Collecting as much food as I can from the garden (3)

This is an update on how I am doing with my resolve to collect as much food from the garden as possible (see the previous two posts at and

So far this year I have been able to collect 14 kg (31lb) of assorted veggies which breaks down as follows:

  • Onion greens (three cornered leek, baby leeks, spring onions, wild garlic, chives and allium paradoxum) 244 g / 2%
  • Green leaves to cook (assorted kales, wild beet) 2,716 g / 19%
  • Salad leaves (land cress, lamb’s lettuce, wild rocket, self sown salad rocket and wood sorrel) 277 g / 2%
  • Windfall apples, not collected in autumn but perfectly okay 381g / 3%
  • Roots (Jerusalem artichoke, oca, skirret, beetroot and parsnip) 10,314g / 73%
  • Others (dried beans from storage) 113 g / 1%

The picture below shows a whole variety of things growing in what I call “poly 1” – my first polyculture patch – including nine star perennial broccoli (back right), purple sprouting broccoli (left), garlic, wild beet, Babbington’s leek, sorrel, spinach and lamb’s lettuce.  Some of the other things also planted here include field beans that are starting to appear and Jerusalem artichoke, Chinese artichoke, yams and skirret as yet still below ground.

"Poly one"

This picture is of the new bed that I started in September last year (see

New polyculture bed Spring 2012

as you can see it is currently sporting field beans, baby leeks, newly emerging salad rocket (saved from last year’s seed) and bluebells that have always grown in this bed!  It is certainly showing promise and is so much better than before I built the bed up higher.

About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in Forest Gardening, perennial greens, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, roots and tubers, Telford Garden and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Collecting as much food as I can from the garden (3)

  1. annisveggies says:

    Hi John
    I start just about everything off in pots first. That is mainly because the slugs decimate it all if it is not growing pretty strongly beforehand. However they don’t touch potatoes and as I have decided to treat us to a few new potatoes this year I have put them straight in. Obviously I do have to dig sufficiently to bury them, but that is no more than one would disturb the soil to plant anything such as a pot grown plant or shrub (and possibly less). If I had conditions that were not so sluggy then I would try to grow things such as radish and parsnips straight into the ground. I did get some carrots in last year and they were okay.
    I think the main thing is to make as little disturbance to the soil as possible and certainly not the traditional gardener’s annual double digging of the veg plot. My polyculture patches are just flowerbeds or lawn that have been turned into veggie patches and apart from the fact that before I knew it was not a good thing the gardener who came to take up some lawn rotovated it, none of it has been dug ever. Over time as organic matter accumulate or is put onto the surface (either naturally or by adding mulch etc) it all gets worked in by the soil organisms and the soil actually becomes pretty light and fluffy. (I have a post called fluffy soil.)
    My perennial roots are a mixture of things that are harvested and replanted in autumn such as Jerusalem artichoke and skirret; and tubers such as oca that are harvested and over wintered indoors and replanted from pots in late spring. I only just slide them in to plant, making as small a hole as possible and gently work around the base to harvest them.
    I think the keys to good harvests are deep soil and rich soil which I get through plenty of mulch / organic matter on top and absolute minimal disturbance. It also saves on work which is good!
    All the best, let me know how you get on.


    • Icarus62 says:

      Thanks, that’s really helpful.

      A few weeks ago I did the double-digging thing for a small patch to grow potatoes and parsnips. Today I had one potato in the veggie drawer which was past its best and sprouting, so I did what you were talking about above, and just dug a hole with a trowel large enough to pop the potato in and cover it over. It’ll be interesting to compare the results over coming months. I grew a few potatoes in our previous garden last year and I noticed that even though I thought I’d dug up and used them all, by the time we were moving house in December there were potato plants sprouting up all over the place. That’s what I’m hoping for at our new house – for stuff to just grow itself with minimal supervision and little or no digging, as I don’t have the time to be a really dedicated gardener, and I know digging is undesirable in more ways than one.

      We have a reasonable sized garden and I’ve commandeered the end of it to do whatever I want, which means I have an area of about 9m x 9m. Right at the bottom, the garden is dominated by a big old apple tree (in blossom now and looking gorgeous). There are a couple of other smaller fruit trees (not 100% sure what kind yet) and blackberry bushes have been running riot (I’ve taken a lot out and kept an area to harvest from).

      Since moving in I’ve planted two hedges with a mixture of crab apple, hazel and cherry plum – one to screen off my part of the garden from the rest of it, and the other to hide metal railings which run along the bottom. I bought one each of apricot, peach, damson and plum trees from the Agroforestry Research Trust, plus a blackcurrant bush and a Polygonatum biflorum.

      I’m also growing (or trying to grow!) broad beans, thyme, potatoes, parsnips, loganberries, strawberries, lettuce, radishes, sweetcorn, french beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions. What I really want to do is grow lots of perennials instead of annuals, but I think it’s too late to put any more trees or bushes in this year. What I might do is try to start growing some perennials from seeds while I’m waiting for the ‘bare root’ season to come round again. I sort of figured out that you can’t just put in trees etc. and expect to eat from them forever, so it’s probably best to start growing new ones in case the old ones die off. I want some nut trees – not sure what kind yet though.

      As I’ve got quite a lot of space unused so far, I’ve been browsing through the Real Seed Catalogue and think I’ll probably order a few more annuals such as carrots, broccoli, celery, brussels sprouts (for the missus at Christmas!), red cabbage, cauliflower, ‘giant sugar peas’, mange tout, turnips, swede and (get this) ‘Collective Farm Woman Melon’. I just want to grow one or two plants of each, for fun. I’m definitely going to start most things off in small pots so they can hit the ground running, so to speak. I actually bought a dozen small trays for sowing seeds in, but came to the conclusion that trying to get little delicate seedlings out of trays and into individual pots unharmed was madness – might as well just grow them in individual pots to start with. I think it makes sense to grow lots of stuff that I know we’ll eat, while I learn more about perennials and try to decide what I want in the garden long term.

      OK I’m sure I’ve bored you to tears with all this so… keep up the good work and I’ll read through previous posts to learn from your experiences – Cheers!


  2. Icarus62 says:

    Hi Anni

    I’ve just found your blog and it looks very interesting – hopefully I can steal some ideas from you 🙂 I read that you do little or no digging in your garden, which is what I’d like to achieve as well, but how do you manage with root crops? So far I’ve only grown potatoes, but I’ve just started growing parsnips, onions and radishes as well. Is it best to grow root crops which grow at the surface and therefore can be pulled up rather than dug up? Also, do you start all your plants off in pots so that you don’t have to dig a bed and sow seed? If you’ve gone over this in blog posts that I haven’t found yet, then apologies – I’ll read them instead.

    (Portsmouth, UK)


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