Wednesday, 30 November 2016

the enduring spell cast by Lawrence Hills...

Dad's shed stands at the end of what will be the fruit garden.
The days of autumn and winter both close chapters on the year and provide opportunities for new beginnings. This is one of the joys of gardening and what makes it special. Gardeners are always looking forward to the next season and planning for it.
Readers of this blog may remember that Lawrence Hills (the doyen of organic gardening and founder of Garden Organic) cast his spell over me in 1978. Always interested in gardening, my passion for growing organic fruit and vegetables was fired by the great man. Organic food seemed an almost impossible ideal all those years ago when even wholemeal flour and free range eggs were largely unavailable. I am pleased that we were able to demonstrate to ourselves over thirteen years of allotment holding that Hills' ideas were sound.
The way we were - our allotment
The hiatus in which we built our eco-home and began developing our Cordwood gardens took us away from vegetable and fruit growing for too long. And has seemed an age since I felt that unique, primal connection with the soil and growing ones own food that I am beginning to re-engage with again now.

We began to develop our vegetable and fruit gardens in the summer, digging over ground that had been used to raise perennial plants. Ours is a sandy soil and the digging was not as arduous as that of turning clay. Neither was the ground too infested with perennial weeds - we had covered the soil with black plastic as a highly-effective means of organically killing weeds.

Over the succeeding months, the four sections of the vegetable garden emerged, compost and well-rotted manure were added and wood chipped paths were created around each 1200mm (4') wide bed. There can be little as low in food miles as walking down the garden path to collect fresh vegetables. Our choice is limited at the moment, but leeks are currently featuring heavily in our cuisine. 

wildlife plays a key part in organic gardening
This month we sited dad's old garden shed at the end of what will be the fruit bed and are now within two metres of completing ground preparations for the final section of the garden. The shed will provide necessary space for storing the growing and diverse collection of garden tools I am acquiring. Summer and autumn-fruiting raspberries, four varieties of rhubarb, blueberries, redcurrant and blackcurrants are all ready in pots waiting for planting. A thornless blackberry will be purchased in the New Year.

Within, and necessary to all the fruit and fertility, the compost bins, leaf compounds and comfrey are the needs of wildlife: so ponds, insect hotels and flowering plants will be integral. They will play a vital role in the organic control of pests.

And although I now understand that Hills may have been more of a writer and thinker than a practical gardener, I still feel his hand on my shoulder gently guiding me. My hope is that in 2017 we will have created a model organic fruit and vegetable garden that will do justice to his immense legacy.

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