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February 22, 2012

My Gardening Gurus – Anna, Sepp and Phil

by Val Reynolds

Growing Food Anna Pavord

One of winter’s best features is having the excuse to sit down with a good book. And Anna Pavord, my favourite gardening guru, published Growing Food last year and it is always going to be on the bookshelf to dip into from time to time.

Anna describes different planting plans, one such is the Exuberant Potager, where she mixes flowering plants to complement the vegetables. Here she advocates areas with different plant mixes:

  • nasturtiums, beans and squash
  • lettuce, onions with eschscholtzia
  • carrots, beetroot with marigolds, among others

In fact, a bit like my planting which is very mixed, but not so well thought out. I’m working on a plan to incorporate her ideas.

Other plans include a formal herb garden, a Mediterranean garden, a city larder for a small balcony, cottage garden, salad and herb plot, a vegetable patchwork, traditional kitchen garden, an alcholic hedge (!), and a formal fruit garden. All the plans illustrated with delightful drawings, much in the style of the Dorothy Hartley books of yesteryear. The plans are easily adapted to suitable most plots, with a bit of artistic licence. Anna is such a respected gardener, she has had a hellebore named after her, Anna’s Red.

The ‘cunning plan’ of last November was to clear all the plants from most of the beds in the back garden and cover with leaves and horse manure. The leaves to provide an airy protective covering and eventually be taken down into the earth by the worms, with the manure holding the leaves down so they don’t fly around the garden. This mulching also ensures the bluebells, that have grown in large patches and grow between and through plants, come through the leaves and can be seen and easily dug up. Well as I said, that was the plan and it has worked reasonably well, although I think some bluebells have been missed, again, so probably next year will see me digging more up. We replanted them on the periphery of the garden and down a grassy drive beside our house.

Mulching is big in Sepp Holzer’s activities in his property in Austria. Famous for his permaculture philosophy and practices, Sepp is so down to earth and practical, it is a joy to read his book. There are web pages you can read and also videos. He writes about using pigs to clear ground before planting – so similar to Phil Drabble‘s experiences I read about many years ago.

Phil Drabble's bookBoth inspirational men. I would love to meet Sepp and talk gardens, sadly Phil died in 2007 at the age of 93.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

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