Have you heard of Loani Prior? You must have. You know, Loani Prior the tea cosy lady – the Australian woman who's taken the knitting world by storm and lifted tea cosy creations to new heights. Her patterns are simply wild but the thing I love most about her is that, when it comes to passions, 'excess' just doesn't feature in her vocabulary. In fact, in her latest tea cosy book, she insists that her devotees learn to say, "I can never have too much wool, I can never have too much wool."
Loani is very much in my mind this week, and not just because I'm busy knitting her crazy tea cosies. The thing is (and this is where I have to hold my breath and smile at the same time) I have just created my twenty-first raised bed. Yes, you heard me. I now have twenty-one raised culinary garden beds and, what's more, I'm not apologising to anyone. In fact, I'm marching around my garden paths saying over and over again, "I can never have too many raised beds, I can never have too many raised beds."
You see, having this many raised beds is entirely manageable because several of them, including the latest which is for acid-free rhubarb, are perennial gardens. Perennials are those gems of plants which don't give up the ghost at the end of a season as annual plants do, they just keep on keeping on and produce again next season without your having to resow or replant them.
If you lead a busy lifestyle and think you don't have time for food-gardening, give perennials beds a go. Whether they're built to hold gooseberries, tayberries, blue berries, ugni, currants, strawberries, rhubarb, globe or Jerusalem artichokes, herbs, or strawberries, or even New Zealand spinach, these productive little patches will demand virtually nothing of you once they are built and their plants in place. The more diligent gardener will want to attend to simple once-a-year tasks such as pulling runners off strawberries, pruning currents and goosies, and cutting back herbs and artichokes, but apart from that and the occasional dose of your chosen fertilizer, you're sitting back laughing. Even the weeding is non-existent if you mulch heavily. And the produce from perennials is virtually guaranteed, especially if you care to throw a net over ripening berries.
If you haven't already started a perennial raised bed (or another one!), now is the time to do it because most perennials like to be shifted or planted during autumn and winter, ready to start their growth in the coming spring. If your purse is stretched, start with perennials that can be cadged from family and friends or bought cheaply at market days. If you have little time, make the raised bed a no-dig one. And if you have a tea pot that's feeling the autumn chill, I thoroughly recommend Loani Prior's "More Wild Tea Cosies" .