Following up on this year’s successes, here are the problems that I’d like to fix for next year.
- Two of the raised beds had ongoing problems with seeds just not germinating, or germinating then being munched by snails. The bed in the left-hand photo had a great broad bean crop at the start of the season, then the turnips and chard I planted later just didn’t come up. I’ve now replanted chard and pak choi under little cloches in the hope that that will protect the seedlings. The bed in the right-hand photo had the same problem with seedlings not germinating or being eaten. The chard from last year, as seen, did great and has now gone to seed. I’m leaving it in the hope it’ll self-seed. I didn’t plant the squash, but wherever it came from, it seems happy so I’m letting it be and hoping that there’s still enough time for a crop (not very likely, sadly).
No sign yet of any chard or pak choi seedlings.
Unexpected squash is unexpected. Chard is going to seed.
I planted a lot of beans, and only one (and maybe a half) have grown. Again, I think this is a snail problem as I’ve seen signs of munched leaves. There’s not a huge amount of compost there but that shouldn’t have had this much impact.
Only one bean that’s actually flowering
No blueberries from the blueberry. I don’t know whether this was lack of water, lack of food, or bird damage. Plan for next year: net it early on, and be more careful with watering and perhaps some home-made fertiliser (nettle/comfrey/urine might all be useful).
No fruit this year. Birds or bad management?
The west fence is under-utilised. Currently it’s going mostly wild, which is fine, but what I wanted there was raspberries. I think maybe one of the canes I transplanted last year has survived, so I’m considering getting a handful more this winter. I love raspberries and they’re a big priority for me. As you can see in the photo, though, the rosemary bush is thriving, and we also have some nice flowers including poppies.
Jungly! Note very healthy rosemary
The satsuma tree is doing well enough, but still not producing any satsumas. I’m going to dig it up in the winter (and hopefully give it away; I dislike the idea of killing off a perfectly healthy plant. Let me know if you’d like it!) and replace it with another fruit tree that will do well in a large pot and will actually produce fruit. Possibly a cherry, but I need to do a little research.
Still no satsumas
The grape vine died altogether. This is the thing I am saddest about! It got eaten by something (snails, I’m guessing), but even after I put in anti-snail defences, it was too badly damaged to bounce back. I really want to try again, but I am going to have to do some thinking about how to protect it come the spring.
Another space that’s just under-utilised: this box by the back door. I’m intending to build a mini greenhouse into this space over the winter.
Not a lot going on here, and no chilis
The observant reader will have noticed that snails are my single biggest problem. My main aim for the winter is to find a solution to this problem. Ducks (or chickens? do they eat snails too?) would be ideal but sadly impractical!
I also need to think about what plants we’ve actually eaten and so what’s worth growing. I’m considering potatoes for next year as a low-maintenance crop that we really enjoy eating.
Posted in growing things, permaculture, permaculture diploma, the garden project
Tagged beans, blueberry, grape, grape vine, permaculture, permaculture diploma, pests, snails, the garden project
A quick round-up of this year’s garden successes, as the summer growing season comes to a close and I start thinking about autumn planting.
- Garlic! No photo, but I got between 12 and 15 garlic bulbs, all of which are tasty and fairly easy to peel. That’s 4-5 weeks of our garlic supply, which is great. (We use a lot of garlic.) I will definitely be putting more in in November.
The rhubarb I transplanted from the allotment has settled in fine, despite being transplanted at totally the wrong time of year. No harvest this year as I’ve been letting it gather its strength, but looking forward to rhubarb crumble and rhubarb jam next year.
Doing nicely in the shady corner
The apple tree is doing very well, despite some concerns with the ants earlier in the year, and we should have a good dozen apples this year, assuming they keep growing and no further problems. It needs a good prune over the winter.
Lots of apples but looking a bit bendy
The tomatoes are doing wonderfully. I’ve just started harvesting the first few this week, and they taste great. I have about 50% large (which will mostly be cooked down into passata) and 50% cherry (which will mostly be eaten straight off the vine). The ones in the self-watering containers have once again done best, so plan for next year is to make a few more self-watering containers.
This is just one patch of tomatoes; there are others further up the fence
The herb garden has mostly done pretty well. I still think it’s a little underutilised (not all of my pots have been filled). The basil struggled a lot, which I think might be a snail problem (see the problems post for more on snails. Main plans for next year: plant more basil and coriander, deal with snails in some way, find a way of reminding other cooks in the house that the fresh herbs are there.
Doing well overall.
We have all of the rocket in the world (this is just one of the many rocket jungles, some of which emerge from cracks in the paving slabs), mostly self-seeded. The bees like it too. The only issue is that we’re not eating that much of it; I need to think about harvesting strategies for next year. However, as weeds go, I’ll take rocket over most things.
The rocket is trying to take over…
The chard is also doing very well (note also more rocket). I think this lot self-seeded, but I might have planted it. I eat chard quite regularly, so it is being eaten.
This all self-seeded, I think. It’s doing great.
The thing I note from this is that it’s the low-maintenance and self-seeded plants that seem to be doing the best. Something to bear in mind when planning for next year.
Maintenance notes for next year:
- Prune apple tree.
- Make more SWCs for tomatoes.
- Consider snail strategies.
- Plant more basil and coriander.
- Consider harvesting strategies.
Posted in permaculture, permaculture diploma, the garden project
Tagged apple, chard, garlic, herbs, permaculture, permaculture diploma, rhubarb, rocket, the garden project, tomatoes
This week I dug out the “composting” half of the compost pile, and lo! there was a big load of beautiful rich black compost:
Nearly all dug out by the time this was taken, but you can see what’s left is still good stuff.
Soil fertility in action
I covered half of one bed with it to a depth of an inch or so, and added a couple of spadefuls to the beans and the blackcurrant beds. Very pleasing; I just hope the new “composting” half (I’ve switched them over) does its thing just as well by winter when I want to spread some more of it.
In other fertiliser news, I think comfrey has appeared in the west flowerbed, where there are a bunch of other miscellaneous things busily self-seeding. Thumbs crossed! I also harvested nettles from under the apple tree (by pulling them up; nettles are fabulous plants in many ways but not suitable for a very small garden with a toddler) and am making nettle tea at the bottom of the garden.
I find it difficult to remember to regularly water all of my various growing spaces. Two of them (balcony and porch) don’t have any water source which means watering is harder work and thus likely to happen; the back garden has water but I still struggle to remember and find the time to get out there with the watering can (time consuming in itself). So I’ve been looking into watering systems.
I already have most of my tomatoes in self-built self-watering containers, which work wonderfully. Mine are very basic, based around two florists buckets stacked on one another (full instructions in Permaculture in Pots!). For the third year in a row, the tomatoes in those buckets are thriving, and I want to make a couple more for next year.
I’m likely to construct more SWCs for the porch and balcony, but in the meantime I’ve been looking at other alternatives to use in the existing containers, as well as in the ground in the raised beds in the back garden. In the light of the permaculture approach of “make small changes and observe”, here are the current experiments, all using things we already had lying around the house:
On the porch, this is just a plastic bottle upended in the soil. Opinion online seems divided on whether you leave the lid on (with a hole punched in it) or take it off. I took it off, and it seems to me that the water just leaks out again too fast. Part of the problem, I think, is that this box is too well drained; the first time I filled the bottle, it all flooded straight out of the bottom of the box. This area is entirely under cover, so I could use a container without drainage, as it can’t flood with rain. I will try a non-draining container here the next time the current one is empty.
This just drains straight out. Peas in the background, but nothing else is growing well.
This box, out in the garden, uses the same plastic bottle system, again without a top. There’s no drainage problem here (don’t think this box has drainage holes!), but water still seems to drain out of the bottle very fast. I think you may need pretty damp soil to start with for it to work (so not suitable for all plants, though tomatoes grow fine with wet feet). I’ll also try putting a cap on the bottle to see if that helps.
The plastic bottle drains very fast.
Out in the back garden again, this is a ceramic pot buried in the soil. I got this variation on a traditional African watering system from the current issue of Permaculture Magazine. Again, currently mine seems to be draining too fast. Reading the editorial again, more carefully, suggested that I need a cork in the bottom, so I’ll try that. I also suspect that I’ve buried it a little too deep and it would do better with a centimetre showing above the surface, so soil doesn’t leak in. It could do with a cover to limit evaporation, but currently it’s draining too fast for that to matter.
Ceramic pot — drains too fast. Surrounded by chard seedlings in mini cloches.
On the other side of the same bed, I wondered whether a plastic pot with holes in the bottom would work similarly — like a cross between the ceramic pot and an upturned bottle. Again, however, it’s just draining too quickly, and it takes up more space in the bed than an upturned 2l bottle would. I will try replacing it with a large water bottle, lid on, and see how that works.
Again, this is draining too fast. More chard seedlings here!
I suspect that the best solution will be different in my different growing spaces, as the parameters, requirements, and limitations are different in all three areas. However, I would like to get some kind of watering solution in place across all of them before next summer. Watch this space for more experimental results!
The rocket is trying to take over…
Meanwhile, the rocket is doing just fine anyway.
Posted in experiments, permaculture, permaculture diploma, the balcony project, the garden project, water
Tagged permaculture, permaculture diploma, self-watering containers, the balcony project, the garden project, water
Busy times over here, with Leon starting to walk and lots of summer fun stuff happening.
I’ve harvested my garlic, and for the first time ever got a really decent crop (14 bulbs) which look like they’ll be very usable. Unfortunately I left it a week too late and the stalks are too dry to be plaited and hung to dry, so the bulbs are drying on a plate in the kitchen and being turned occasionally. I planted these garlics from a bulb (sold for eating) from the Co-op rather than buying proper seed garlic and they’re my best ever, and I’m not quite sure what to think! I’m debating whether I should save a bulb for next year (usually discouraged I think if you’ve planted supermarket seed?), buy another Co-op bulb next year, or buy a ‘proper’ one.
Depressingly, though, my grape vine has died altogether. It got heavily munched by snails/slugs, but when I wrote to the nursery they thought it would recover. Sadly not. I am probably going to try again next year, but in the meantime I need a plan of action for dealing with the slimey beasties.
I’ve also started work on my Permaculture Diploma, which is exciting. I’m using the Back Garden Project as one of my designs, so have been pulling posts together from that and writing up my analysis more formally. Other projects on the horizon include a mini greenhouse for the back garden, a plan for the balcony and the front porch, and very excitingly, a plan for my friends’ new allotment.
I’ve also been writing about mastitis with an older baby over at Natural Parents Network, for World Breastfeeding Week.
Posted in growing things, leon, parenting, permaculture diploma, the garden project
Tagged breastfeeding, garlic, grape, guest posts, leon, permaculture diploma, pests, snails
I wrote about Elimination Communication, peeing on the floor, and the advantages of not going nappy-free, over at Natural Parents Network last week, in The Nappy-Free Potty Pause.
Then, at The Green Phone Booth, I wrote about tips for food gardening with a toddler. (Leon is now properly a toddler — he really got the hang of independent walking at Glastonbury last weekend. Having just made my plans for summer planting, I’m now reminded that I should keep a section of the NW bed specially for him. Perhaps marked out in some way in a likely-vain attempt to keep him away from the rest of it?)
I’ve just cleared out three of the raised beds in the back garden (some failed crops – no sign of turnips this year; some that are over – broad beans and winter lettuce) and need to plan my summer planting. To the seed lists!
- Pak choi
- Tsoi sim (a good catch crop as it is only 3 wks to harvest)
- Mixed and oak leaf lettuce
- Winter lettuce from August
I also have broccoli raab and mustard greens, but previous experience suggests that we just don’t eat these, so there’s no point in growing them. I’m actually a little ambivalent about the lettuce, but I’ll give it another go.
- Carrots (til end July)
- Petrowski turnip
To avoid the perils of the monoculture, the planting plan looks like this:
- NW bed: rocket, lettuce, pak choi (all broadcast)
- SE bed: carrots, pak choi, tsoi sim in between the rows (to come up in 3 wks to make more room for the other veg as they grow)
- SW bed: turnips, tatsoi, lettuce between the rows (to come up as microgreens / mini greens to make more space as the other veg grow)
Normally I’m all about the succession sowing, but I think this time I’ll get it all in at once, and see what’s come up and where there’s space in two or three weeks, and decide then whether to plant more.
Over at A Little Bit of All Of It, it’s eco-friendly clothing week! In honour of which, here is a round-up of various links and so on from me and elsewhere, on the subject of eco-friendly clothing.
Upcycling existing clothes that you no longer wear is an eco-friendly way of getting new clothes. I haven’t up cycled anything for myself lately, but I have been upcycling a T-shirt of mine (no longer wearable into a T-shirt for Leon. A skirt I don’t wear became a pair of baby trousers last summer; they’re still being worn this summer, just as three-quarter length rather than full length. I also made a pair of smart trousers from some suit trousers recently, but haven’t yet blogged it.
Not clothes, but I made toys from scraps from my scrap box earlier this year, too.
Making clothes from fabric
How eco-friendly it is to make your own clothes (if not upcycling) depends on how eco-friendly the source fabric is. Although you could argue that making your own makes you more likely to wear and appreciate the garment, rather than treating it as disposable; it may also last longer and you might be more likely to patch it.
Here’s a few sources of eco-friendly fabric, or yarn:
- Organic Cotton do eco-friendly (organic, also fair trade) cotton and other materials, and deliver very fast. I’ve used them personally and can recommend them.
- The Hemp Shop do hemp fabric, which is organic. It’s not fair trade but they do give their factory working conditions on that page.
- There are several sorts of yarn which is recycled from other yarns or fabrics:
- Recycled sari silk: can be a bit odd to knit with, though, and doesn’t knit a smooth fabric.
- Second Time Cotton: recycled from consumer cotton scraps. Nice to knit with, but sadly I can’t find a UK stockist at the moment.
- Full Circle worsted and bulky wool is also made from leftover bits of British wools. It’s 100% wool, very snuggly, and nice to knit with. It’s a bit scratchy but only in the way that wool is often a bit scratchy.
You can also knit multi-coloured things from your end-balls of yarn; blankets are another way to use up ends of balls.
Finally, if you’re buying, start out with charity shops or Ebay second-hand clothes (as well as promoting reuse, this is also much cheaper!). If you’re buying new, look for organic and fair trade, and be prepared (sadly) to spend a while at it, as it can be difficult to find both. Once you do, make your clothes last as long as possible by washing them only when they’re actually dirty, protecting them when you’re doing dirty chores (get an apron!), and patching them if possible.
Posted in craft, diy, environment, knitting, links, making things, sewing
Tagged clothing, craft, diy, fabric, knitting, links, making things, sewing, upcycling, yarn
My grape vine has been getting munched up by (I assume) the snails; and one of my (still tiny) courgette plants is looking at risk too. After perusing the Organic Gardening Catalogue, I have acquired a set of little spiky fences to go around the grape vine, and some copper tape around the courgette. I will report back.
I’ve also got ants farming aphids on the apple tree. Apparently, a ring of gaffer tape, sticky side out, around the tree will solve this problem. Again: defences are in place, and I will report back.
And here’s a blog post elsewhere on permaculture and container gardening.
A final note: half of my broad beans appear to have grown without any actual beans in the pods (well: the beans are there, but they didn’t fill out). My assumption is that this is to do with the crappy weather, but I am nevertheless sad. Maybe the green beans will do better? If the sun ever comes out for any reasonable time…
Posted in growing things, guest posts, permaculture in pots, pests, the garden project
Tagged ants, apple tree, broad beans, grape vine, guest posts, pests, snails, the garden project
I really wanted to put a willow den in our back garden for Leon to play in.
Baby tipi between the blueberry bush and the rosemary
Unfortunately, that was scuppered by the realisation that there’s a sewage pipe running underground through the middle of the garden. You’re not supposed to plant willow within 3m of any pipes (it seeks water, and can sneak into the pipe through any cracks), and the apple tree prevented me planting further down the garden than that.
Instead, it occurred to me this week that after building the bean wigwam recently, I had lots of bamboo cane left over; and a couple of old sheets in the bottom of the airing cupboard. So now we have a baby play tipi.
Unfortunately the baby was unconvinced, because it has grass on its floor, and he is somewhat mistrustful of grass on bare feet. Hopefully as he gets steadier on his feet he may be more enthusiastic; in the meantime I might put a blanket down in there tomorrow.
Those moments of total absorption are a lesson in mindfulness.
In other news, this week I wrote about the competing pulls of parenting over at the Natural Parents Network: The Two Minds of Parenting.
Posted in diy, guest posts, making things, parenting, the garden project
Tagged baby tipi, diy, guest posts, making things, mindfulness, parenting, play, the garden project