In time – after watching and waiting – comes doing the minimum.

The weather has been far warmer than ‘normal’ for February – last weekend was warm, sunny, sparkling spring like weather – the kind of days we would perhaps dare to hope would come by the end of March.  This untimely burst of loveliness pulled the plants and garden creatures forward with bumble bees and butterflies out and about, buds swelling on amelanchier, jostaberry, pears, plums and gages and early cowslips and forget me nots among the crocus and daffodils.  The warmth and sunshine also drew me outside sooner than in previous years to do some minimal untidy-ing-up.

general untidy-ing-up

This consisted of cutting back last year’s remaining fennel stems – the seeds having almost all been eaten by this point in time.  I have often seen blue tits feeding on them and this year the neighbours also saw goldfinches.  I also cut off more old dead stems from sweet cicely, alliums, mashua, marjoram, mint and some other plants.  In accordance with doing the minimum I literally move these materials the smallest distance I can and put them down round fruit trees as a twiggy mulch.  As there was quite a lot of twiggy bits and pieces the mulch piles ended up quite deep – hence the untidy-ing-up aspect.

twiggy mulch round young gage tree

However the last thing either nature or I want is a bare, clean, ‘tidy’ garden.  What we humans perceive as tidy, organised and orderly is, to nature and natural beings barren, bleak and inhospitable.  What nature wants is ‘lumpy texture’ with lots of niches and habitat for all sorts of creatures to live in or to eat from and with building materials for the birds’ nests.

up close and un-tidy

Even though I relish the practice of not controlling, of letting go and living with the uncertainty of how things will develop I have a lifetime’s cultural indoctrination of what gardens ‘should’ look like to contend with.  I can’t shake it off but in the bigger scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all and anyway in a few weeks’ time there will be such an explosion of growth that these twiggy piles will become invisible amongst the fronds of fennel and sweet cicely and the massed forget me not and honesty blooms; and all the while the creatures and fungi of the soil will be wearing them away from below ground transforming them into new beings and fresh growth.

Principle: When you have to do something, only do the minimum.



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 Borderland Garden, Doing the minimum, Forest Gardening, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, Untidy-ing, Waiting, Watching. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to untidy-ing-up

  1. A garden for all … the way it should be 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Fruit trees such as this will gage plum will need pruning though. Otherwise, it will not be able to sustain all the fruit it will want to produce.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carole says:

    I completely agree that a lot of our ideas of what is aesthetically pleasing in a garden are culturally produced. But the more I learn, the more I genuinely believe that a twiggy mulch or wild flower ground cover is far more aesthetically interesting than bare soil. Keep up the untidying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    Far from looking untidy Anni’s garden looks alive, busy and lived in.

    Liked by 3 people

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