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Putting my feet up in the garden

So today, given that the sun is shining, I’m going to show you round my garden (though this is a last summer picture)! It was basically a close-mown chemically ravaged wildlife desert (aka a lawn), with rather a lot of self-sown Sycamore, surrounded by a Thuja/Leylandii hedge. We started with some raised beds and a greenhouse (lets call it the Traditional production zone), and then over the last 2 years I have initiated a smorgasbord of eco-options. A bit over the top but I can’t help wanting to try everything.

Of course it looks a bit messy; the principles of rewilding mean it is crucial not to interfere with natural systems too much – don’t tidy up, leave the leaves and dead wood where they are and other than hard wood pruning and trimming (if you must) then no dead heading and trimming of old growth until the temperature is on average above 15C to allow insects to hatch. Once established the orchard should be an ideal light shade ‘forest garden’ for growing understorey crops and other useful plants, whilst ponds/water are always crucial.

To my mind it is OK to tweak here and there when things get too out of hand for your purposes: after all humans are as much a part of the ecosystem as any other animal. I aim to be something like a beaver: a bit of an eco-engineer whose self-interested meddling creates opportunities for a diverse mix of other biodiversity. I view it as a dance; with nature leading and me clumsily trying to follow her lead (or just sitting and enjoying the garden). No-dig beds using cardboard and mulch are a great way to leave soil processes to do their job – not disturbing the fungal web, the macrofauna or depleting the soil – but I am a newbie to this and need faith that the teeming biodiversity won’t just munch straight through all my tender veg.

The sharp-eyed will have noted that I have enlisted some assistance in forest management (spot the henhouse) – 4 rescue hens who do a good job of rummaging through the leaf litter and digging up any remaining bits of undisturbed lawn and I’m currently in the middle of a beekeeping course - for rescue bees to help with pollination (and a bonus of honey). This is Mike not me, as I am as yet unqualified.

Some inspiration:

Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador) for a slightly larger scale enterprise.

Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford (Green Books).

Great talk from the Green Truro Festival.

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