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
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.
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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