In the corner of my front garden there suddenly has appeared a small cluster of sunflower seedlings. These have been seeded by our enthusiastic feeding of the birds over springtime, there is nothing like a flock of enthusiastic birds to warm the heart after a lonely year.
I have decided to keep the Sunflowers and watch them emerge and in that decision have allocated the whole corner of the garden to a wild space all birds, weeds and seeds.
I am halfway through the wonderful Wilding by Isabella Tree and it’s definitely a conundrum in a world where we need land to support so many people to make the decision to keep things wild though the rewards are potentially infinite. And possibly essential.
One thing I know is that, for me, as I suspect is the case with many if not most of us. Wild brings with it an element of hope. To feel part of or witness to something thriving and self perpetuating, beyond our management is a tonic to us. For that reason alone it is enough motivation to let some parts of your land become just a little bit more of itself.
I have been lucky to have read a fascinating book lately: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haight I would recommend it just to bring into question some of our sacred but flawed beliefs such as everything we do is well considered or beliefs are unchangeable.
The Righteous Mind brings asserts that almost none of our rational thoughts are founded on a logical basis. Instead we have instinct steering in most cases – he calls our elephant – meaning the majority of our will and likes are attached to that – and the rational mind left over us mainly used to back up these hunches which are shaped by conditioning, experience and culture.
I automatically thought about this with regard to our immediate judgements when it comes to gardens and nature. An uncultivated wild area – if you could possibly find one these days – could be beautiful but hostile to human needs and it would make sense that we would have an automatic wariness. An overly managed garden is labour intensive and can often use toxic chemicals so it would make sense that it may not feed certain aspects of our psyche though it could appeal for culturally learned asthetic reasons and an indicator of status and hard work.
Jonathan Haight found that as humans – who are by nature reliant on other humans and always belonging to landscape and community in one way or another, it is an automatic reflex to be wary of things that do not benefit wellbeing such as obvious lack of care or neglect. Nature itself is not neglectful but a garden gone wild can need a large amount of coaxing to let humans reestablish their activity there.
Education and gradual friendly change is more way effective than division. As a gardener a common thing that people want from you at any one time is whatever is culturally acceptable – this may just be a lack of mess and more order. It may be something impressive but energy draining. It is better to build bridges by getting up close and personal with increased beauty and another idea of order if possible and there are usually many more alternatives when defenses are relaxed.
Acceptance is built into our social nervous system and if we see a large clump of dandelions which has been built up in the collective to signify neglect rather than natural abundance it can trigger a reaction before we even know what it is or why we find it distressing.
Human beings love, understandably, pockets of intelligent design that provide us with material sustainence, manageability and security so it is not all or nothing. Ideally it would be a meeting halfway – a collaboration and a relationship.
Switching over to a more edible and wildlife informed approach to your garden needn’t be all encompassing or daunting and it can be gradual and subtle if you are renting or are undecided about appearance over production.
Fruit bushes are one example of an all round beneficial plant that also don’t look out of place in a normal flower bed. They do spread so aren’t trouble free but are fairly low maintenance and provide food for humans and birds alike. Protect what you want yourself. But leave a sacrifical plant or two – having birds in the garden is enriching and contributes to a healthy food web. If you have a lot of bushes it won’t be necessary.
While digging in the fruit I was surprised, that I hadn’t done this a lot sooner. We tend to have an abundance of wild raspberry patches around so it didn’t feel pressing but it feels exciting to increase all levels of benefit, fill up the beds. and increase yield.
We ended up with a huge amount of canes that were easy to transplant.
Raspberries are an fruit and the leaves make a vitamin c, iron enriched brew that is protective and nutritious. There are many varieties some fruit in Summer and some in Autumn so do check out what variety you have to know when to cut back and harvest ( though the birds will give you a good clue with that one)
Propogating raspberry canes is best done after they fruit – they spread enthusiastically so it will be easy to take a few from any well established area – ask someone you know that has a few raspberry they are likely to be happy to donate some canes.
Cut the canes with a sharp knife in one clean slice, place in water with a touch of rooting formula and when they root place them in soil until you have somewhere to plant them.
Make sure you keep a couple of healthy leaf nodules – no more than three ideally to mazimise energy going to them.
Fruit bushes in the flower beds are such a great option for people who may be renting, or using shared gardens or unsure about their longer term commitments. If you have community spaces that could accomodate that is also an option.