Floss. April 2010 - March 2023
This spring in my garden (and all other areas of my life), has been totally dominated by the death of my best buddy Floss, who died at the Equinox. At 13 years old she’d been fading for several months and although her death wasn’t unexpected, the anticipated then actual grief of loosing her from my life has been huge. As a result some core things planned for the garden this spring including taking regular photos have happened late or not at all. Here are pics of some of the activities and events which have taken place.
I built a pallet structured insect habitat (or ‘bug hotel’), near my garden gate and within clear sight of both pedestrians and road users travelling by. One of the functions of the garden is to provide inspiration to folk in my local community. (I sowed some annual wild flower seeds in compost on top of the pallet stack, the bubble wrap is to keep the birds away until the seeds germinate)
I’m excited to be participating in some great local events over the summer months.
Everyday Permaculture Workshops, Saltaire
‘Everyday Permaculture’, my series of monthly two hour workshops at my neighbours, the brilliant Salts Works workshop space in Saltaire, West Yorks, continues on the third Saturday of each month 10-12pm . ‘Everyday Permaculture - Climate Actions’ takes place on June 17th, ‘Everyday Permaculture - Designing Events on Saturday July 15th and Everyday Permaculture - Right Livelihoods on Saturday 19th August. For more details and how to book, click here
Saltaire Arts Trail
It will be my second year hosting the work of 2 other artists alongside my own creative work as part of the super popular Saltaire Arts Trail - taking place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend 27th-29th May. People walk through the wildlife area of my garden to get to my edible gardening area and kitchen where work by Cameron Ling, Felicity Pockets and my permaculture themed illustrations will be displayed.
Shipley Open Gardens
This year for the first time I’m participating in Shipley Open Gardens for the first time - happening over the weekend of the 10th and 11th of June my permaculture inspired garden in Saltaire will be open from 1-5pm both days. I’ll be selling my zines, cards and prints from my kitchen, where vegan chai and flapjack and permaculture info will also be served! Through the weekend I’ll also be hosting work from one of the amazing ceramic artists at Hive Community Arts
Shipley’s Great Big Green Week
My Open Garden and June Everyday Permaculture workshop (both events as above) are also part of ‘Shipley’s Great Big Green Week’, connecting to the national Great Big Green Week initiative
And round the corner into September, I’ll be taking part in the Open Gardens weekend of the brilliant Saltaire Festival, which will be celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Saltaire Festival takes place from 9th -17th September, the Open Gardens event is over the first weekend, Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th.
I love this South facing wall in my edible garden so much - such a great example of using microclimates.
Early January saw me sorting though my seeds to work out what I needed to order for the year ahead. It turns out, I don’t need to order any! Where do all these seeds come from!?
Mulching raised beds and the wild garden ‘edge’ with a thick layer of leaves topped with woodchip supplied by a local tree surgeon. The soil along the wild garden edge is looking, smelling and feeling SO much better in terms of fertility and structure, now into its 3rd year of this winter mulching application.
Imbolc fire with my girl.
Pruning back some of the larger baby trees in my wild garden edge, so that the more recently planted ones get enough space and light. I added these prunings to two different insect habitat areas.
Creating a new area for fallen leaves, including leaves from several of my neighbours’ gardens.
Cutting down seed heads, (intentionally left standing over the winter for insect habitat) ready for new growth in spring. Tied the dried stalks complete with seed heads together and left upright so that the little critters can carry on snoozing until the days get lighter and warmer.
…..and to mark the start of 2023 growing season, I had a stall at my local Potato Day, 40 varieties of seed potatoes and lots of amazing people buying them and supporting the accompanying stalls and cafe too. I’ll be sowing my chilli seeds over the next few days. More details about this years growing in my next blog post.
I’m excited to be facilitating a series of 11 workshops throughout 2023, about how to use permaculture design in everyday life situations and events.
The 2 hour monthly workshops are taking place at my brilliant neighbours, Salts Works in Saltaire, Bradford. Through relaxed information sharing, creativity and informal discussion, these workshops will enable participants to explore how permaculture can be used to navigate everyday life in ways that connect with our values. Each workshop focuses on a different topic and is created to be enjoyed as a stand alone event or as part of the year long series.
Places are limited to 10 per booking. Salts Works is accessible for people using mobility aids, including wheelchairs. This includes an accessible toilet. There is also an accessible garden for anyone who needs a break from being indoors.
Please feel free to wear a face covering/mask in the workshop, if this gives you the confidence to participate. People are asked not to attend if they have any symptoms of a new bug or virus. Cancellations for a full refund are available until 24 hours before the event.
Each workshop costs £20. The price include hot/cold drinks, vegan & gluten-free sweet goodies and a takeaway mini zine about the main themes of the workshop.
The Workshops - Details & Booking
Everyday Permaculture - An Introduction
Saturday 18th February 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Edible Gardening
Saturday 18th March 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Health & Wellbeing
Saturday 15th April 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Wildlife Spaces
Saturday 20th May 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Climate Actions
Saturday 17th June 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Designing Events
Saturday 15th July 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Right Livelihoods
Saturday 19th August 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Caring For Others
Saturday 15th September 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Death, Dying & Bereavement
Saturday 21st October 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Winter Festivals Planning
Saturday 18th November 10.00 - 12.00
Everyday Permaculture - Designing 2024
Saturday 16th December 10.00 - 12.00
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about these workshops
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
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.
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.
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.
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