The garden recovering from a setback

As time passes I am becoming more convinced that the (Telford) garden is becoming increasingly fertile and also more resilient and able to recover from setbacks.  Recently we had to have the fence renewed down one side of the garden and as it also involved removing a small tree and cutting back another inevitably the garden was somewhat battered in the process. 

In fact I was quite shocked by the aftermath of the work with debris all over the place and plants trodden on.  In fairness to the workmen (who made a lovely job of the fence) they did their best to clear up and even replanted a shrub in a better place than it was in before – even if that did mean digging the soil out of my special deep beds to level the ground.

On my first day off after the fence was complete I spent the day in the garden trying to ameliorate the damage.  If nothing else was achieved, I reasoned, at least I would feel better for spending time out of doors.  I levelled out the soil, collected up sawdust, tree and plant debris and mounded this up topped with soil to break down in situ and begin reforming the deep beds.   I redefined the established pathways using small branches and sticks and sowed some wild vetch seeds along the edge of the fence.

It has only been a few weeks since then but nature has shown her powers of recuperation.  The two pictures below show the garden early on 24 April before I spent the day working and 13 May, just 19 days later.

DSCN4623 garden on 260413

DSCN4841 garden on 130513

In spring the tidal wave of growth that sweeps across the garden never fails to amaze me.  Each year I am looking for it, waiting longingly to see it, and every time when it arrives I am surprised and awed by the release of pent up power from below ground level liberated and fed by the ever increasing light (if not actual sun).

Yes, I know that this blog is primarily about perennial vegetables and the pictures here are mostly showing flowers, many of which are just wild flowers (otherwise known as “weeds”).  However they are an important part of the story and how the garden grows. 

Any growing plant is functioning in at least two ways – as a ground cover preventing erosion and leaching of nutrients and is contributing to the web of life both above and below ground.  Many will also have other functions such as fixing nitrogen, attracting insects, drawing nutrients up from below ground and confusing pests.

At present I have a selection of unplanned plants – white dead nettle, green alkanet, stinging nettle, forget me nots, greater celandine, foxglove, dandelions and toadflax.  When in flower I have seen all of them covered with bees or other insects and in addition both nettles and dandelions accumulate minerals.  Whilst they are all welcome because of the benefits they confer none of them are allowed to remain indefinitely as they would become too large and start to take over. 

At the point when they begin to crowd their neighbours I pull / cut them and just drop the plant material on the ground where the plant came from.  To me it is a way of feeding the nutrients embodied in the plant straight back to the soil (via the web of decomposing organisms that live there).  This means that much of the mass of plant material that grows up so fast in spring is in effect able to act as a green manure; not a more conventional green manure like clover, rye grass or phacelia but it has the same effect nonetheless.  

They are filling a gap in time as well as physical gaps in the garden.  Many are dying down (or are removed) as the other plants start their own growing seasons.  In their own time the roots such as oca, yacon and Jerusalem artichoke, greens including leaf beet and kales and a variety of onions like Welsh onion, tree onion and shallots plus different beans and whatever else I fancy trying start to grow and fill the spaces. 

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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3 Responses to The garden recovering from a setback

  1. Hi Anni
    How do you save the parts of the plant for new stock over winter of the yakon plant. I know that oka and mashua are tubers which are kept frost free and replanted after first has past but the yakon has like a plantlets which you re plant but have no idea how to keep these overwinter for new stock next year. How do I prevent these from growing or rotting in winter.
    Any help will be appreciated.


    • annisveggies says:

      Hi Gaynor, nice to hear from you!

      Yacon are great, but the downside is that the baby plantlets do need to be kept in a frost free place over the winter. You will find that there are probably a lot of growing tips peeping out from a fairly solid clump around the stem just below ground. I have not found it possible to break this up and have ended up cutting with a sharp kitchen knife to divide it into portions with a growing tip on each. I then pot them into large deep yogurt pots in nearly dry compost. I put the pots inside a large plastic box – the type you get from Wilkos or similar shops – a couple of feet long, by about a foot wide and deep, made from clear plastic so the light gets in. This goes in my conservatory which is cold but does not get frosty and is quite light. They would be equally okay in a spare bedroom. Some pots show small shoots early (soon after potting up), others remain dormant until spring and others in between. They only grow very slowly and I keep them pretty dry / minimally damp. They stay in the box until spring days are nice enough to go out during the sunny periods and eventually go out after the danger of frost is past.

      I store the tubers for eating in shredded paper in a cold but frost free garage and they seem to keep better than other vegetables lasting well last winter even though it was horribly cold and damp.

      Hopefully you will get a good crop from your plants, they are pretty reliable. I like the tubers sliced in stir fries as they remain nice and crunchy.

      All the best



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