In permaculture, it is said, everything gardens. In many senses, the whole of Croft Farm is a garden. In that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, a living great wholeness emerges from the complementarity of the parts. Croft Farm is portioned to intersperse gardens with other spaces for tending life. Our farm subserves the wisdom of place.
This polyculture of plant and animal life is guided by, mimics, and participates in, natural ecology. Life abounds within and beyond our fences. To nourish spirits as much as bodies, Croft Farm consciously joins and weaves human and environmental needs.
An English Cottage Garden…
Honouring cottage heritage would be incomplete without a cottage garden. In the consciousness of permaculture, our flower and foliage gardens are comprised primarily of perennial and native plants. Cottage gardens, while ageless, were a 19th century reaction to the advent of expansive lawns and gardens of annual flowers. Our cottage garden plants are selected for their seasonal show, as well as for the uses they can have. From culinary to medicinal, those nourishing and restorative, and plants to attract beneficials and deter harm, our cottage garden is an array of colours and textures, as well as of functions, all the year round. We make a place for walking and just sitting, for the birds and bees and butterflies, and as a constant greeting to visitors and passers-by.
A Kitchen Garden…
This is where our kitchen grows. First and foremost, we raise vegetables and fruits to feed ourselves. While we do feed our friends, and neighbours, our animals, and nature, and may market some produce at our gate, ours is never, primarily, a market garden. Our kitchen garden is a demonstration of growing a variety of produce for one’s own kitchen.
As with the whole of Croft Farm, the kitchen garden is portioned to include trees and native plants, with pathways about raised box beds, mounded beds, and hugelkultur beds. The latter include composting logs and lumber which nourish the soil and retain moisture while increasing growing surface. There is a glasshouse to allow us to grow heat-loving plants in our more temperate climate.
Companion herbs and flowers grow throughout the kitchen garden. Moreover, all about the beds, and selectively in the beds, ‘weeds’ grow freely. There are berry patches for blueberries, currants, and raspberries, in addition to a strawberry bed. Grapes and kiwi vines climb over trellises and fences. There are semi-dwarf and dwarf fruit trees, including apples (more than a dozen varieties), pears, cherries, plums, and figs. There are hazelnut shrubs to provide both nuts and regular coppicing for wood (pollarding).
And, our ducks live in the kitchen garden, the resident bug control patrol.
A Forest Garden…
Though the word ‘forest’ is used to name most any wooded area (and some woodless), the origin of the word belies how we have thought of forests as ‘outside’ of human habitation, albeit within the domain of our control. A forest, if we think about it, is not outside of any living thing, nor ultimately within human control. Croft Farm is in the forest and the forest is in Croft Farm.
If indeed ‘everything gardens’, the natural model for growing anything is how life grows in the wild. Nature wants to be a forest. We observe and nature reveals the natural ways to grow our food. Croft Farm patterns itself with the energies winding in and through this acre in the woods. Keeping native plants (aka ‘weeds’) assures the balance of ecology. Balanced ecology is our pest control. Everything that grows on Croft Farm is inter-connected with, and mutually supportive of, everything else.
In short, the forest provides soil and shelter; the animals and plants make manure and compost; these feed and become the soil; plants accumulate soil; the soil feeds the plants; plants feed the animals, and plants and animals feed us…and the forest…and the earth.
Croft Farm, as a forest garden, returns us the unity of nature.