There's no denying that a blog about growing edible plants is likely to become more about contemplation than action through the winter months. Having moved into a new home in November the seasonal hiatus has been a perfect opportunity to observe the bare bones of the garden, even if the unusually mild weather so far has kept many plants greener than they would be normally. So instead of leaping into planting and sowing as I might have been tempted into doing had we moved in earlier in the year, I now have to consider what I would like to grow and where without the immediate pressure of having to get on with it.
Reading around the subject of growing edible and useful plants, one book has been a real source of inspiration and advice. Ken Fern's 'Plants for a Future' approaches food production in a sustainable and intelligent way. In what is essentially a list of plants with descriptions of how they can be used, he manages to convey the beauty and potential fecundity of forest gardening as a basis for growing our food.
I only have a small area to grow in, although I am very grateful for it having moved from a flat with no garden, but I am hoping to fill it with some of the perennial plants that Ken Fern discusses, as well as plenty of herbs and a few annuals to fill in the gaps. By filling my flower-beds with edible perennials in a system of layers with its basis in the layered growth of a woodland ecosystem, I hope to have lots of tasty leaves, fruits and so on throughout the year without the need to repeatedly dig, till, sow and protect seedlings as I would with more traditional vegetables. Although I can't experiment with forest gardening on any sort of scale approaching that of an actual woodland, I'm hoping to find out a little about what works and what doesn't with the space I have.
In my next post I'll write about some of the plants I'm keen to grow - old favourites and new discoveries.