Healthy neglect…

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Last month other commitments pulled us away from the garden. Apart from us harvesting apples, raspberries and vegetables, the land was left to its own devices for the duration of the month. On the very last day of September we walked around the different areas to get a few pictures for this blog and we realized that the land had not suffered at all in our absence. Sure, it looked a bit untidy and overgrown on the surface, but underneath it was healthy, alive and brimming with wildlife. Maybe that is the biggest lesson we have learnt from looking after and developing our land over the last few years. A forest garden, mimicked on young natural woodland but full of edible and other beneficial plants, is a very forgiving place. Nature has a marvellous way of doing what is best for the land and when you start to work with nature and not against her fantastic things can happen. We wanted more frogs, newts and other wildlife so in addition to our stream we added two ponds. Because of this the slug population is being kept small and is not the major problem it was for the first couple of years.

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We wanted our young trees and shrubs to develop fast and be healthy so for the first few seasons we mulched around each one with cardboard, grass clippings, wood chips, compost and straw and now they are big enough to create their own leaf litter and natural mulch.

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We planted mint and oregano as groundcover plants and they are established and thriving along with plantain, yarrow meadowsweet, ragged robin, flag irises and many other flowering and beneficial plants. Sometimes we do remove couch grass, brambles, bindweed and horse tails. But the need for this gets less and less as the other plants grow strong and inhabit their spaces with confidence. A healthy balance has been struck.

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We are sure some people would look at our garden now after a month of complete neglect and see a very untidy and seemingly neglected place. We look at it and see a place of abundance and health, full of wildlife, food, beauty and inspiration

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Every month we post pictures of the garden in four directions from the main circle. Here you can see all the unattended growth of the last month in full glory.

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Remember that almost any garden can benefit from being less tidy and controlled. Leave some seed-heads for the birds to enjoy. Make piles of dry leaf and twigs under the hedge and you might be lucky and have a hedgehog move in. Enjoy nettle soup in the spring and leave a patch of them somewhere, so that butterflies and other wildlife can thrive. You can do all of this in the safe knowledge that you are creating less work and more enjoyment for yourself. But the best part is that you are actively taking part in healing the planet we all call home.

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