Ground Control June 30, 2016 13:00
When we bought our property ten years ago we inherited a beautiful if rather neglected garden, with vast tracts of ground elder included. In the early days we weren’t as purist as we are now, and would happily spray the ground elder away, but that is no longer a practise we are comfortable with. The fact that the area we needed to clear runs along the banks of the River Marden made it even more important that the methods used to clear the ground elder were truly organic.
My husband Ed happened to listen to a Gardener’s Question Time discussion on the ban of weedkillers, and the solution presented itself – pigs. Never one to turn down the opportunity of more animals, I went straight round the corner to Buttle Farm, to ask if we could borrow some pigs. The Buttles’ rare breed Berkshire sow ‘Eyelashes’ was in pig, and due to give birth (or farrow) the following week. We got the call, and visited the seven newborn piglets the next day. Eight weeks later we took delivery of the three sows, duly named Daisy, Dandelion and Delilah, who were ready to be weaned.
A pig ark, electric fencing and troughs were installed, but to start with the piglets were more interested by their pig nuts than they were by the tasty looking shoots of ground elder emerging from the ground. However they are now doing a great job of rooting up all the plants, and creating one enormous fertilised mudbath.
Stella Rankin of Kevock Garden Plants is following the progress of the plot, and we are looking forward to another visit from her next year to choose our final selection of Candelabra Primulas (her stand won a gold medal at RHS Chelsea again this year). These bright, beautiful moisture-loving plants should thrive along the boggy banks of the river, and I am very excited about offering them as a cut flower. The only question will be where to put the pigs – which may not be quite so appealing as pets when they reach their full weight of 170kg! Thankfully Buttle Farm is willing to take them back to breed from.