When we first moved to our property 4 1/2 years ago the lawn had been mowed regularly, and edges trimmed. Walking around the first spring we found a few wild black raspberry plants that yielded a taste or two, but not much. This year we have been picking black raspberries 6 quarts at a time every couple of days from wild patches. So, what happened in between? A little bit of “nurturing” and a lot of neglect. Basically I assert that by keeping some “wild” edges and un-mowed spaces near the house we’ve created some prime habitat for one of my favorite edible crops that requires no work, expect for harvest. In some of the patches the nurturing has involved a little more than that. We have cleared around some berry patches to allow them to grow and helped keep them upright with fencing. One particularly large fruiting plant was found growing out of the side of a honeysuckle bush by chance. The fruit is the size of a domesticated raspberry, much bigger than your average black raspberry. So, we cut down the honeysuckle which takes over the wild edges around here and is not edible. In order to try to prevent the honeysuckle from suckering we covered it with thick cardboard, then piled a bunch of logs and wood pieces that were laying around on top. The big fruited plant had bent over and rooted where it touched the ground in several places, so we were able to cut them and make more plants in a supported row.
When I look at all of the wild berry bushes that have grown and flourished, this common theme of a pile of logs or an old stump nearby prevails. Berries seem to love rotting wood and the moisture and fungal associates that is brings.
So, we have done a little nurturing to our most productive bushes in the forms of tying up, adding some manure, and wood piles. There are a couple of spots that we have done nothing to except not kill them, and they are doing great too. I think this is the key to developing an edible landscape working with what comes naturally in the landscape.
Some areas in our fields have patches of wild blueberries. We have done nothing to these except, let them grow. We thought they probably indicated a good spot to plant domesticated blueberries and have planted around them. Generally they are too tedious to pick lots of, but they are good for a nibble.
There are many other useful plants in our hedge rows and infrequently mowed fields. The Choke Cherries and Hawthorns flourish more each year, and plentiful blooms of Yarrow, St. Johnswort, Valerian and Clover support local pollinators and offer medicine for the picking. Nature is plentiful! Let’s hear it for the messy yard.