Monday, 17 June 2013

flowers and veg

If anyone needed an excuse to grow flowers among their fruit and vegetables let me give one.

A small clump of chives in the soft fruit area of the garden. This morning they were alive with pollinating insects but the tortoiseshell butterfly flew off just before the shutter clicked. Without these insects we'd all be in deep trouble so do try and make room for them wherever you can.

When I started this garden seven years ago the idea was not just for it to provide fresh fruit and veg for myself and family but for it to be also an essential part of the local ecosystem. I could have created a sterile oasis that still produced food but at what cost?

Neatly ordered it ain't but the variety of wildlife it now supports never ceases to amaze me.

This is a shot taken from the bedroom window. The main veg plot is on the left but I have containers dotted about all over the place.

The east boundary of the garden is a dense privet hedge which is home to numerous house sparrows, blackbirds and song thrushes. They like to eat young pea shoots, etc. but they also eat some of the nasties like caterpillars and grubs so, as long as I protect my young peas, an uneasy truce is maintained and we co-exist. I don't normally cut the hedge until June in the hope that the first clutch of eggs is hatched and away. It gets another trim in late summer and that's usually it. An untidy hedge is not a cause for concern to me but a garden without birds would be!

If you want to encourage diversity in your garden you have to be prepared for at least a little untidiness. Neatly manicured lawns and immaculate flower beds fill me with horror. I just don't understand their purpose. My veg patch is kept weeded but the rest of the garden is more or less left to its own devices. I have sown wildflower seeds and planted spring bulbs but these are dotted among everything else, including dandelions. A lot of people reach for the Roundup as soon as they spot a dandelion but their seed heads are a great source of food for many bird species. Anyway, with 'weeds' rampant in neighbouring gardens and in the surrounding countryside killing a few dandelions is certainly not going to stop their wind-borne seeds from settling on your precious plot.

At the bottom of my garden I have a boggy 'woodland' area. This is overhung by neighbour's trees and also has a couple of my own apples. The canopy is quite open so underneath I have rhododendrons for a bit of colour with raspberries and gooseberries for food. The ground has clumps of shade-loving wild garlic so I suppose this is what people now call 'forest gardening' but it just seemed a sensible use of space to me.

Three years ago I built a big pile of large stones close to the cherry tree and just left it to see what would happen. Very soon it was covered in grass and assorted 'weeds' but it also sprouted self-seeded raspberry, blackcurrant and bramble plants along with holly and a couple of unknown shrubs. I'm pretty sure these arrive in the droppings of birds which peck at the cherries or simply roost in the tree. Amphibians also love to shelter in the damp nooks and crannies between the stones and there are shrews and hedgehogs regularly seen there.

In addition to the boulder heap I also pile up all tree and shrub prunings and leave them over winter as a refuge for whatever fancies living among them. In late spring, when the hibernating creatures are moving about, the rubbish goes through the shredder and is composted. And that's another thing, the big open compost heap is winter home to yet more life. When I dig into it in spring you should see the ensuing feeding frenzy as birds from all around come to search for their creepy-crawly dinner.

To me, all of this seems like a win-win situation. Insects pollinate my plants, birds eat insects, amphibians and hedgehogs eat slugs and snails and I get to eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as I want. It's a cycle and, so long as I don't upset the balance too much, it will simply keep on going.

No comments:

Post a Comment