I’ve discovered another advantage to forest gardening. If you’re planning to do yourself an injury, it’s much better to have a forest garden than an annual vegetable patch. I wasn’t actually planning to incapacitate myself, but I made a pretty good job of it all the same. A couple of months ago I was hospitalised with what an MRI scan revealed to be a herniated (‘slipped’) disc in my spine. Since then my ability to garden has been limited.
I have two parts to my allotment, and the difference between them has been striking. One half is annual veg beds. Most of the beds had been dug and I had sown a few things by the time of my injury. By the time I got back down to the garden, the weeds had utterly run riot. The sown vegetables where nowhere to be seen. I have had a few pickings, but only because years of allowing self seeding has meant that a lot of my ‘weeds’ are actually edible, such as mustard greens, coriander, leaf beet and mallow leaves. Another major component of my weed bank is Phacelia tanacetifolia, a green manure with beautiful lilac flowers. The bees were having a ball on these so I have simply left them to it.
The other half of my allotment is the forest garden, which was a completely different story. It’s like the difference between having a dog and a cat. Where the annual veg had major abandonment issues, the forest garden barely seemed to have noticed that I had been gone. The lack of space for weeds meant that there hardly were any. The crop plants had mostly just grown bigger. I had missed a few harvests, such as the hostas, the udo, the Turkish rocket and the remainder of the wild garlic, but of course this only left the plants stronger.
As I’ve written before, forest gardening doesn’t necessarily save work, but it does shift the burden from time-critical tasks to ones that can be done at any time. Just now, I’m really appreciating that.