I was talking with someone the other day who happened to mention that the trouble with gardening to produce food was that the garden was always a mess.
I’m not altogether sure what his garden looked like. I am sure that when he compared growing vegetables and the look of a garden to that of an allotment garden (a mess, his words) that he may have been doing many good gardeners a disservice. I love to be in a good produce garden of fruit and vegetables. I feel very motivated and a great deal of pleasure in producing plants that look great and taste fantastic. The images show a number of what I think are gardens to be proud of and to sit and look at, and share.
I read some little time ago that we need the high street greengrocer (we do) and the supermarket (we don’t) as we are unable to grow anywhere near what we need ourselves in the way of fresh produce year round. That is true, and is the fault of planners and architects who have migrated people into boxes with little or no land. However, it is also un-true when people in those boxes co-ordinate and plan for themselves as a community, and it is absolutely, definitely un-true if you have a medium size garden or larger. Good planning, design, thought and creativity can bring a big reward. This is ‘true gardening’.
This is why people began to garden centuries back, to produce food and importantly medicines, from the herbal garden and the wild hedgerow. Cleanliness, compost, care, creativity, all you need to garden well are vital in the veg garden. It all starts with the soil.
As an estate gardener I have been able to experience and benefit from the Victorian kitchen gardener. Top soils 150 cm deep, cultivated and dug three and sometimes four spits (spades) deep . Good crumb structure (which means compost and fertilizer applied for decades to create a soil that retains moisture but will not stay saturated) Manure and leaf-mold collected, composted and applied when digging. Gentle liming, and fertilizer applied to balance trace elements so important to veg and to fruit. Good soils and a clean crop, strong growth = less need to spray = more beneficial insects = less need to spray = clean and healthy crop = and so on. Preparing the canvas (the soil) will mean that you can build year on year and then begin to do what gardeners have done for generations, save seed, roots and tubers for next year. Then you are gardening, the equivalent in driving is moving from your everyday car to a nippy little car on the race track, you have the knowledge to do better and go faster. You learn more every day and with that your gardening is stronger and more confident.
So it amazes me that we treat the earth, the soil, with such little respect.
We walk all over it, in any weather and at any time of year. We drive on it, flatten it, crush it, flood it, contaminate it, and move it about without thought. We dig it up and stack it in piles for weeks, months and years on end. We plant things in it and we stand back in anticipation to see what happens, and more often than not, for a short time at least, it rewards our efforts. What we don’t seem to do is love it and care for it, as if I lives depended on it – they do. If you were painting a door in your house, would you batter it before you carefully painted or varnished it?. Please care for your soil and the land, if you do you will be amazed at what it will do for you.
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