The view of my edible garden (from my bedroom window), on the last day of October
The last of my bean and courgette/squash harvest (supervised by Floss)
I mulched the raised bed left empty after the last of the squash and courgette harvest with the contents of one of my compost bins.
….and then sowed phacelia as a green manure cover crop/mulch to remain in place until next spring. (The glass jar of marbles and water is an insect water station. I have several of these throughout my garden, as well as being good for insects and birds, they also look pretty. Aesthetics is a big function in my garden design, I love to create beautiful spaces).
A week or so later, phacelia pushing its first leaves through the newly applied compost. (The orange peel is part of my cat deterrent strategy!)
This winter I’m trialing growing leafy plants (kale, chard, oriental greens) and fennel seedlings under bubble wrap. The adjacent south facing stone wall is an additional heat sink to the recycled farm plastic waste raised beds. (My raised beds are from the brilliant British Recycled Plastic in Hebden Bridge)
The baby trees and hardy perennial herbage ground cover plants on the North facing small slope ‘edge’ between the urban meadow and busy main road, are thriving after some autumn rain. This strip has been well mulched with wood chip and leaves for the past two winters and the soil fertility, water storage ability and depth has really improved. I gave several young trees struggling with the drought conditions of the summer a big water in August, but about 90% of the trees have managed without supplementary watering. I intend to add another layer of locally obtained wood chip mulch on top of this autumn’s leaves over the winter.
I’ve been improving and expanding the diverse areas of wildlife (mainly insect) habitat, including leaving about 10% of my urban meadow uncut. Last winter the uncut cow parsley flowers became the home of many ladybirds over the cold months.
Its been great to see how many of the perennial wild flower and grasses seedling plugs I planted directly into the urban meadow in the early spring have established themselves, despite the very dry conditions over the summer. I planted the plugs into small areas of bare earth I had created by killing areas of regular lawn grass with wood chip mulch.
‘My Garden’ zine
I’ve created a zine about my garden, you can buy it from my shop right here
Saltaire Festival has been postponed for two weeks and this means that my ‘Open Garden’ as part of the festival and the My Green Community event by the Permaculture Association has also been postponed. I’ll be posting details of the changed dates here in and on my social media when they are confirmed.
I’m taking part in the ‘Open Gardens & Pop-ups Trail’ event happening over the first weekend of Saltaire Festival in September 2022.
Come and visit my garden in central Saltaire, where I am using permaculture design to create a space where both people and the wildlife we are connected to, can thrive. I’m having a pop-up shop selling cards, prints and zines of some of my permaculture themed illustrations from my kitchen, (accessed through my garden), too.
I will also be doing short online tours of my garden through Instagram live over the weekend - more details about times will be shared closer to the event. You can connect with me on Instagram at @KtShepherdPermaculture
My garden and kitchen are accessible for people using wheelchairs and there are garden benches available to sit on in the garden. Children are very welcome and will need supervising by an adult visiting with them. Dogs on leads are also very welcome and there will be water, (and possible some Scooby snacks!), available for them.
More information about the ‘Open Gardens and Pop-Ups Trail’ can be found in this link. Including the map of the trail
Saturday 10th September 12-4.30pm
Sunday 11th September 12-4.30pm
My open garden and shop event is also part of the ‘My Green Community - a celebration of practical permaculture’ event being organised by Kathryn Baker at the Permaculture Association.
Summer loveliness in my edible garden, (plus sweet peas, beautiful, smell amazing, but not edible), everything seems to have survived the really hot weather last week and without much extra watering thanks to the awesomeness of mulch!
The view of my edible garden from my bedroom window. I’ve been taking a photo of this view at the same time each month for the last three months, in order to observe the changes in a semi- structured way. (See June’s garden blog post)
One of my favourite #fromthegarden dishes - Stuffed courgette flowers, filled with cooked potatoes, broad beans, shredded chard & kale, garlic chives - drizzled with olive oil (not grown by me!) - baked in the oven for about 30 minutes and then garnished with calendula, rocket, borage, nasturtium and coriander flowers.
I have several insect water stations placed at various heights in my garden, marbles, stones and shells provide perches for insects to rest on while they drink, they also look really pretty.
I cut my urban meadow over the space of two weeks, strimming small sections each day so that insects could move into adjacent areas. I left about 20% of the meadow, again in small sections, uncut, so there continues to be food and habitat while the rest of the vegetation grows again. The cuttings were all gathered and removed so that the meadow area soil doesn’t become too fertile which would result in many perennial meadow plants not thriving in future years. I used the cuttings to mulch an area of the meadow border where I have planted willow as a hedge. The willow will out grow any meadow seeds that germinate from the mulch.
I left this area of my urban meadow near to my door, standing as it looks beautiful and hopefully inspirational, for anyone visiting my home.
As I’m typing this The Guardian app on my iPad has informed me that the UK has just recorded its first ever 40 degrees outdoors temperature. Amidst this horrific news and the fact that here in the Aire valley in Yorkshire my garden currently feels like midday in August in Andalusia, my system of mulching the raised beds and pots in my edible garden, gives me hope. Not a lot, but enough.
My infographic above includes some of the main functions of mulching soil. It’s so beneficial and over the last few days it’s capacity to keep water in the soil has been amazing to witness. I’ve been watering gardens belonging to two different friends over the last couple of weeks and the difference in watering needs between their mostly unmulched growing spaces and my own, have been huge.
I’ve been assessing the watering needs of my growing spaces at 5am and 9pm for the last week. Some of the smaller pots have needed watering each day, especially those naturally water vulnerable plants, for example courgettes and young lettuce with their shallow roots. The larger pots have been watered alternate days and the raised beds just once in the last week. In all of these containers the soil just a couple of centimetres below the mulched surface was at least damp at each check. I’ve been especially impressed with the conditions in the raised beds as these are made from the increased heat storage capacity of recycled black plastic.
I’ve used 3 different types of mulch - wood chip, partially composted homemade compost (carbon dense with pine shavings from guinea pig bedding) and plant living mulches. I haven’t been organised enough to do any controlled comparisons about the performance of each one, but in general they all seem to be fairly equally effective.
For information about much larger scale solutions focused work about the water on our planet, I can very much recommend investigative journalist, Judith D Schwartz book, ‘Water in Plain Sight’ - I wrote a review about it here
June 2022 in my wildlife garden has brought some beautiful areas of gradually establishing perennial meadow flowers and grasses in the “lawn”. This project is in its second summer now and the difference between the diversity of plants in this year and last year is huge. (Check out previous blog posts for more planting history). The photo above is of the sunrise last week. I so love sitting in this part of my garden drinking my first cuppa of the day before the rest of the world wakes up.
Ox eye daisies making their first appearance this year.
I plan to do a survey of the plants, (and hopefully insects), in my meadow-lawn just prior to its big summer cut in a few weeks time. Things are just looking so beautiful out there though that I carried out a little practice version a few days ago.
In other news, these walking boots finally wore out to the point of wet feet and no tread left. They’ve been my main outdoor footwear for the last decade or so and have shared some life changing journeys, so its been lovely to find a good use for them as pretty planters next to my front door.
General edible garden magic in June! Things seem to grow rapidly each day and I’m eating lots of different salad, kale and chard leaves, herbs and edible flowers on a daily basis now. One of the raised beds started being planted as a mini forest garden early in spring so I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops. I’m planning on writing a more detailed blog about the various aspects of my edible garden next month.
I harvested my first potatoes of the year a few days ago when I pulled up a rebel potato plant from one of last years potatoes to make room for other growing plants to thrive. They were SO delicious! Potatoes are definitely up there in my top five edible foods to grow!
Early in spring I planted a green manure cover crop, beautiful phacelia, in one of the raised beds that I knew I wouldn’t be planting out in until mid May. I left a few plants around the edges of the bed to flower as pollinators love them.
Last year I planted several comfrey plants (as pollinator attractors, use as a fertiliser in a liquid feed and by mulching other plants with the leaves and as a nutritious biomass addition to my compost system), both in my wild and edible gardens. Its such a great sight to see the numbers of bees feeding on each plant.
At the end of May I started a new project to take a photo of this view of my edible garden, (from my bedroom window), on the same day each month, in order to see its journey through the year.
My edible garden. This is the second growing season using my raised beds system from British Recycled Plastic. One of their many great functions is the solar heat storage of the material making them perfect for seed germination and seedling growing at this time of year when the weather can be so variable.
Not very glamorous at all, but these plastic sacks which I buy pine cat litter in, are the growing space for 2 varieties of potatoes this year. They have been planted in partly composted contents from my home compost system. The sacks will be rolled down and more compost will be added as the potato plants mature.
Overwintered kale and chard. I’ve left the kale to seed because pollinators love the beautiful little yellow flowers. They also look really gorgeous too. The other plants in this bed are broad beans which were started off in small pots and then planted out a couple of weeks ago. Baby pea plants and sweet peas (also started in pots) will be planted out in this bed too over the next week.
This bed is going to be a mini “food forest” (or “forest garden”) - Ive planted a gooseberry bush and raspberry canes (bought online from RV Roger plant centre in Pickering) and just beyond the raised bed is an apple tree on dwarf root stock planted into the ground last year. Spare broad bean plants are in there too as are some perennial onions. I’ll be adding some more low growing (ground cover), plants to this bed over the weeks ahead.
This raised bed along the brilliant south facing stone wall is perfect as a plant nursery! Eventually tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers will be planted out here to make to most of the stored heat and shelter of the wall.
Through the gate in my edible garden is my wildlife garden. Ive been gradually adding a diverse range of perennial meadow/woodland plants into the “lawn” over the last two years and its so good to see more flowers, grasses and herbage get established
Some of the perennials planted as ground cover last winter, underneath baby trees forming a hedge along the main road boundary, are also getting established now too.
I love this time of year in garden design, sowing annual seeds and watching perennials emerge from their winter sleep. Over the May Day bank holiday this year, I’m excited to be welcoming people to walk through my garden as part of my participation in the Saltaire Arts Trail. I’m looking forward to some interesting conversations, (hopefully!), about all things permaculture throughout the event.
I’ve been spending the last few days doing a bit of a review about how my garden designs are going.
I left kale and some chard sown last spring in place over the winter and they are thriving pretty well. I am harvesting some to eat at least once a week. Unfortunately my health wasnt great at the key time for sowing winter crops last year and so seeds never made it into the soil, but alongside these brassicas I have some baby leeks looking small but healthy in a different raised bed.
I’ve also loved sorting out my crazily big seed collection, (alphabetical order for the first time ever, rather than plant type!) - I’m experimenting with some green manure crops in a couple of the raised beds this year which I’m excited about. The seeds in the plastic bags in this photo are perennial and annual meadow herbs, grasses and flowers. I’m going to be growing some of this seed as plug plants to place directly into the lawn in places presently covered with wood chip. This mulch will have killed the grass, to give the baby plants less competition when they are planted.
Also over in the “wild” part of my garden, are some seed heads left on grasses and flowers seeds sown directly into the lawn last year. In this seed head pictured I found sleeping ladybirds. I plan to leave more areas of the “lawn” with seed heads in place to overwinter for insect habitat this year.
Yesterday I sowed the first seeds of the year! Chillis in Northern England need to be started off super early in the year for them to ripen in the summer sun. I’ve sown 4 different varieties this year, 3 are new to me, plus my favourite “Nigel’s Outdoor” chillis from Realseeds, bred to thrive outside in the UK
Through the winter I’ve grown a constant supply of sprouted seeds and pulses on my kitchen window sill. In the long dark winter days it seems like such a privilege to be able to easily grow (and then eat!) delicious fresh sprouts.
Some of my favourite resources connected with this post
I buy most of my seeds from two seeds specialists in England. Tamar Organics & Real Seeds - I love both their products and their ethics.
I buy my meadow plants seeds from Emorsgate Seeds - who also have loads of really useful info about everything you need to know relating to sowing grasses, flowers and herbs to create “meadows” on their website.
The fantastic No-Dig gardener Steph Hafferty published a brilliant blog post on Valentine’s Day about her seed sowing plans for February. You can read her post here
My friend and permaculture teacher & practitioner, Graham Burnett has produced a fabulous little guide, “A Garden In Your Kitchen” which includes a great section on sprouting.
Checkout my online shop for cards and prints of some of my most popular illustrations.
I’m here, back to all things digital, after a month long break somehow turned into a whole six months. My garden also was mainly left to its own devices for the second half of the growing season too, but here are a few photos I did take over that time.
This raised bed contained a wonderful polyculture of runner beans, French beans, field beans, 2 varieties of kale, rainbow chard, mixed radish, rocket, nasturtium, calendula, borage and mixed lettuces. It was abundant both in food for me to eat and also for pollinators too. The sunflower heads and water dish in the foreground are for extra insect attracting and care.
These two lovely girls arrived for further care and rehab via hedgehog hospital. After several months with me were successfully released back into the wild, care of a large, safe garden with lots of great habitat (not mine, I live next to a busy road!), where they will have supplementary feeding if they choose too.
My edible garden view from my bedroom window. I’m so pleased with how my new raised beds from British Recycled Plastic, installed over the winter are now performing. Read more about the raised beds in a previous blog post here. After a cold May, everything has grown rapidly and healthily over the last few warm weeks of June. The soil/compost mix in the beds is full of worms now and as some of the compost was only semi decomposed when added to the raised beds, the height of the mix in the beds has decreased rapidly! My current composting system is going well though so the beds will be topped up again once each harvest is finished. I have at last got some seating in my edible garden too, so pleased with these British grown and made benches. My tree trunk stools from the lime tree felled last year, are making great tables/footrests.
A mixed bed of lettuce, radish, kale, chard, beetroot, radish, runner beans and sweet peas. Tomatoes, sunflowers and courgette plants in the South facing bed in the background. The absorbed solar heat in the black recycled plastic of the raised beds “planks” is creating such amazing microclimates. None of the raised beds had any frost from the late winter/early spring.
In the “wild” part of my garden things are also growing well. Most of the baby hedgerow trees I planted over the winter are thriving. My “lawn” area is much more diverse in flora and fauna as a result of sowing in grasses, legumes and flower seeds over last autumn and spring. I’ve been mowing a path round the perimeter and through the middle of the lawn for aesthetic purposes (my long grass looks like a purposeful design rather than just abandoned) and also it means that my Border Collie, Floss, and I can get to all areas of the garden without trampling and squashing the plant growth in the lawn.
I created these signs for my wild garden area to help share my garden design to people passing by, (its adjacent to a busy road near several schools), and my neighbours. The blue heart symbol is part of the Blue Campaign which was founded by wildlife film maker Furgus Beeley in response to dramatic biodiversity and biomass declines in the UK. People with gardens, allotments, business yards, and councils who manage land and roadside verges are encouraged to “rewild” areas of land and to display a blue heart of some kind to communicate the message and connection in what they are doing.
I’ve been really looking forward to reading this inspiring sounding new book from permaculture focused garden designer and educator, Anna Locke. And it hasn’t disappointed.
Anna has taken the concept of forest gardening and created a beautiful, engaging resource to teach and empower us to design perennial based foraging gardens where humans and non-human beings in nature can flourish. Her decades of knowledge and experience of connecting people with natural environment through garden design shines through every chapter of this very accessible book.
The Forager’s Garden takes us through a simple design process to grow ecological, wildlife abundant gardens. It’s a book about planting whole ecosystems on any scale, for community, private and guerrilla gardening projects. Anna’s work isn’t designed to compete with traditional vegetable and fruit growing but to compliment it. Yes, we could redesign whole gardens or community plots as foraging ones, but equally, creating small perennial plant spaces in gardens with annual edible or flower growing areas too, can also develop conditions for nature, (including humans), to thrive.
With clear, jargon free text, gorgeous illustrations, diagrams and photos alongside regular prompts for applying the information presented in each chapter to our own garden design, this book will suit gardening novices alongside those of us who like to learn and learn again especially from new authors and artists.
The Forager’s Garden leans to a focus on UK climate and includes chapters on; Defining what a foraging garden is; Designing for resilience and long term; How to plan your garden; Information for beginner gardeners; The benefits of including diversity in the different elements of garden creation; The use of trees in a forager’s garden; Embracing the use of plant guilds; The creation of ecological stability and abundance through creating multiple layers in a garden; Plant choices, Implementing and maintaining your garden design; How perennial focused foraging gardens or spaces in gardens, can be used in different spaces, for example, allotments, container gardening and gardening undercover or on windowsills. The book also contains an excellent “Plant finder” with lots of clear information about many common and some less so, plants that can be used to create a beautiful, successful garden space to forage from.
Anna skilfully weaves ecological principles throughout the abundance of knowledge, ideas and personal garden design experiences in her book. People with some prior understanding of permaculture will also recognise the permaculture ethics or values of Earth Care, Fair Shares and People Care at the core of The Forager’s Garden. The chapters skilfully link low budget, low maintenance, edible garden design to the bigger pictures around food security, wildlife habitat regeneration and community building
Though many of the garden design stories in The Forager’s Garden span over several years, Anna wrote this book against the backdrop of the last 18 months when both increasing public awareness and motivation about the urgent need to address climate change and the surge in numbers of people who started growing their own food for the first time as the COVID 19 pandemic became realities in our communities. It’s timely publication will be an important tool to use in individual household and community scale projects, as part of wide scale solutions focus for both of these global scale truths.
I wholeheartedly recommend The Forager’s Garden for us all.
The Forager’s Garden by Anna Locke is available from Permaculture Market
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