Thursday, 12 April 2012

April progress

Planting srawberries in the eco-garden
After a very wet Easter here in the Cotswolds, it’s all systems go to sow and plant before we start on our travels around the country visiting plant shows and inspirational gardens. The nettle patch within the ‘eco-garden’ that I was seen digging in the April e-News is now cleared and planted with strawberries; sharing space with shallots ‘Mikor’ which I did not have room to plant in the courtyard potager, and some supermarket garlic that had started to sprout! 

The bed behind (only partially in view) includes blackcurrants and a vigorous blackberry which should crop for the first time this year; it may look full of weed, but actually, all the seedlings are self-set parsley, plus some feverfew which I love for its bright white flower heads (good for cutting). Right at the back, but not visible, is a herbaceous border with flowers to encourage bees, and some useful shrubs for protection from cold northerly winds. Double-click on the image if you want to read my garden diary notes written last Friday.

With long-term crops in mind, I have added another excellent book to my bookshelf: ‘How to grow Perennials Vegetables: low-maintenance, low-impact vegetable gardening’ by Martin Crawford, pioneer of  forest gardening and director of the Agroforestry Research Trust, whose first book, ‘Creating a Forest Garden’ published in 2010 was an eye-opener to many a conventional gardener. His latest offering, published last week in paperback by Green Books, is another masterpiece, and will delight those of us whose gardening time is limited. Though that is not the main reason for acquiring a copy! There are many other advantages in growing perennial veg rather than annuals, amongst which are: they need less tillage, so the soil structure is not disturbed in cultivation and carbon is retained in the soil; they extend the harvesting season, especially in early spring, they are often of more value to beneficial insects than annual veg, and many contain higher levels of mineral nutrients. In two parts, the book covers why and how to grow these crops, and then lists over 100 perennial edibles – both common and unusual; from rhubarb to skirret, Jerusalem artichoke to nodding onions. Buy Martin's new book here though Amazon.

Families flocking into the Three Counties showground at Malvern
today for this year's 'Countrytastic'
Something now for young children. I’m actually writing this at the Malvern Showground, at 'Countrytastic'.  The place is bustling with activity - an excellent venue for young potential gardeners. For a garden does not happen in isolation, but is a part of the overall picture of landscape, farming and food production; individual gardens slot into the ecological jigsaw. Such excitement whether you are six or sixty, and here with your children or grandchildren. And there’s more to be enjoyed at Malvern next month when the RHS Spring Show gets under way over four days, from 10th – 13th May; and Dobies will be exhibiting. Buy advance tickets here.

Damson tree planted forty years ago in our Cotswold orchard
produces far more fruit than the two of us can ever consume.
Lovely in conserves and pickles - and you can make damson gin if so minded.
From Malvern we are headed north-west for a fix of National Trust – in particular Brockhampton in Herefordshire.  At the heart of this 687-hectare (1,700-acre) farmed estate lies a romantic timber-framed manor house dating back to the late 14th century and surrounded by a moat. There are miles of walks through the park and woodland, featuring ancient trees and home to a rich variety of wildlife, along with historic farming breeds such as Hereford cattle and Ryeland sheep. That aside, it’s the damson blossom I want to see, in this county renowned for its fruit – and once-prolific damson hedgerows. Such a useful fruit, and one that deserves to be better known, and more widely planted. Discover more here.

Stop Press: Dobies mailing list subscribers should have just received  a copy of their Spring 2012 Best Value Plant Catalogue which is full of beguiling flowers and vegetables, supplied in a variety of sizes: Easiplants, Garden Ready Plants, Pot Ready Plants, Potted Plants and Veg Plug Plants – pages with Summer in full swing. See you again next week: here's hoping for reasonable weather, though we may be in for a period of Spring showers.

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