I have been out tidying the garden up a bit today. I garden by permaculture principles, I don’t dig, or use artificial fertilisers, there are no pesticides / insecticides / fungicides used or anything artificial. The aim is to use varied plantings (polycultures) that allow natural processes to do the work of keeping the garden healthy and fertile.
I am quite laissez faire and avoid intervening unless absolutely necessary. However the ongoing question is how to achieve a balance between allowing and encouraging natural processes and retaining sufficient control to guide the plot towards the desired aims.
I do not routinely weed, preferring to observe what happens when something I didn’t plant arrives and decide later if it stays or goes. I have happily allowed nettles to grow amongst the perennial vegetables as they are fantastic accumulators of minerals. Every so often during the growing season I cut them down and use the cuttings as a mulch around food plants. However this has allowed them to get quite strong colonies going which might become so dominant in the patch that the veggies suffer. So today I removed them from one of the perennial beds and replanted them along the border of the garden beneath an apple tree. There they will continue to provide mulch materials and habitat for insect life. Over the winter twigs and leaves cut from garden shrubs have been quietly decomposing in the spot the nettles have moved to and this was used to mulch over the area they came from.
It is essential to watch carefully in order to get to know the garden and to recognise when to take action. Experience has shown that I cannot allow any of the following to take hold – buttercup, clove root, hedge woundwort, but I do allow dandelions as they have not proved to become bothersome and like nettles using their leaves for mulch provides the garden with minerals.
A conventional gardener would probably be horrified by my “prepared” perennial vegetable bed. But I am happy with it; it is not always easy to resist convention, but I know that I am creating a happy, healthy and productive garden and that is all I want.