Tag Archives: gardening

Wild Gardening

Living in a house built (I think) in about the 1930s, I’m blessed with a lot of garden. Modern build in the UK tends to include very little in the way of private green space by comparison. I live on the side of a hill, on heavy clay soil, and my garden is a jungle. This is just going to be a rambley, reflective piece about my relationship with the land I live on, and how that informs my gardening.

When I moved here, the garden was rather bare, aside from some old fruit trees in the hedge. I’d never had my own garden before. I experimented with flowers. The slugs ate them. I tried growing vegetables. They didn’t much like the heavy clay, or the quantities of stones in it. And then the slugs ate them. I fancied a herb garden. Mostly, the grass choked them despite my efforts, and then… but we do have a hedgehog who regularly eats the slugs, so that’s ok. Over the space of some years I got to know the land, the soil, and what it was willing to do. Eventually, I stopped trying to impose my own ideas, and started relating more to the place.

These days I grow fruit. I have gooseberries, currants, tay, blackberry and raspberry growing to good effect. Occasionally I get strawberries, when I am faster than the slugs. I also have a fig (which does not yet fruit) a cherry (the blackbirds eat those) a hazel (I beat the squirrels to last year’s handful of nuts!) a walnut (not nutting yet) and a mulberry (produced one mulberry). I’m growing a small orchard. I’ve also started growing willow, with a view to being able to harvest and use it for projects. This land used to be wood. What it’s happiest growing, is trees.

One of the good things about fruit is, you don’t have to put in much work. If, for some reason, you can’t harvest it, the birds will come in and feed, so that works well. The fruit bushes, trees and long grass provide a lot of homes for insects, so I’ve always got wild birds outside the window come in to feed on them.

I gave up trying to grow exotic plants – partly because the slugs ate them, and partly because I’d rather have natives. Exotic escapees getting from gardens into wild places are an endless problem, and I’ve decided I’d rather not be part of that. I have cowslips and primroses blooming at the moment, I get gorgeous blossom on the fruit trees, honeysuckle, lovely colours in the autumn. I don’t dead head anything, I like the old seed heads, the natural decay, and it makes bug homes through the winter, and provides bird food.

Compared to glossy magazine style gardening, my garden is a mess. I don’t spend vast amounts of time working on it, either. But it does give me a great deal of joy, and it’s absolutely brimming with life.

Time to Harvest

bloodiedquill

I’ll be wandering a bit off the writer’s path for this post. Right now, our sights are focused on the harvest, particularly because this is the first year my youngest has participated in the growing and harvesting.

It’s mid-September and here in southern Manitoba we’re only just beginning to get our summer temperatures. While Care gardened from containers this year (with some crazy results!) we’ve watched others with traditional gardens lose their tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and peas to the cold and damp. Our containers held peas, carrots, yellow and green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.

I can not garden. I am known by friends and family as the one that kills even the silk plants (seriously, I had a silk arrangement that the leaves kept falling off of) so I tend not to attempt such things. However, my youngest seems to have green thumbs, fingers, toes and perhaps an entire leg, so we purchased several large bins, 100 litres of large gravel, and 625 litres of soil and created our little patch of green.

The tomatoes took off like gangbusters almost immediately, growing to their current height of 4′ – far above the plant cages we have supporting them. Each of the three bins holds two plants, and we’ve had only a handful of vine-ripened fruit from them. There are a lot of green fruit still on the vines, and we’ve picked about 5 pounds so far. We’re trying to ripen them in a dark – and dry – place, hoping not to lose any more to rot.

tomatoes July
Tomato plants in late July.

Care has expressed an interest in canning her tomatoes. Our family eats canned tomatoes on Eggy Bread (aka French Toast) instead of syrup, we make macaroni and tomatoes, we make soups; we’re a tomato family. With the fruit from our plants being so small and ripening oddly, I don’t think we’ll get enough to make a big batch, but perhaps we’ll be able to put up a few pints to show for her hard work in our little garden.

The cucumber plant has exploded in the last week, developing six new flowers which have turned into tiny cukes. Three others are larger and can be picked any day now. We’ve already had ten others from just the one plant. Then again, cucumbers like lots of water. 😉

The tiny carrots grew well, despite being crowded and my not being familiar with this type. Once we thinned them out, they reached maturity at 2″ in length and about a half inch in diameter. We had several dinners with fresh carrots and beans, once with peas as well. The beans are done now, even though the yellow bushes are trying to flower again. The peas only produced enough for a half-cup, shelled. Next year I think we’ll skip the peas.

The lettuce was done before we even managed to pick any. Unfortunately, it looked nearly dead due to the rain early on, and while we were away for a few days, it went crazy. By the time we were back, we only managed to salvage a dozen leaves from four plants. We may skip it next year, too.

peppers August
Pepper plants at the beginning of August.

The peppers are going crazy right now. The plants have grown at least a foot in the last week, and where there were no bells before, there are now at least ten – both red and green varieties. Unfortunately I don’t think the reds have time to ripen fully, and I’ve never had to force those to ripen off the plants before. Any advice towards that end will be much appreciated… please leave a comment if you have any ideas!

early harvest
Lettuce, carrots, beans and cucumbers from first harvest, Lughnasadh.

By the end of next week, I believe we’ll have to have the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers off the plants, as I don’t imagine the unseasonal temperatures will last much longer. We’ll share our harvest at our Mabon circle, gifting our grove-mates with little tomatoes and cucumbers. The plants we will leave for the goddess to take back into herself, for sustenance as she rests over the cold winter months.

It’s been a good year, even if it has been crazy.