The year’s work and produce in the Borderland Garden 2014

I am pleased with the results from the Borderland Garden for last year.  Before I began to add up my figures I anticipated more time spent and less produce than there was.  In a perennial vegetable garden the harvests tend to come in relatively small amounts over the whole year and this year I harvested 22 kg.  For this harvest I worked for 59.5 hours.

This was the second year of gardening here.  The main perennial vegetable polyculture was re-located to make way for an extension to the house.  This accounted for about twenty hours of time and planting six fruit trees accounted for another six or so hours as the groyund is solid clay with embedded rocks.  There was no digging involved in the preparation of the polyclutre bed as this was “constructed” entirely above the existing ground level as detailed in my post of 2nd March.

The new bed gave an expanded growing area and the opportunity to add more plants.  The majority of these were transplanted from the Telford garden which (as regular readers will know) was sold (with its’ adjoining house) in November.  Hence a relatively large amount of time spent planting out and very little sowing seeds.  I will post the results for the Telford garden in due course, at present I can’t find the notes in the remaining post move muddle!

The tables below summarise the harvests and hours spent working in the garden.

Produce from Borderland Garden 2014
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total %
Onions 156 378 61 595 3
Cooking greens 100 1841 610 52 2603 12
Salad leaves 7 379 0 115 494 2
Roots 3310 132 246 416 4104 19
Pods / fruiting veg 0 43 13084 768 13895 63
Fruit 0 0 0 151 151 0.5
Other 7 154 161 0.5
Total (g) 3573 2927 14001 1502 22003  
Total (kg) 3.573 2.927 14.001 1.502 22.003  
Produce 2013
Total (g) 1695 4015 5813  
Total (kg)     1.695 4.015 5.813  


Time spent in Borderland Garden 2014
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total %
Sowing seed / taking cuttings 0 2.25 3 0 5.25 9
Planting out 10.75 3.25 5 0.5 19.5 32
Management / maintenance 0.75 4.5 0 5.25 9
Preparation of new areas 27 0.5 0 2 29.5 50
Other tasks 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 2014 38.5 6 12.5 2.5 59.5 100
Total 2013 2.25 54.25 17.75 3.75 78 100

The principles that I adhere to in this garden are as detailed in my book Edible Perennial Gardening – minimum time and effort, letting nature do as much of the work as possible, building fertility by adding biomass of all kinds as a mulch on the soil surface.

There is a long way to go before it is anything like as alive and fertile as the other garden became over the years, but I am very happy with progress so far.  Having a rich clay soil is of course a help in respect of fertility.  I noted that some of the small branches and twigs embedded in the polyculture bed have begun to break down as I could see the white mycelia coming from them.  But in other places, such as along the carrot and fennel “hedge” / edge plant material that I cut and lay down on the soil has been there without breaking down for months.  Clearly it will take time for the decomposer organisms to establish across the garden.

Here are some reminders of how the garden developed between March and September:

photo (14)

Newly constructed polyculture bed in March


…. and in Jun

DSCN6554 polypatch 1


DSCN6692 bursting with lifeand September!

In my notes from last year – along with the details of plantings and times – I wrote:

“Take time, no hurry, nature is bountiful.  Rush and you miss opportunities, rush and you miss possibilities, rush and you  miss the point of it all.  Go slow.”

Posted in Borderland Garden, Edible Perennial Gardening, Forest Gardening, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures | 2 Comments

….. and the beginning of a new challenge

Over the years of experimenting with perennial vegetables I have been buying and also saving a lot of seeds.  Of course I have planted a lot too, but I seem to have ended up with an amazing quantity.  As we moved house I was finding them in all sorts of drawers, cupboards and corners that I had forgotten about.  Yesterday I finally had time to sort through them and laid them out on the floor, still in their boxes.  What a lot!

DSCN6901 seeds galore

I sorted and listed them and have 167 different things which is far more than I thought.  I have had some of them for a number of years and they will be less likely to germinate, but many of them will still be fine.



In view of this massive stash it is just as well that as we were going through the process of selling our home the offer of a new place to grow veggies arose.  Graham, who I met at Shrewsbury Flower Show in the summer, has offered me the chance to grow on a patch of land where he lives.


The polyculture patches I have grown in to date have been small, in contrast the potential growing area in the new location is, at a guess ten times the area, or possibly more.  So, it’s just as well I have a lot of seeds to start things off.  I also have some ideas I want to try out so watch this space to see how things evolve!

PS I do still have the Borderland Garden which I will be developing at the same time as taking on the new challenge.

Happy Christmas to everyone!

Posted in Edible Perennial Gardening, Forest Gardening, Seeds and seed saving | 2 Comments

End of an era

Next Friday we move out of this home.  My partner has lived here for 32 years and I joined her fourteen years ago when the new millennium was a few months old.  Needless to say we have a lot of packing and sorting to do which meant that today was my last chance to get out in the garden – harvest a few things – and to say a sad farewell.

DSCN6858 back gardenI have removed the perennial vegetables from the back garden now and what remains are herbs, wild strawberries, wild flowers with an edge of shrubs.

DSCN6862 faithful red russian kale

This may not look like much of a plant but it is a red Russian kale that I have had for many years.  It lost its redness a long time ago, but has been a really, really hardy and useful plant.  It will live on via the many cuttings I took a few weeks ago which are already sprouting.

DSCN6867 P2The perennial vegetables are also gone from the front garden polyculture but the edges of fruit and shrubs remain and will always be abundant and attractive.  I have only used part of the garden for my experiments.  Most of the front looks quite normal –


DSCN6868 front

although the lawn is mainly moss.

DSCN6879 moss or is it lawn

I said goodbye to my favourite trees, plants and places:

DSCN6865 pond

There’s a pond under here, home to frogs and toads;

DSCN6869 greengage and hollyand this gnarly old trunk belongs to a very old greengage tree.  It is hollow on the other side and hardly able to produce any greenery or fruit.  The garden was once part of an orchard belonging to a manor house and this plus other fruit trees in the neighbourhood is a survivor from those long lost times.  In contrast the holly bears its vivacious berries most years.

DSCN6871 edgeIt was the tendency of the garden to be somewhat wild around the edges, (as well as damp and shady) that first set me thinking about growing different things here.  I used to try to tidy up much more but since learning about forest gardening and permaculture I have totally relaxed about that and really love the way plants intermingle and entwine themselves.

DSCN6872 winter jasmineWe have a beautiful willow tree which gets its water from a stream in the front, however it needs regular pollarding to stop it getting too massive.

DSCN6877 willow all

DSCN6883There are abundant ferns on the stream-side which I used for mulching the garden when they got too large.

DSCN6884 lane

I have always loved our quiet lane,

DSCN6889 lane other way

with the stream gently trickling alongside.

DSCN6888 stream

Despite living close to the motorway, retail park, the college, football ground and station the house is tucked into its’ own little corner of peace and tranquility.

DSCN6886 front view

DSCN6893 front


DSCN6874 P2

And this is how I will remember the garden – on an afternoon in late spring – exuberant, abundant and vibrant with life; the perfect place to sit and unwind after work!

DSCN3484 P1 plus flowers


Posted in Edible Perennial Gardening, Telford Garden | 5 Comments

Mashua in flower

How lovely is this!


What a sight for a damp and windy November afternoon on a Welsh hillside!


It was windy and the flowers kept moving about so this one’s a bit out of focus, but I was so glad to have seen these lovely flowers!


Posted in Borderland Garden | Tagged | 13 Comments

A (somewhat early) harvest of yacon

We hope to complete on our house sale soon which means I am harvesting vegetables in the Telford garden sooner than I would normally do.

On Thursday it was the turn of the yacon.  I broke off the edible tubers – the long pointy ones in the picture below – and then set about taking apart the growing shoots for next year’s plants.  Because I am harvesting early these roots are quite small for yacon, but you can actually see the growing points which are harder to show on larger roots.

IMG_1073 yacon

I usually use a knife to cut them up as they are quite hard, but I did find when I got to the last plant that it is possible to break them apart.  I had hesitated to do that before now as I thought I might break off the actual growing tip if I had to wrench too hard.  However breaking seemed to work better than the knife.  I have planted the cut and broken parts in nearly dry compost and will find a cool but not cold place to over winter them in the dry.

As I was trying to find enough pots for the yacon pieces I thought of putting some of the pieces back into the garden. I knew they would not be able to grow, but choosing not to take everything (and not just through a lack of pots) would be indicative of my thankfulness to the garden, to nature, for what I had been able to make use of in the first place.

It was at that point when I saw, for the first time, some point to the practice of some religions to make offerings of food and drink to their gods.  I have always been keen to maximise the yields I get from the garden, to harvest as much as I can to eat and to save as many seeds and other parts to grow for the following year; not doing so would have just seemed like waste.  Now I can see such offerings as a tangible way of saying thank you, to give back something I could use, but choose not to.  I guess it takes to learn earth style wisdom – that natural abundance is more than adequate for human needs and by holding back from taking everything is a recognition of this and a way of demonstrating actual trust in it.


DSCN6847 cardoon seed head

How many seeds might there be on this lovely cardoon head?  Far more than I could ever use that’s for sure.

Posted in roots and tubers, Telford Garden | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Of raspberries and other fruits…… and cowslips

Raspberries and other fruits

For the price of one punnet of raspberries you can buy a plant that will give you raspberries for ever.  I will admit that this is in one of the supermarket chains and that is not the ideal place to buy plants, however if it was a choice between the plant or the punnet – you can see what makes sense.

I had just popped in to our local Morrisons store for a couple of bits and pieces, but being a bit of a plant geek I could not walk past the display without taking a look.   I came out of the shop with two autumn fruiting raspberries (Autumn Bliss), one Darwin’s barberry (Berberis Darwinii), one goji berry (Lycium Barbarium), and one Abutilon Megapotamicum.  I knew the first four were edible but had to check the abutilon when I got home which I now know has edible flowers.  The plants were £2 each and cost £10 altogether.

DSCN6835 bushes for the hedge

The abutilon will be going in a new bed alongside a new fence.  As the fence is being finished today I have not planted it yet.  I have just planted the raspberries, goji berry and berberis (above) in the boundary hedge to increase its edibility.

This is the first year I have tasted autumn raspberries, they are lovely and so welcome, I just had to have more!

DSCN6841 autumn raspberries

I don’t know how long these will continue to ripen but we are enjoying them while they last.

DSCN6840 rasp 1This little raspberry tucked in to the outside edge of the hedge beside a foxglove.

DSCN6845and this little one on the inside edge where it is a bit thin.

DSCN6844 goji

The goji (above) and barberry (below) are on the outside of the hedge.  It looks very dark in these photos, but it is an overcast day.  They will get plenty of light.

DSCN6843 berberis

I am looking forward to tasting the barberry berries, they sound very nice on Plants for a Future.

These plants are all small and I did not make any special provision for any of them, just popped them in where there is a space.  I will make sure they have room to grow, cutting back the hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, etc that they grow amongst if necessary.  Let’s see how many raspberries I have to harvest come next October.

All these plants add to the already considerable number of edibles in the hedge.  At some point in the winter when there is less to do I will make a list.

….. and what of cowslips?

Our neighbours have told us of a time when the bank opposite our houses (which is now a wood) was a field with masses of cowslips flowering in spring.  It was, by all accounts, a beautiful site.  The site of our house and garden was likewise once a field which faced the cowslips across a very narrow valley.  The neighbours had a plant nursery here for some years before building on the land.  My partner and I have removed some of the lawn round the house to make space for flowers (and some edibles squeezed in).  It has been sown with all sorts of things, “weeded” only minimally when something was in the way and otherwise just left to nature to get on how she wishes.  And look what she has given us:

DSCN6833 cowslip

One sweet little cowslip which thinks it’s spring!  The seeds must have been dormant in the ground for many years and now having the opportunity to grow they have done so.  If I had been a regular weeder the small plant would not have had the chance to grow.  In time I will be able to divide the plant and sow its’ seeds.  Then the baby cowslips can join the raspberry, goji, barberry and everything else in and around the hedge.


Posted in Borderland Garden, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Hedgerow | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Moving on

before the tidy up

before the tidy up

It has been a lovely autumn day to spend out in the garden.  A bit windy perhaps but sunny and much warmer that I might have expected.  I spent the time tidying up mainly –  cutting back lots of growth from some of the edges of the garden.

some of what was removed

some of what was removed

Even though I removed a lot of growth, there is still a lot of greenery around.  In the end I could not bear to remove too much, wanting the garden to continue to be a sanctuary for as many small creatures as possible.  As I realised the day I first thought of the possiblity growing a perennial vegetable garden – nature can easily produce a lot of greenery.  It is all part of her verdant fertility.  I have tried over the years to nurture that fertility and gently guide it towards producing edible crops, hopefully increasing rather than diminishing it.

After the tidy up

After the tidy up

I also took cuttings of jostaberry, blackcurrant, Nepalese raspberry and red Russian kale and dug up some clumps of wild raspberry, sorrel and spinach.  I harvested yacon and Jerusalem artichokes – a bit on the small side, but I won’t have much more time to gather them.  In fact this may have been my last time working in this garden.

After nearly 18 months on the market we have purchasers for the house.  It has been a long wait and during that time I have struggled to know what to plant and what not to.  In fact I have actually done and planted very little in this garden this year, preferring to spend most of my time and effort developing the Borderland garden.

As I was out there working I had the family in mind who will soon be living here.  They have described themselves as ‘not gardeners’ and I don’t know what they will make of what I have done here!  I will be leaving them a copy of my book and a note about the garden as a bit of an explanation and then of course it is entirely up to them what they do.

My partner has lived here over thirty years and I have been here for fourteen.  We have done our bit of stewardship for the future and looked after it as best we could for the purposes that most suited us.  We are ‘downsizing’ and will be buying a flat in Shrewsbury – without a garden.  Being at another defining life stage and handing over something precious into the care of another are stark reminders that everything has its time in the end the land is not ours at all.

Posted in Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, Relationship with nature, Telford Garden | 4 Comments