When I planted my fruit trees I did not pay heed to the conventional gardening advice. I did not use any compost in the planting holes, I did not stake them or use tree guards. I left these activities un-done as part of my approach of doing the minimum in the garden; I like to see what happens as a result!
A number of years have now passed and what has happened is that they have grown healthy, strong and stable. So stable that they were able to stand firm even in the midst of Storm Francis that hit us last week and whipped the garden for two days. It looks like the wind would whip the leaves from the branches, but the branches themselves are so still! At the height of the storm I took a couple of videos that I have uploaded to Youtube (this blog only allows me to upload photos).
If you look closely you can see that the small fruit trees (apple sunset, apple Trwyn Mochyn and plum Denbigh) are standing firm even in such a fierce wind whilst the bushes, shrubs and herbaceous plants are blown this way and that.
And I think there is a metaphorical truth to this as well as practical learning – if we as forest gardeners learn to root ourselves deeply into the soil and the ecosystem of which we are part, we will over time develop sufficient depth of insight and trust that even when there are extreme weather events and conditions not experienced before we will be able to hold fast and find appropriate ways to respond and to move forward.
Principle 11: Polyculture learning is slow learning.
Actually, I very rarely use soil amendment when planting. I make exception for the very sandy soil of some of our landscapes, particularly for bulbs. Also, the few bedding plants get soil amendment if necessary. I know that too much soil amendment within a planting hole encourages root growth within the amended soil, which can inhibit dispersion or roots beyond the hole. Bare root plants do better if they disperse their roots directly into surrounding soil than if encouraged to stay confined. In heavy clay soil, richly amended soil is like good potting soil within a clay pot.
It seems as though this approach is catching on!
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I dislike fads and trends, but would not mind this one. I learned about horticulture in the Santa Clara Valley. I am offended when someone complains about how bad the soil is there. I would be pleased if the million or so who migrated there since I was a kid would migrate back out so that orchards could return. Orchards did not complain about the soil.