This is a brief visual update on what’s happening with parts of the garden, with the main focus being vegetables (versus, for example, the orchard). Followed by, of course, my 2 cents’ worth 😉

First, a reminder of what this area looked like two years ago:

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And the adjacent area one year ago:

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Then after a bit of this ‘n that:

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And quite a few more steps later you get this:

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To some it may seem a bit of a mess, but everything has its place within the greater totality of things  (a totality we try to observe and align ourselves to). For example, the wood piles may not tick boxes for those with orthodox aesthetic views, but the piles are great for wildlife and serve several other purposes – walls and windbreaks, growing area for plants, long-term fertility as the carbon decomposes under the manure that has been thrown on top; etc. And in less than 18 months, the woodpiles have gradually been covered by pioneers – mainly nasturtium in the pictures, but a different creeper also does fantastically on them, and this all makes them more appealing to the orthodox eye. In 2 more years, the woodpiles will be large but smooth mounds of compost hidden by all sorts of plants and vegetables, providing nooks and crannies for wildlife, storing energy by way of nutrients and moisture. No doubt by 5 years the piles will be earth mounds out of which trees and bushes grow, under which vegetables self-seed.

Note the wide variety of plants and vegetables working together as companions. No chemicals have been used (as a rule) nor needed to be used because pests are mainly manageable – they tend to be focused on one or two plants that are usually last season’s annuals and should have been pulled but but were given mercy in a moment of unjustified optimism: annuals should be pulled when they are done fruiting. But once pulled, they go into the compost and re-enter the fertility cycle from whence they came: compost to compost; earth to earth; life to life.

Okay, yes, there have been times when aphids did cause Emma to lose her usual outdoor optimism – she is after all the main gardener – but again these spread because of last season’s anachronistic annuals (as explained above). The past 3 months have been aphid-free; the only pest issue has been, well, whatever has accessed the sweet potatoes from underground, presumably moles. I am sure that this too will be a problem for which we eventually have time to find a solution.

Notably, Damian is having a fruit-fly issue this week: they are hatching in his baby marrows (courgettes). However, the cause seems to me to be the tonne (literally) of fresh horse-manure and wood-chip mix that has been spread throughout his orchard and growing area. Expect pest issues when using fresh organic matter. But as time passes, as the organic matter becomes compost, the pests are no longer attracted to the area. We are seeing this more and more to be the case, which is not to say that we will not add some aged manure in various places shortly before topping with compost; as the garden becomes more of an entity constituted by various cooperating parts working synergistically, fewer will be the ‘pest’ problems, and where there are bugs eating things, it will be an appropriate part of the functioning of the overall natural system. Already, this is how I feel about our past ‘pest’ issues: not a problem! Sure, I say this from the perspective of one who has spent more time making the garden beds and then disappearing into miscellaneous building projects and chores etc. etc., while Emma is the one who has spent more time and energy facilitating the existence of the occasional vegetable that is taken out by ‘pests’. But I knew it intuitively when it occurred more frequently last year – ‘early days; not a problem; part of the process; give it time’. Oh, and let me add: those baby-marrows with a few fruit flies hatching from them – well, the baby flies emerge from one minuscule area that can be cut away, leaving 90% of the marrow completely fine for consumption.

I have focused entirely too much on the ‘pest’ aspect, despite the fact that currently we have no pest issues!!! So let me conclude by saying that the proof is in the pudding: we are eating very fresh, chemical-free vegetables from the gardens daily; our health is excellent; our food bills are manageable, even for part-time employees; and the garden/plot-time is incredibly therapeutic (unless you get a bit OCD about finishing a project by a self-imposed deadline, like I do, but that’s not the case with the gardens). ALL of our organic waste goes into the compost (albeit in a very controlled and systematic manner) so the fertility process here is a loop rather than linear – with the exception of several bags of horse manure that we bring in from 1 km down the road. So all that said, let me end abruptly and go take a refreshing garden-stroll…