Spreading other people’s good ideas

As well as giving information about the perennial veggies and polycultures that I grow I think it is about time I mentioned some other interesting projects.  I have been reading the Transition Network website looking at the food and gardening projects that are or have been done by different initiatives.  I find so much to gladden the heart and inspire the soul reading about other people’s projects and hope that you will equally find inspiration from these three:

West Kirby Garden Orchard Project

Transition West Kirby had a vision for a fruit tree in every garden in the town.  What a fantastic idea!  To facilitate this they bought fruit and nut trees at a discounted price and enable local people to take care of them and reap the harvest in due course.  That sounds to me like a project that could be transferred to almost any locality.


Bathampton Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSAs can come in many forms and I particularly like this one.  It stems from a partnership between a family which owns an overgrown market garden site and members of Transition Bath.  Between them they have been working to clear the site and preparing it for a variety of projects.  Their website mentions a few – ploughing with horses, the Land Group growing veggies and teaching others how to, clearing land with pigs, salad growing, a vegetable box scheme, shared picnics and much more.  Their newsletter gives lots of details: http://bathamptoncsa.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/dag-newsletter-summer-2012-online3.pdf and their blog can be found at http://bathamptoncsa.wordpress.com/.

The Fabulous Fruit Tree Initiative, Transition Waiheke, New Zealand

In their own words:

“With a ten-year vision of planting 20,000 fruit and nut trees on the island’s public and private land, the Fabulous Fruit Tree Group is working, in conjunction with Auckland City Council, towards planting its first orchard reserve this winter – possibly behind the old Surfdale post office.  Approximately 25 organic trees will be under-planted with heritage daffodils and narcissus; a bench will be placed for contemplation in the shade and a path weave through the young trees.

This model orchard will be the launch of the “Fruit Bowl of the Hauraki Gulf”, taking us one step closer to feeding the community more locally.  A private donation has been gratefully received to purchase these trees.  A map of all the fruit trees on the island is being drawn up, identifying those with fruit to share and also those quality ones from which to graft future stock.”


I love the sound of all of these projects.  They are on different scales and will need different amounts of input of time, effort and funds but they are fabulous examples of what communities can do when they start to work together.  I would encourage anyone to follow the links and read about them and also when you have some spare time to have a browse through the directory of transition initiatives listed on https://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives/by-number which lists the (current) 457 official initiatives.  That’s probably enough to start with!  And if your interest is in energy or local money or any other transition-y theme there will be masses of information about those things too.

I plan to continue my exploration of transition initiatives and to add some more posts like this in due course.

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.
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17 Responses to Spreading other people’s good ideas

  1. Vivi says:

    Hi Annie,
    you’re living in the UK, right? I was just using the search function to check if you grow ground elder / goutweed / bishop’s weed / Aegopodium podagraria but I can’t find it mentioned. Given that it’s really easy to grow, is perfectly suited to a damp and shady garden, tastes good (kind of like spinach with parsley) and has been introduced as a perennial herb / vegetable in the UK by the Romans, I wonder why not? Are you afraid it’s too invasive? I’ve got some in the garden, originally introduced as a weed by my father taking compost from his parents’ farm to improve our sandy soil. It was hard work getting it out of the flower bed again, but if you limit it to a shady spot surrounded by light, it stays where it is. (For example my patch now self-propagates in the shade of a garden wall, and its spread is limited by the small lawn area where I hang my washing. There is literally no work involved once it’s settled in place.)

    Chickweed is perfectly edible, too, and once you’ve got it in the garden, you basically can take any handful of soil into the house in the winter, put in a sunny place and chickweed will sprout within a few days. (For me, it’s always the first thing that sprouts in any seedling pot by a margin of several days, so its pretty safe.) Who needs cress for their salad?

    Both of these are very rich in vitamin C, minerals (iron and potassium for goutweed; zinc for chickweed) and slightly pain-relieving. (Both were traditionally used to treat rheumatism and other joint aches.)


    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Vivi

      Thanks for your comment. No, I don’t have any problem with ground elder being too invasive. It does grow in the garden and always has done since well before I found out you could eat it. It came under the hedge from a patch of untended ground on the other side and grows in a narrow bed behind the kitchen. I have a variety of veggies and flowers in the bed and just let the ground elder grow where it will. Occasionally I cut / pull some off, but I never dig it out. It doesn’t try to take over and seems to be in balance with everything else. What I haven’t done is to try eating it, but I see I will have to rectify that soon. When I do I will let you know!

      I like the taste of chickweed, but it is not a plant that favours my garden. If it did it would be very welcome. I have seen lovely large patches in some places, looking luxuriant and tasty, but if I get one small seedling in a pot that’s about all that will come. But if I find a plant growing I will try to look after it and see what I can get from it.

      Thanks for the hints



      • Vivi says:

        You could try making a potato casserole with the ground elder.
        Like this: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/potato-spinach-casserole/
        just with fresh ground elder (the young, not completely unfurled leaves are best) instead of spinach. I would add some chopped, fried onions, as well, or maybe a bit of garlic.
        Otherwise, we usually put some into all kinds of vegetable stews (potato, carrot, yellow pea, lentil, etc.) instead of parsley, which I just can’t get to grow in our garden.

        Lovage works well for that, too, and is a perennial herb. It’s even colloquially called “Maggi herb” in Germany, with “Maggi” being a popular brand of soup stock / seasoning, because it tastes similar, even though the Maggi seasoning doesn’t contain lovage. (It was originally a kind of substitute for meat extract, so it contains lots of salt, soy and glutamate for the savory taste. I get minor health problems from large doses of glutamate (it’s in practically everything these days as a flavour enhancer), so we use lovage instead where we can.)

        As for chickweed, I’ve found that it grows best in indoor pots that have been left largely unoccupied. Oddly enough it doesn’t seem to actually spread around the garden much as an invasive weed. Perhaps it needs very compost-rich soil. Or perhaps the birds eat up all the seedlings that come up outside. I know that chickens love the stuff, so other birds probably do, too.


    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Vivi Thank you for your comment I have posted a reply on the blog. Regards Anni > Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2013 17:28:46 +0000 > To: annisveggies@hotmail.co.uk >


  2. tom says:

    Thanks for the link to the Wild Cabbage. Ive been looking for that. Can I trade you the following links in return?:

    Portugese Tree Cabbage (lasts 9 years allegedly) http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/300-seeds-Organic-Collard-Greens-Cabbage-Portuguese-2g-/150468425462?pt=UK_HomeGarden_Garden_PlantsSeedsBulbs_JN&hash=item23089df6f6
    I bought some from this source and they are definitely brassicas and vigorous.

    Ewiger Kohl (Perennial Kale that doesnt flower with same latin name as daubentons which might be of interest as I’m assured it isn’t just another name for daubentons) http://www.gartenzauber-shop.de/gartenzauberundmehr-p855h12s31-Ewiger-Kohl-Brassica.html


  3. annisveggies says:

    Hi Tom

    Wild kale – I think I should have put wild cabbage technically, but I tend to interchange the words a bit for my own purposes – I grew from seed supplied by Magic Garden Seeds (http://www.magicgardenseeds.com/). They have seeds again now, were out of stock when I checked last month. My plants have grown really strong and very very hardy. They have been growing through the winter and showing no signs of suffering in the cold or wet. They taste nice too. Well recommended to try.

    I have not tried the Portuguese tree cabbage you mentioned, but will be tracking down some seeds to grow this year if I can.

    The tree collards they grow in the US look really interesting, but like you I could not find any way of getting hold of them, although I did not get round to trying every trick in the book! I wonder, though, if they are best grown in really hot climates such as southern states of USA, the you tube video I watched a while back which showed them doing really well was certainly set somewhere much warmer than here. I tried seeds of normal collard greens such as are grown in the US but they bolted each time I tried them.

    I have not been able to get the (allegedly perennial) Chinese broccoli to do anything other than bolt as soon as it is up and then die. I have tried it on several occasions with always the same result. I will be interested to hear about how Brokali works for you, and unfortunately I have not heard of Western Front, so do not know if it flowers – but there’s one way to find out!

    Keep in touch about your findings please!


  4. Tom says:

    Wild Kale? Tell me more!
    I have two daubentons. The portugese 9 year tree cabbage and asturian tree cabbage I am growing from seed now. I’ve tried every trick in the book to get americans to send me a cutting of the non-flowering purple tree collard (someone really needs to get hold of this and start distributing it). I’ve been trying to keep the alledgedly perennial chinese broccoli (kailaan) alive over winter but only those under cloches made it, which is no good really. I’m about to sow Brokali which is a cross between kailaan and our calabrese, hoping it inherits the perennial habit.

    Non flowering brassicas are what i’m after: do you know if Western Front flowers?

    I’ve had my suspicions about red onions for some time. When im preparing them to eat its clear they really like dividing which suggests it might be the reproduction method of choice. Its great that youve tried it already and suggest it is worth doing.


  5. annisveggies says:

    Hi Tom

    Thank you for your detailed questions.

    1. The red onions seem to be doing nicely. I am not sure what variety they were, silly of me, but I didn’t write it down, although I probably have the receipt for the seed order and could eventually find it if I check. I sowed them two years ago and by last summer each onion bulb had split into two or more (I think up to about six but am not sure off the top of my head without trawling through last year’s notebook). What was interesting is that they did not flower which is what you would expect of onions in their second year. I don’t know if the weather conditions had anything to do with it or if they would not have flowered even if it had been something approaching warm and / or dry last summer. I replanted the divided bulbs either late summer or autumn last year and they have been out in the garden ever since. When the snow clears I will be able to check on them. I hope that they will continue to just divide and not flower and I can build up a stock of them.

    2. The stem of the Sutherland kale that grew in year one had fallen over and travelled along the ground from where it sent up a secondary stem which was what the leaves shown in the picture were growing on. I don’t know if this was why it had large leaves its second year?? Sadly it died in early spring last year. I think that this was just the harsh conditions – combination of wet and cold that does seem to cause brassica stems to rot. If the conditions had been more favourable it may well have gone on, but in the absence of it actually doing so, I cannot of course be sure.

    3. True perennial kales are not plentiful – I have two varieties of Daubenton’s kale, plain green and variegated. These do not flower and are therefore true perennials. I have also grown Asturian kale (which must have flowered at some time as I sowed it from seed) but I do not think my plants produced flowers despite living for two to three years. Again sadly these have succumbed to the damp and cold and I am not able to source any additional seeds which is a shame. I have wild kale, also grown from seed but which I don’t think produced flower shoots either. I am propagating some cuttings from that in pots hoping they take root.

    I did have a dwarf curly kale for a few years and others of different varieties which try to flower in spring, but eventually give up and start leafing again. All the sprouts are really delicious and tend to be plentiful. I have allowed some to set seed to see if they will continue to grow after that as I had read that this would stop their continued growth. They did not seem to be affected by being allowed to flower, although I guess they would put energy into unnecessary effort by doing this. I think that in general lots of kales (and probably cabbages too) can be effectively perennialised simply by leaving them in situ and letting them get on with it. I have a Brussels sprout plant that was not in a sufficiently fertile soil to produce any sprouts, but last summer it was still alive and approaching three years of age.

    It would be good to have more space (and time) to try a whole variety of systematic experiments – so I would be really interested to hear how your trials go and of any others you may know of.


  6. Tom says:

    Hi Anni,
    a few questions on your research.
    1) How are the red onions you are perennialisng? Were they red barons?
    2) Your Sutherland Kale in its second year has big leaves and not little ones like most second year kales and no sprouts. Is it a perennial? Is it still going into a third year?
    3) You say perennial kale(s). I can see daubentons but what other per kales do you have?

    I’m busy attempting to perennialise dwarf green curled kale, now in its 3rd year putting on growth, but tiny leaves. And no longer dwarf. I found by picking the sprouts religiusly the plant gave up trying pretty much on the longest day and started leaves instead.


  7. Hi Anni, I have no idea how I haven’t found your blog sooner, I’m such a perennial veggie geek! Now that I have, I’ve been reading the whole thing over the past few nights, and I just want to let you know how enjoyable and inspiring I have found it. I have many of the same plants as you, crammed into a garden which I believe is smaller than yours. In my opinion, growing in a polyculture seems to produce more and more-varied crops than traditional vegetable garden would do in a similar-sized space. Plus there isn’t the ‘hungry gap’ in late spring that happens with traditional methods. In a polyculture there is ALWAYS something to eat.

    I am so much looking foward to reading what will happen in your gardens this year. Hopefully, the weather will be more equable this year!

    Best wishes and happy growing,



    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Joy

      Lovely to hear from you and it’s great to hear from people who are already converted to perennials and so enthusiastic. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the garden will not disappoint this coming year. With the weather being so atrocious at the moment it is all looking so sorry for itself with just a few kales standing proud above the snow! Who knows what we have in store, but the challenge seems to be to try to keep up with whatever comes and to make our gardens and growing areas as resilient as possible.

      All the best with your garden this summer too!


  8. Great ideas, but I think we can always fit more green on this Earth no matter what… We’ve made room for buildings that are used for nothing but incarcerating people, we can plant more trees wherever we may be.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service


    • annisveggies says:

      I couldn’t agree more! Every time I see an unused or neglected bit of land, no matter what size I just wish someone cared enough to plant it with something or just allow nature to grow her own things on it.


  9. Thank you Anni that’s a great help. I will try all your ideas and its a good idea to split them into different ways so I don’t loose them all. I will let you know how it all turns out.
    Thanks Anni


  10. Hi Anni I am giving mashua growing a go again this year and already I have a problem. It’s March and very cold but that hasn’t stopped the mashua sprouting long white sprouts. I had to move them to the bottom of my fridge in dry sand because they were rotting in the shed (I lost quite a few mashua and oca tubers). I think it was to damp and cold. I was wondering what to do about the mashua should I pot them up or move them into the light in the dry sand. I don’t have a heated greenhouse as its over my allotment, and very limited space indoors. It’s far to cold to put them outdoors we are having very cold nights and ground frost. I have looked all over the net and can’t seem to get any advise, I had some advise on the oca that’s starting to sprout, I was advised to bring them into the light and chit them like potatoes but they had no idea about the mashua as its less hardy and can easily rot, as I have experienced. I don’t know if you have had any experience with this problem Anni but your input would be gratefully received. Thanks Anni Gaynor

    Sent from my iPad


    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Gaynor, nice to hear from you!

      Hi Gaynor, nice to hear from you. I am using logic rather than experience in answering this, so hope it is helpful.

      Do you usually pot the mashua up and grow under cover before planting out in the garden or do you wait for the warmer weather and then plant them directly into the soil? I plant my oca and mashua (last year was first year for these) into pots about now, keeping them out of the frost – by bringing them into garage or conservatory when this is threatened or likely. Then I plant them out in May after frosts have finished. I plan to do the same again this year. My oca are sprouting like mad, but the mashua are not at all (not sure why).

      Clearly you need to protect the tubers from cold and damp and I think you could do one of three things. Perhaps you could split the batch and try two or more ways which would reduce the risk of losing them all if one way did not work.
      • Leave them where they are in the fridge in sand for a bit longer. This does at least keep them cool and dry.
      • Bring them into the light still in sand as you mentioned but keep them somewhere cool.
      • However if you are taking them out of the fridge I think you might as well pot them up and put them either in a cool place inside or a frost free place inside, moving them around if needed. If you don’t have anywhere at all can someone plant sit them for you?

      I don’t know whereabouts on the plant mashua forms tubers, but I wonder if a long stem, such as is starting to form, might be an advantage if they perhaps form along the entire length of the stem? When the plants are planted outdoors they could go deep or with the stem sideways along the ground.

      If you usually plant directly into the garden, I guess you will need to keep them in the fridge.

      I plan to plant all my root veggies pretty deep this year to see if that increases yield.

      Hope this is of some help.

      All the best



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