I’ve been looking forward to the next couple of weeks all year!
As from the June new moon, (two days ago), I have been undertaking a survey of the diversity of plants and insects in my urban meadow. I’m planning on doing this each day for the next one to two weeks, at different times each day, with the aim of taking the effects of weather and light on different species and varieties into account.
There are some amazing digital identification tools available but I’m really enjoying using these books for the survey so far. One of the additional functions of me undertaking the survey is to improve my knowledge of plants and insects in general and for me and my learning style, comprehensive, accessible books win over screens every time.
Once the survey is complete I will of course be writing a blog post about the process and results. If you haven’t done already, sign up to my newsletter where I share my most recent posts.
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.
I’m really looking forward to being participating in my local arts trail this year, happening over the May Day bank holiday weekend, in Saltaire, near Bradford.
“Saltaire Arts Trail prides itself in reaching out to new audiences and making art accessible to all by using imaginative venues - the internationally recognised Salts Mill, public buildings, the homes of Saltaire residents and outdoor spaces around Saltaire, to display visual art outside of traditional settings, as well as delivering new exhibitions and commissions”
I’m a resident artist in the Open Village Trail and will be displaying some of my permaculture themed illustrations in my windows via a walk through my garden. I’m excited to have two other artists - Grace Denton and Cameron Lings showing work in my garden and kitchen. I’ll be selling prints and cards of my work from my kitchen too.
I’ve been creating some new illustrations for this event. Cards and A4 prints of this design and five others will be for sale at the Open Village trail and available to buy on my online shop just before the event.
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 haven’t blogged about my urban permaculture garden design since last November , (you can read more about why, in my blog post “Website Design Update - Catching Up” from a few days ago). So much has changed in my edible garden over the winter months as I implemented the permanent structural part of the garden design.
The raised bed along the south facing stone wall was the first one to be constructed. These amazing raised bed kits from British Recycled Plastic in Hebden Bridge (about 45 mins drive away from my house), come in a variety of different sizes and depths. The material is made from British plastic waste and will basically last forever. I chose the 60cm depth option as its great for seated gardening.
Over the the winter and spring I have also been implementing the next part of the design for the wildlife habitat area of my garden. I planted 70 diverse trees as part of a mixed hedgerow as in my November 2020 garden blog and planted out a mixed range of perennial herbaceous ground cover plants suitable for a North facing slope, supplied by the wonderful Those Plant People permaculture plant nursery just 5 miles up the Aire valley from my house.
Earlier this month I added a mix of annual and perennial wild flowers and grasses mix to the exposed patches of soil (created by leaving fallen sycamore leaves as a mulch over the winter). This is the second year of doing this, I will also repeat the process in the autumn. Creating a diverse “meadow”/woodland edge in newly laid lawn is a gradual process over a number of years, but should eventually result in a space where many insects and birds can thrive.
November has been all about preparing to start the implementation of my long term permaculture garden design.
Rather than clearing the growing beds of my pop-up garden from this years growing season, I left the remaining plants in place, plus added a thick layer of fallen leaves from the lawn/wildlife meadow area of the garden. This means that until I am ready to work on a specific area, the soil fertility and insect habitat will be maintained as much as possible. Birds have also been very pleased with this decision and although Im not feeding birds from commercial feeders, I’m seeing an increased number spending time in my garden and finding food to eat from these mulched areas.
I ordered a diverse mix of trees from the Woodland Trust to plant as a hedgerow at the edge between my garden and a busy main road. The area already has some young hawthorn and holly trees in place and I’m going to be adding hornbeam, wild cherry, blackthorn, dog rose, elder, rowan, alder, hazel and yew. I’m also awaiting a delivery from Yorkshire Willow - a variety of various coloured willow rods to create a mini coppice area.
Two of my lovely friends put together this amazing shed from local, award winning Power Sheds in Bradford. They deliver anywhere in the UK and I can really recommend the quality of their product and customer service.
I’m making a lot of compost in my garden and to give the process a boost I ordered some “tiger” worms from Yorkshire Worms. The basic layout of my garden is only a year old with a thin layer of top soil on top of a lot of building rubble, so I’m hoping that these new garden friends are going to greatly help with the land regeneration. (The wood chip in this photo is bedding from my rescue guinea pigs, another important part of my composting system.)
And then lastly my raised gardening beds arrived from British Recyled Plastic, based down the road (and over the hill!) in Hebden Bridge. They create an amazing robust and chemically safe product from British farm waste plastic, to make garden beds and other outdoors furniture.
Back in spring I shared a blog post about a temporary edible garden I was designing as life in the the UK was being overwhelmed with the realities of the arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic . In this post I share some more photographs about how this temporary garden grew and thrived throughout the growing season of this surreal and uncertain year.
As I write this at the 1st October Harvest Full Moon, I have been in my new home (and garden) for just over a year and making plans to finish this "pop up" garden and rejoin my bigger much longer term whole garden design again.
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