It is not always very easy to think of a title for posts that sum them up in a few words, particularly before they are written and are just some words and concepts circulating in my head, however I think I could equally have called this one – Please Resist Too Much Interfering with Nature.
This is not necessarily easy to do, it needs practice and an understanding of why it is important. I have to relearn it each year, in particular each spring.
This is the most amazing time of year. Today the sun is shining, birds singing etc and the garden is running away in a tide of energy and lush growth. We have just returned after over a week away and the growth and change over that time is very clear. Everywhere (well not quite) there are dandelions, goose grass is charging across the ground and up the hedge, foxgloves are starting their climb upwards and the stinging nettles are clumping up. In the borders self sown forget me nots, pansies and calendulas are blooming. Some fruit bushes and trees are in blossom and some early seedlings are germinating.
Some years ago – before I found out how natural processes build health and fertility in a garden and learned to trust nature and leave her alone as much as possible – I would have been desparate to get into the garden and dig up the nettles, remove the goose grass, dig out the dandelions and docks and generally “tidy up”. Not so now.
- Dandelions are loved by bees – just watch them and see how many visits they get, and also from butterflies. They are edible as well and last year I used dandelion petals to flavour cup cakes which gave a mild vanilla like flavour and even the neighbours liked them! If there are tooooooo many and my partner objects I will take some out, but grudgingly!
- Nettles are edible and nutritious as well; they provide habitat for insects and can be used for to make a liquid fertiliser.
- Goose grass is easily pulled out and concentrates minerals in its’ tissues which can be returned to the soil by just dropping the plants to the ground where they grew.
- Foxgloves flower for weeks and feed the bees continuously during that time. They look beautiful as well, though they are of course poisonous to us.
All plants serve a purpose whilst they are growing, even those that are apparently neither beautiful or useful to us humans – they are all part of a living, dynamic ecosystem, they are interacting with all the other living things in that system, seen and unseen, above and below ground. The greater the plant mass and diversity of plants the greater the possibilities are for these interactions and for a healthy soil and garden.
Basically I only take things out when I know they are going to cause a problem if left in. In this garden that is buttercups, clove root and grass removed on sight; as far as I can recall at this moment just about everything else is left at least for a while because:
- It is alive, functioning and interacting.
- It is edible or useful in some other way.
- In time it will be removed and put on the ground to decompose and feed the soil and its’ dependent creatures.
There are also other plants that are not “weeds” but which other people may have removed thinking they have finished their usefulness. Land cress for instance is sold as an annual salad leaf, but if you leave it it will live for years and flowers now (the plant with yellow flowers below). Insects love the flowers and we use the greens all year round (often cooked as they are strong tasting).
I particularly like the way that the plants cosy up to one another, nature does not leave gaps like gardeners do.
So we get to a place where more and more nature does the gardening, I just tweak and adjust at times whilst spending more time watching, marvelling and enjoying the show.