Experiment into layered food growing

An experiment is underway that could revolutionise the way garden and greenhouse enthusiasts grow food.

The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales has recruited designer Chloe Ward to create an idea first floated by ecologist Robert Hart in the 1970s, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has revealed.

Mr Hart sought to recreate the natural layers seen in a woodland ecosystem and apply the principles to fruit and vegetable growing.

The design involves three main levels – a canopy, mid-storey and under-storey, with the ground coverage helping to keep weeding needs to a minimum.

On top is a layer of fruit trees, which provide cover for the middle section of tayberries, blackberries and other such plants grown over archways.

These in turn create shade for the ground species such as garlic, salad leaves and sorrel.

"Its a three-dimensional system. You can take advantage of all the soil life such as mycorrhizal fungi, and the soil is also generally covered all the time, so you dont suffer erosion like you do with normal vegetable patches," Ms Ward explained.

Meanwhile, scientists are keen to learn how elderly British gardeners have managed to grow exotic fruit in the UK to help keep the secrets alive for future generations, the RHS reported.