An Experimental Gardening Year
Have you ever thought of developing an experimental garden?
Thinking out of the seed tray.
I hadn’t planned on it, but that’s kind of the point. Last year the garden was all about growing food, anything would do just as long as it was successful. Really I just wanted to learn how to grow something, and after only five months the hard work was rewarded, as you can see here.
This year however started with a pond and the desire to encourage more wildlife into the garden. This more holistic approach to gardening, would in turn counterbalance the abundance of caterpillars on the brassicas I thought. Although in truth, I haven’t actually planted any cabbages or broccoli this year.
And so began the thoughts of experimenting with the garden, rather than going all out to farm what limited space I have.
Wild Gardening Thoughts
After the pond I wanted to increase the variety of flowers, as most were planted for spring and as lovely as they are, most had past their best by May. I had begun the collection last autumn with the spring flowering bulbs but hadn’t thought much beyond that really. The plan was simple, I have no budget whatsoever for a major or minor garden makeover, so anything I choose to buy has to be cheap. Even my Hosta Shakespeare purchased from Beth Chatto Garden nursery was a bargain.
Researching Plants and Flowers
Problem is, I had already been seduced by the idea of plant collecting. The accounts of explorers, travelling to the four corners of the Earth, in search of a new trees and flowers were captivating, especially when some poor soul disappeared up the Congo never to be seen or heard of again. Turns out it’s still happening today, collecting, not disappearing, but as a concern for global warming as it threatens biodiversity everywhere.
Desire comes at a price however. So like a child in a sweet shop, with no money, I could only look on and breath in the unobtainable scent, and feast my eyes. A visit to Kew Gardens would have to suffice and a visit to the newly refurbished Temperate House.
My horticultural mini-world tour
So what did I learn from our visit to Kew Gardens? Plants are of course amazing creatures. Experience is everything. Don’t think you can do it all and take… your… time. Read up, plan, and watch. Know your plants and know your soil. The attention to detail at Kew is inspiring. Oh, and be adventurous of course. I did not leave dismayed at my ignorance or lack of experience, quite the opposite. I walked out of the gate almost at closing time with my best friend, my wife, determined to return. She hadn’t got her posh ice-cream and I had only seen about a fifth of the grounds after spending hours there, so we still had unfinished business at Kew.
Top tip for a day out visiting Kew Gardens
Bring a picnic and a bottle of water. There is a Tesco store and a few small shops on route from the tube station to the garden gate, AND there’s a bottle refilling fountain by the cafe inside the grounds. So don’t bin that bottle.
Back to my small space garden in Essex
My experimental garden is now my very own research and development plot. I may not have a big old fashioned greenhouse, but I do now have a Hosta of impeccable provenance and a PH soil tester (at last). But more importantly, I have curiosity, passion and patience.
My three steps to experimental gardening, or ‘Trying Things Out’.
1/ Read obscure books about the history of gardening, gardening diarists, almanacs, poetry and art. From Charles Darwin to Derek Jarman. Devour it all. Not for the teachings of professionals, but to come to terms with a life time that you are about to dedicate to your experiments and passion for gardening. The transformations you will experience in your convictions and desires will unfold as you learn, they certainly are for me.
2/ Whilst reading, plant stuff to see what happens. Vedge, Flowers, herbs, trees, bushes and ferns. It’s important to get the garden planted. You can do all the tests you like in time, but you’ll only really get to understand your garden and it’s wildlife once you’ve planted it for two or three seasons. So the sooner you get going the better. It is said that the hardest part of any journey is the first step after all.
My experiments may be a little haphazard, planting a variety of flower seeds in-between the vedge, cutting away at the lawn to make a shaded woodland planting area (Hosta) and carving out eclectic boarders, growing the same veg in pots as in the raised beds to compare, training blackberry vines over the shed and Sweet Peas up the blackberries, the list goes on. That may have to be my next step I guess. To get a proper list together to share with you, and a map.
Until next time
Keep it Green folks