I'm looking at making a garden on an old growth forest floor, and was wondering what the steps for establishing one that will produce this year would be.

  • Do you happen to have some pictures of the area that you'd like to use for your garden? I think that might be essential for getting you a good answer. Also, I see you put a video in a comment down below stormy's answer. Would you mind adding that in here if it helps explain the question? Thanks. Apr 29, 2017 at 23:50
  • @Sue it's the edge of a forest on the southern side that gets a lot of sun that I can cut stuff back some if needed, and am just wondering things like if I should put the mulch back and stuff after planting the seed. I know my plants would prefer full sun, but I can always trim some branches if needed. It's more of a forest clearing, and planting project than a move a lot of dirt project. Apr 30, 2017 at 0:32
  • @blackthumb I do not know where this moving a lot of soil is coming from but in my pictures that soil has been right there for hundreds of years, at least since the last major volcanic eruption from these cinder cones all around this area. All I did was to throw DOM see the dark streaks? into the soil as I 'TILLED' or rather double dug this virgin soil to make fluffy beds with air and great drainage.
    – stormy
    Apr 30, 2017 at 19:17
  • @stormy i'm dealing with native forest/prairie soil to grow my vegetables in, so it has a thousands of years of natural development that i don't want to damage more than planting. Apr 30, 2017 at 22:16
  • Can you clarify what it is you wish to grow? "Forest garden" is a specific term relating to a particular type of productive landscape. Do you want a forest garden or a conventional vegetable plot within a forest? It might be wise to edit the question to help other users. May 2, 2017 at 19:24

2 Answers 2


First green house:

First green house

Looking east: looking east

Looking east: looking east

Looking east: looking east

Salad bowl bed: salad bowl bed

Before using virgin pine forest pumice soil: before using virgin pine forest pumice soil

Still think this is a YARD?

I've used forest floor soil for 5 years. This was the first year. Soil test (which put my soil at slightly above neutral, zilch organic matter, zilch NPK, zilch soil organisms, pumice, sort of like sand). I keep adding decomposed organic matter and I get great harvests. If you don't have lots and lots of light growing edibles in a forest of trees will not be very successful. Light is the main thing. Soil, any soil is good soil as long as you know what is in it, what is not in your soil and constantly add decomposed organic matter. I always fertilize and work the pH according to the tests and the plants that have to live in that bed of soil. I always make raised beds, without lumber or concrete.

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    I think you're looking at the question all wrong, I'm doing a garden actually in an old growth forest, not removing the soil. Apr 29, 2017 at 19:37
  • I never said to remove any soil, just double dig to make raised beds. If this area is shaded by trees, forget trying to grow vegetables unless you don't care about a wimpy harvest. That soil IS in an older growth forest. You do know that in any established ecosystem NOT made by man all of the 'nutrients' the chemicals plants have to have to do photosynthesis to make their own food...are in the live biomass not in the soil, yes?
    – stormy
    Apr 29, 2017 at 19:48
  • Again, I don't think you get it: youtube.com/watch?v=9uMPuF5oCPA Apr 29, 2017 at 20:07
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    @blackthumb I am enjoying those sites you've sent after all. Struck up a conversation with a soil geek and hope to get him to join SE. This No Till and No Fertilizer stuff has me worried but I am going to find out more.
    – stormy
    Apr 30, 2017 at 19:11
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    @blackthumb I have a few new buddies off the site you sent me to ...'Soil Geeks Unite'!! NO TILL should be called MINIMUM TILL. That is what THEY said...'tis what I've done forever. Truly. I am trying to get these guys to come onto this site.
    – stormy
    May 2, 2017 at 5:14

Light soils like yours would be best for rooty vege- think carrots and potatoes- they should do fine on organically poor soils- although they will etiolate in poor light conditions, the only other thing I can think of is to improve the soil with some sort of organic material- leaves in autumn and grow big leafy stuff, spinach, chard, cabbage etc and see how that goes? When I lived in france many years ago- I found that brassicas grew better in the shade, mainly because the sunlight there was a bit fierce during summer and dried out the sandy soil quite quickly during the summer- shade meant dampness- and they grew fine.

  • that's someone elses soil, not mine. the soil I'm dealing with is actually old growth woods (i.e. some 200+ year old trees along with perfectly black dirt) Apr 30, 2017 at 22:13

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