A few months ago I started a new blog series to run alongside a year long design process I had started for the garden at my new home. Then the Coronavirus Pandemic became a very real thing and realising the scale of changes we were urgently going to have to make to our lives, I decided to make an edible garden ASAP. My main reasons for creating this garden at this time rather than continuing with the long term period of observation I was part way through, was to give myself an immediate project which I know from past experience would hugely benefit my holistic health and well-being, at a time of probably prolonged changes, uncertainty and grief. Given my existing health limitations plus the limitations of the pandemic “lockdown”, I designed my new garden to be as simple as possible to implement and to use as few bought in components as possible. In addition, this design aims to be easily changed or adapted for the long term when more time has been spent as planned on the observation and analysis phases of my original project.
Here is a photo journey of my lockdown Edible Garden so far : -
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My finished Edible Garden area - the beds are topped with spiky twigs to deter cats and birds. All ready to get planting into now! The shady strip of grass at the right side of the area has had some perennial wild grasses and herbage seeds sown into patches of bare soil, as well as edible flower/pollinator seeds sown into the edge alongside the fence. The function of this small area is to mainly be a space for wildlife habitat.
The second post in a new series of monthly blog posts sharing the journey through the design process in creating an urban permaculture garden at my new home.
Wild Garden - Early Design
About 75% of the area for my new garden is North facing and adjacent to a busy road with congested traffic at certain times of day. Even before I moved into the house 6 months ago, I knew that these limiting factors meant that I would not be able to use this area of garden for food growing or spending prolonged amounts of time relaxing of socialising. Instead I have created an early design for wildlife habitat areas to be the dominant function in this space.
Ideally I would have observed the area for a year before making any design decisions but I have chosen to take advantage of the turf laid for the lawn being very new, (about 9 months old), and so ideal for sowing additional perennial flowers, herbage, legumes and grasses within the existing new turf. Before this happens I have also decided to prune back, (and in one case, remove), some existing mature sycamore and lime trees edging the lawned area and roadside to allow a lot of extra light onto the lawn and prevent the trees from overhanging the house roof. In addition I hope that having the pruning and resulting wood processing done just prior to sowing the new seeds into the lawn, will have the added benefit of creating more bare patches on the grass, enabling easier, successful germination and growth of the new perennial plants. Last week this work on the trees was successfully undertaken by local tree surgeons.
The wood from the pruning work was processed on site into a variety of sizes of logs and then the smaller diameter branches either chipped for paths/mulches or left intact for creating wildlife habitat, all for other aspects of my garden designs.
Wild Garden - Seeds
I ordered perennial flower, grasses, herbage and legume seeds for the lawned/grassed area of the Wild Garden and also some annual cornfield seeds for the borders. The perennial plants won't flower this year but the annual ones should do, creating some 'pop up' pollinator and other wildlife habitat while the longer term design implementation is established. I can highly recommend Emorsgate Seeds, (suggested to me by my good friend and ecologist Jan Martin), for a fantastic range of seeds and advice for ecological restoration in the UK, on any scale. I'm aiming to sow all the mixes of seeds at the end of March is the weather/ground conditions are appropriate
Edible Garden - First Seeds Sown
....and then the first seeds for my Edible Garden got sown. These tomato ('Latah') and chilli ('Pretty in Purple' and 'Nigel's Outdoors' ) varieties from Real Seeds are some of my favourites and ones I had left over from last year. They'll be germinating and growing indoors until the summer.
I've also been researching info and ideas from Alys Fowler and Juliet Kemp for my pop up container garden design. These two books are great for designing gardens in a diverse range of small spaces.
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I'm really excited to be starting a permaculture design for an urban garden at my new home. In this new series of monthly posts I will be sharing some of my journey through the design process in creating my garden.
Design Process - Permaculture Design Companion
This will be the first land based permaculture design I have embarked on in several years and I'm really looking forward to using Jasmines Dale's recently published book, Permaculture Design Companion, as my guide for this project. You can read the review I wrote about this great resource, here .
Garden Design pin board
I've been thinking about the design for my garden since I first realised I would be moving into my new home, about a year ago. I have found that using a notice/pin board in my kitchen to collect all my initial thoughts, ideas, visions and wishes about my garden design has been a really effective way of collecting, storing and regularly reviewing all this information, as well as providing a great focal point for discussion and ideas sharing with friends and family who visit my house.
This month I've also started undertaking some focused observations about how different sectors impact on the existing garden. I really like how sectors are explained in the #freepermaculture online course hosted by freepermaculture.com -
"In permaculture, the term sector refers to any natural or uncontrolled influence that moves through your design site. And through sector analysis, you can anticipate and enact design decisions that will mediate, mitigate, and improve how those uncontrolled influences affect your site. Sectors could be wind, water, weather...they can be economic, social, biological, or any combination of the above. Every sector has needs, resources, yields, wastes, and relationships that influence the whole system. "
Next month Im going to be creating a "to scale" base map of the garden as it is at present, in addition making some major decisions about the mature trees already in the garden. Sign up to my monthly newsletter to get further updates about how my garden design is progressing through 2020.
The Climate Change Garden published just last year, is my first complete read of 2020 and part of the research planned for my new garden design.
As well as being an author of a wide range of books, Sally Morgan is also the editor of the Soil Association's Organic Farming magazine. Kim Stoddart runs climate change gardening courses, is a gardening journalist and the editor of The Organic Way magazine. The two authors clearly have a great wealth of knowledge and experience in all matters relating to garden design with our rapidly changing climate in mind.
Overall The Climate Change Garden is a comprehensive and engaging overview of some of the main ways that climate change is, and will continue, to influence how we garden in the UK. The book has lots of inspiring photos to back up the very accessible format text. The key topics each have their own chapter; Too much water; Heat and drought; Wind, frost and snow; A healthy soil; Design Ideas; Working with wildlife; The veg patch; In the orchard; Trees for the future; The flower garden - and there is a useful appendix of extra resources. Each chapter contains relevant background and history alongside many ideas for garden design choices and plans. In my opinion, The Climate Change Garden is a great book for folk new to gardening as well as others who would welcome a reminder about some of the key issues relating to climate challenges in the designs and creations of our growing spaces. While the book isn't an in depth "how to garden" book, it firmly plants many specialist seeds of inspiration to be furthered by accessing additional resources. The Climate Change Garden is a very welcome addition to my land based permaculture tool box and already a central part of the first steps of my new garden design.
I haven't been well enough to grow any of my own food for the last couple of years, so It’s really great to be sowing seeds for an edible garden this year - These ones are getting ready to germinate on a warm indoor window ledge - super hardy “Latah” very early tomato, “Nigel’s Outdoors” green chilli and “Pretty in Purple” rainbow chilli - all from the fab Real Seeds Catalogue
I've also started sprouting seeds, again on a warm indoor window ledge. These ones - radish, broccoli, alfalfa, mustard and cress - are available in quantities suitable for sprouting from Tamar Organics. Later this week I'm also going to be sprouting brown and green lentils, and chickpeas. I use the sprouts as raw toppings to any dish, or added to a stir fry just before I turn the heat off, to enjoy warm. Sprouting seeds, pulses and grains increases their nutritional availability, as well as their fibre and protein content, plus they taste really great. And can be grown all year round inside, meaning that I can eat home grown food cheaply 365 days a year with very little work and time, (the sprouts just need rinsing twice a day), involved. And that makes me very smiley! You can learn more about sprouting here
One of my visions/aims for this year is to increase my knowledge about herbs. How to grow them, preserve them and use them for treating illness and improving health and wellbeing. I became really inspired by the work of Jekka McVicar a few months ago when I listened to an episode of BBC Radio Four 's The Food Programme about her. And reading a book written by Jekka seemed a very obvious first step for me and my learning. Jekka's Complete Herb Book, published in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, is a beautiful work of reference. 150 different herbs are presented in two page spreads and include; the common names, various species, history, cultivation, propagation and harvesting. And then for each herb medicinal, culinary and wellbeing topics are detailed in a really accessible way.
I've set myself a task of learning about a different herb each day, and it's already becoming a lovely and productive part of my mornings. The book also has sections on harvesting, preserving, making natural dyes common pests and diseases relating to herbs, a comprehensive yearly calendar and my big favourite...a gorgeous twelve page section on herb garden design, (including growing herbs in pots/containers).
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I would say my knowledge about herb growing and use, is pretty patchy and fairly close to the beginner stage of understanding, application and confidence. Jekka's Complete Herb Book with its easy layout and stunning photos and illustrations already feels like it's going to be the ideal tool for my learning and my enjoyment of that learning. It's the kind of resource that would make a great present too. I've linked the book to the hugely dominating seller of all things online, but as ever, if you can, get your local bookshop to order a copy for you and know you've supported a business in your community where each sale matters.
Earth Based Spirituality & Permaculture
I love to use the solar and lunar cycles and circles within Earth based spirituality, as a grounding tool and guidance for my permaculture projects. This weekend has been the wheel of the year festival, of Earth awakening, Imbolc. Here in Yorkshire, Northern England, there are signs of life emerging into the new light, from their long rest through the cold, dark, shortest days. At Imbolc, we can connect with the nature around us, observing and interacting, and slowly move forwards to the energy of spring. The earliest of seeds sown for edible gardens are starting to germinate and we too can plant and nurture our inner seeds of visions for our work and life, and watch them germinate over the coming weeks.
The Imbolc new moon arrives today its the perfect time to use the rising energy for new beginnings. and a perfect time for reflection and planning.
Here are some of the ways I have been using the energies of Imbolc in my permaculture projects and including my own wellbeing.-
I spent some time grounding and allowing my creative thoughts to flow without constraint, about the directions I would like my permaculture projects and life to take. I created this space with the five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Spirit plus 2 oracle cards I had chosen, to help provide an extra layer of visioning and focus. I will be keeping this alter space as it is until the Spring Equinox in 6 weeks time. Seeing it on a regular basis, and as a tool for further reflection and grounding, will help me to continue to connect with the new ways forward in my projects on a regular basis. And, in turn regular connection can often mean that my visions and goals for my life and permaculture projects are become an achievable reality.
I have been using this "4 questions" reflection tool with focus on my permaculture work, and from the reflection, applying self regulation, and accepting feedback, have designed a realistic plan about creating and implementing new elements in each permaculture project. The plan is in my journal which is the "hub", the centre of my life! and I look at it many times each day. So again, observing it on a regular basis means that my aims and goals for each project are more likely to be achieved.
Sowing actual seeds! For the last 2 years my edible gardening permaculture project has been on pause, as I've been too unwell to be able to do any physical gardening. And currently I don't have a garden of my own. Over the last few months my health has slowly been improving and I have been feeling a strong pull to get growing food again, and creatively using and responding to change. Peppers (including chillis) and tomatoes like as long a season to grow as possible so I will be planting these hardy varieties from Real Seeds over the next week. I'm also going to start sprouting seeds and pulses again for daily use as a delicious and super nutritious addition to my diet. I've stocked up on sprouting seeds packs from Tamar Organics and really looking forward to getting them growing. For more ideas about connecting with nature inside if you are unable to be outside, see an article I wrote "Bringing Nature Inside"
So here are a few of the ways I have been using energies and characteristics of Imbolc in both my permaculture and general life projects. Please feel free to have a go at applying any of these Ideas to your own life and work.
Welcome to my new blog, born at the festival of Samhain 2018, the Pagan New Year. Here I aim to share regular everyday examples of how permaculture can provide healing and regeneration for ourselves, our communities and our planet.
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