Spring progresses with a green tide surging through the garden. Every year I am amazed at how fast the dark emptiness of the winter months is engulfed by exuberant growth through April and May.
Building fertility is intrinsic to forest gardening. I use lots of mulch. Some is derived from composted materials from the garden and the kitchen and some is excess growth and unwanted plants (“weeds”) that I may cut or pull up and place on the soil where they have just been growing. In so doing the aim is to feed the plant material that nature has kindly made back to the soil to nourish it and help to make more plant growth.
What stands out is the difference in plant growth depending on how much mulch the soil has received. The beds that have been in use the longest are clearly the most fertile. The pictures below show broad beans with a golf umbrella for comparison. One patch has grown as tall as the brolly and the other is considerably shorter and generally less substantial. It will be interesting to see if the crops are greater from the stronger plants and if so by how much.
Also featuring in these photos are other components of the polycultures. Alongside the not so tall beans are Welsh onion, garlic, wild strawberry with cardoon and good King Henry in the background. The other patch features a small Daubenton’s kale, some bunching onions, clover, nettles and a few miscellaneous bits and bobs. The nettles and other bits are due to be cut back and fed back to the soil in order to facilitate the growth of the main food plants.
My partner and I have just been to visit an allotment site locally. I know what hard work an allotment can be from one I had years ago and was unable to keep up with alongside a young family, so I do not wish to pour cold water on other people’s efforts. However we were both struck and surprised by how lush, healthy and verdant the home polyculture patch looks in comparison to the allotment veggies. I have taken a picture of one of the polycultures to show how it is all filling in and surging upwards. Not all the plants in it are perennials and not all will be staying, but the aim is to keep something growing, keep the soil covered, keep it productive, use what grows to feed us or feed it back to the soil. As far as I can tell it is working!