Permaculture · 2 July 2020

Garden progress

Today I feel as though I’m making some sort of progress on the ‘novice gardener attempts to plant food forest’ front.

This morning I went out and picked myself a pot of tea. I took a few flowering heads of lavender, two peppermint leaves and two lemon-balm leaves, put them in one of those individual tea-pots that comes with a cup and had three cups of tea out of it. Very fragrant and lovely it was too!

It hadn’t occurred to me that I could grow my own tea before reading Martin Crawford’s Creating a Forest Garden about a month ago. But I had space for more plants, so as soon as I did, I ordered a chocolate mint and an anise hyssop plant. And on Monday I was in town at the bulk buy shop and discovered a very bedraggled, unhappy lemon balm plant for sale, so I brought that home in my bike pannier too.

The lavender and the peppermint were already in place.

Having tried for a couple of days now, I discover that there is something very special about being able to start the day by picking your own tea blend from the garden. It’s a revelation almost on a par (not quite) with how much difference fresh herbs make to the taste of your cooking. They give much more satisfaction and pleasure than it seems like they ought to.

Other successes–there are slugs in the slug trap. The little bastards have been chomping their way through three quarters of the tender baby plants I put in. I fully intend to let thrushes and amphibians deal with them later on when things are established, but for now I have neither of those things, so drowning in beer it is.

I had a bit of a paradigm shifting moment as regards the lawn this time last month. I had very much been of the ‘lawns are a waste of space’ persuasion previously. But we have one. We may not always have one, but while we have one, it finally occurred to me to treat it as an area of soil covered with a ground covering plant.

Namely–not as a waste of space, but as an area of soil that also needed its soil carbon levels building up via nurturing and encouraging the soil lifeforms.

So, two weeks ago, I raised the cutting height on the lawnmower to 6.5 cm and put on it one of those plug in things that cuts up the grass cuttings and scatters them on the lawn behind you. I’m no longer removing the nutrients from the soil by taking the cuttings away–I’m letting them accumulate and feed the soil.

I also scattered some chicken manure over the whole garden, and watered it in with some powdered mycorrhizal fungi in solution. If I’m improving the soil, it doesn’t really matter so much what’s growing on top of it, right? It’s still drawing down carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen like a tree.

And I’ve got to say, two weeks and two cuts later it’s noticeably thicker and lusher. It’s still full of wild flowers and weeds, of course, but that’s a bonus imo–I have a prairie.

I also have clouds, absolute effing hoards of hoverflies, bumblebees and ladybirds. I like to think it’s a sign that the biodiversity is improving. As is the fact that there’s a frog in the pond, and that five of the golden-rod sticks, two of the skirret sticks, and one of the perennial kale sticks seem to have taken and sprouted.