If you’re all worn out from Christmas and New Year celebrations, you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s not much to do at this time of year in the garden, unless you want to plant shrubs and trees. Winter is the ideal time to do just that. Mark Diacono (who some of you may be familiar with from Otter Farm, River Cottage, and his articles in the Daily Telegraph) has some interesting suggestions for planting an edible hedge. Mixed fruit and nut bushes which grow well together not only provide you with food but also attract wildlife. He suggests mixing hazel, elder, Rosa rugosa (the big old-fashioned rose which grows wild in Denmark), sloe, blackberry, Autumn olive(!) jostaberry and chokeberry. Make sure you space them well and keep them well mulched. You could also include bay and quince.
If your sunny boundary is fenced, you could also consider growing espalier fruits such as apples, pears, figs, thornless blackberries or quince. My aunt, who lived in the Lake District, used to have a peach tree on her back garden wall because it was so sheltered. I remember eating one so it did produce fruit.
Mark Diacono’s website is worth a visit. His smallholding is also known as ‘Climate Change Farm’ now because of all the exotic fruits he is able to grow. He’s based in Devon, but the climate isn’t that different here. Otter Farm also has an on-line shop, so if you think its a good idea to place a group order, let me know in the comments. (I’m particularly interested in the wandering onions!) His paragraph on edible hedges is to be found by clicking on ‘otter-farm’ and scrolling down. He did a much bigger article on the subject in the gardening section of the Saturday Telegraph recently.
What you plan to grow depends on what you like to eat, how much time you have, and the aspect of your garden. It’s no bad thing to experiment though. Think outside the box. Good luck! And please let us know how you get on in the comments below.