As I think I mentioned a while ago, shortly after we moved into Symbolic Towers we noticed a vinelike plant spreading itself rapidly over the garden trellis. None there at all when we moved in, but within a couple of months the trellis was covered. Bindweed. It seems to be endemic in this part of Bristol: you can’t go anywhere this time of year without seeing its foliage and its white trumpets clogging up fences and doing their best to strangle other plants, particularly in semi-wild areas like the edges of railway lines. We’ve spent a lot of time tracing every stalk, and digging up every little bit of bindweek rhizome we could find; carefully, like archaeologists, to make sure we didn’t break the rhizomes up or leave fragments behind. It has mostly worked: a few stems have come back, but only a few, none of them very strong. On those, we tried a method we heard on Gardeners’ Question Time: singing and blackening the leaves. It worked, too, sort of, although (of course) not as effectively as physical removal.
I was aware, of course, that things could have been far, far worse. Moreover, I was reminded by a news story K came across, about Japanese knotweed. It reminded me of the advice I read in (I think) an Alys Fowler book: if you have knotweed, move house. There are knotweed-infested places in Bristol – Arno’s Vale cemetery, for one, and some parts of the riverbank in St Philips – and, if we visit any, we are always extremely careful not to go near the stuff. Over-careful, maybe, but it’s not something we could exactly risk.
When we moved into Symbolic Towers, back in the summer of 2010, we were both novice gardeners. We were moving from a flat with a tiny little spit of decking in front of the living room, generally overtaken by brambles, so one of the things on the house-buying shopping list was: a garden that wouldn’t overwhelm us. Something that would give us some outside space we could use, but nothing that would need too much work to look after. We found: a little square of garden, almost all decked over, with a strip of bedding and a newly-erected trellis along the back.
For the first 10 months after moving in, we did practically nothing to the garden, other than try to dig up the bindweed which quickly started poking itself up through the back bed. When spring came around, though, we decided it was time we started gardening. Time we started to make something of it.
Neither of us had ever designed a garden before, but we came up with a few basic principles.
- Our garden should be primarily an edible one; if we’re going to put all that work it, we wanted to get something to eat at the end of it.
- Above that, though, it should be organic and wildlife-friendly, up to the point that said wildlife start trying to eat the produce.
- “Wildlife” also does not extend to the cats from down the street who see the back bed and think “litter tray!”
- Pulling all that decking up would be far too much work. So our garden will be a container-based garden. Which does mean, for one thing, that if we decide we’ve planted things in the wrong places, we can move them all around later.
- We’d already discovered that the bed was full of bindweed rhizomes; digging those up, we discovered it was also full of broken glass and leylandii roots. So, for the first year, container gardening would be the thing, whilst we also dug up the bed completely, got rid of all the glass, bindweed, and lumps of coal, and put the soil back again.
That was back in April, nearly 5 months ago, and our embryo container garden has come a long way: potatoes, beans and various herbs all harvested, flowers bloomed and died, and our plans for next year’s season already starting to be formulated. I decided to start writing a blog about it for, well, several reasons. The main blog has been a bit moribund lately, and I thought having a well-defined topic might spur me into writing more. Moreover, I thought this blog could become something of a garden diary, helping us remember when we’d planted what, how long different plants had taken to develop, and compare things year-to-year. And, if nothing else, it can be a place for us to keep and discuss plans and ideas for future growth. It’s an extension of the original blog, and hopefully the name isn’t too confusing; our little patch of containers is very unlike a forest garden.
I’ll post again soon, with more introduction: a bit more about the situation and conditions we have to play with. For now, though, here’s a picture which, compared with the one above, shows how far we’ve managed to get in less than half a year.