As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve been following Forest Garden Wales’ course on designing a backyard forest garden. The latest section that I’ve been working through looks at protection – for example, from wind, cold, and predators. Jake, who takes an ecosystems view, points out that this includes protecting the wildlife that are interdependent with the garden. A simple log pile and a bee house are now on my wish list.
Our plot is already well sheltered from wind by natural hedgerows and trees. During a recent cold snap, I protected the beds using the simple expedient of draping horticultural fleece loosely over the top. I’m delighted that underneath this blanket, seedlings have germinated and are now standing proudly in their rows.
Thinking about protection from predators, I had already spotted a squirrel digging in someone else’s raised beds, and I took the precaution of protecting the young pignut plant with a couple of pieces of firm mesh (not netting, as wildlife get tangled up in it).
Then last week, when we went to visit the plot, we saw this:
Pretty substantial digging.
What immediately sprang to mind was
If it is indeed badgers who did the digging, do they like root crops? Of course they do, says Google. I did a bit more research, and read about chain link fences sunk several feet into the ground, before I remembered that there is no point getting into a fight. I love wildlife, and if we have badgers, then that is a privilege and the plot needs to be designed with them in mind. As Anni Kelsey says in her beautiful book The Garden of Equal Delights, it is time that we learned to welcome the wild into our gardens. If we give up persecuting, fighting and controlling them, they become welcome participants in our forest garden system, playing useful roles that we might not immediately recognise. So instead of fighting them, I’m going to learn as much as I can about them.
An immediate piece of useful advice came from an allotment forum, where one grower suggested planting onions with root crops to mask the smell. So a very simple change that I can make to my plans is to grow the onion crops around the edges, and put the roots in the centre. I’ll give this a go, and if we end up with badgers rootling through our boxes, then I’ll just grow greens on the plot and roots in the garden. Either way, the badgers are welcome. They are doing a pretty good job of digging up the bindweed and couch grass roots for a start. This may help me to establish more diverse vegetation in my meadow-paths. So, on the whole, I’m rooting for them.