Life is all about relationships. So is gardening. Plants, humans, animals, the earth and the elements are all interconnected in a complex web, each component playing its own crucial role in its success. This is the principle of permaculture. It's common sense really, but somehow over the years, we seem to have lost sight of what this is, eschewing the natural way of gardening for an easier option which is overly reliant on chemicals.
You may already know that plants need nitrogen to grow, but did you know that pea and bean plants draw nitrogen into the earth? The technical term for this is nitrogen fixing, but in essence, it means that if you plant peas and beans near other vegetables, they will act as a natural plant food, preventing the need for sprays and other artificial products. Something I will definitely keep in mind when planting next year’s vegetables.
I learnt last week that digging destroys the life in soil that worms have so kindly helped create. Apparently, when planting, we should dig a hole disrupting the bare minimum, followed by watering and mulching. I’d heard of mulching, but never really understood just how important is it to gardening. It is essentially a protective covering, usually of leaves or peat, preventing the evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and the growth of weeds. This year, my xmas gift to my plants will be a warm, comfy layer of mulch!!
I’m very quickly learning that permaculture is not just a sustainable way of gardening, but it is a regenerative way of gardening, creating conditions to enable long-term growth and fertility. According to our course leader Simon, a soaking of water followed by some mulching, is a bowl of chicken soup for the earth. So, next time you're in the garden, give your plants some love and a warming bowl of chicken soup for the soul!
Kari-ann Whitbread is the Fundraising Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust.