the plot is ready, you can start planting!
The way this step is carried out is one of the most defining aspects of the Miyawaki Method. While a traditional planting plot typically presents a density of around 0.1 plants per m2, a Miyawaki plot will have a plant density of between 2 to 7 plants per m2.
The objective is to create “positive competition” between the seedlings. Water and nutrient availability will not be a limiting factor for plant growth. By increasing the density of plants, we limit their exposure to sunlight. In other words, plants will grow up towards the only light they can find, instead of sideways, allowing the plants to grow faster.
Task 9: Seed bombing
The last step in this stage is to seed bomb. This is yet another great opportunity to involve the community, especially younger kids who usually like to “get their hands dirty”.
Seeing you removed the pioneer species in a previous step, the herbaceous layer of the forest might become compromised for the first few years of the forest’s growth.
The seed bombs will help in this regard – they are made of clay and compost, a combination that boosts water retention while feeding the newly germinated seedlings. The clay-to-compost ratio should be near 40 to 60%, respectively.
Once the seed bombs are ready, you can store them in a dry place or “plant” them right away. They make a fun gift, too!