There’s lots of other cool stuff going on there this summer, too. (JPG only at that link, sorry; have requested text version.)
Chris Wimmer of Captain Hydroponics recently dropped me an email to say hi. Having recently visited the Biospheric Foundation in Salford and seen their experimental urban aquaponics setup, I was interested and asked him a little more about hydroponics.
“Hydroponics is the practice of gardening without soil. This method allows you to grow your plants with less water and fertilizer than traditional gardening. You can even get creative by reusing existing household items in your hydroponic systems.”
His site explains it all in more detail. I quite like the look of this simple DIY system. I already have an airstone (bought for making compost tea) and I’m sure we have a plastic box kicking around somewhere. The 2-litre plastic bottle idea doesn’t even need an airstone, and this hydroponic microgreens setup is even easier. (Chris tells me that you can use non-peat alternatives to peat moss.) I shall see if I can give one of them a go this season — or if anyone reading does, please report back.
In case you’re wondering: the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics is that aquaponics also involve fish, with the idea being that the fish waste products act as fertiliser for the plants, with the plants therefore keeping the water clean. The Biospheric Foundation setup also involves compost, which in its turn produces worms to feed the fish. Graham Burnett at Spiralseed wrote up the LAND trip to Manchester that I was on which included that visit.
It’s an anthology of specifically political SF, from a broad range of political perspectives. My story concerns spacefaring anarchists (as may not be terribly surprising to anyone who is familiar with my political biases), and the making of decisions, personal and collective. There’s a review of the book as a whole over on Black Gate. I’ve been reading the rest of the stories (not quite all done yet as my author copy only arrived recently) and it’s a thought-provoking read all round.>
Twisted Boulevard (featuring ME) now available from Amazon UK. (As far as I know this is the only UK online retailer; although your local indie bookshop ought to be able to order it in for you.)
(I still haven’t seen my contributor copy, but looking forward to reading it when I do.)
In other news, I have had a lovely weekend up in Manchester. Leon was particularly fond of this train, where by “particularly fond of” I mean “refused to get off until it stopped running for the day”. After that there were ducks, and vegan curry; an excellent day all round.
This week: lots of writing to be done. Story to edit for another forthcoming anthology; novel to work on; Linux Voice article to finish.
I wrote a piece on applying Holmgren’s 12 Principles of Permaculture to parenting for the current issue of Juno, now out online and in shops.
Other things in this issue include an interview with Shelia Kitzinger; an extended feature on home education; Sarah Ockwell-Smith discussing bed-sharing myths; Talking Point on organic cotton; a mum sharing her positive experience of elimination communication; ideas for free outdoor activities for Spring; eco-holiday recommendations; encouragement to become a Flexitarian and simple gardening inspiration. I’ve just finished my copy and thoroughly enjoyed it; it’s all worth a read.
Twisted Boulevard, the urban fantasy anthology from Elektrik Milk Bath Press in which I have a story, is now available. They will do international shipping there, but it should also be available from Amazon UK in a week or so. (For some reason there is always a delay, apparently.)
I am looking forward to receiving my own copy soon and getting to read the other stories.
(In unrelated news, I really wish I knew why my laptop was running quite so slowly. It is most annoying.)
My forest garden is really more of a forest fence, but nevertheless, over the winter I have started planting up. At a workshop recently someone mentioned that you should try to get a photo from the same place once or twice a year as your garden develops, so here is my first one:
Very far right, in shade, is a blackcurrant bush with some daffodils by it, and to the left of that, a space where I will plant tomatoes in pots again this year as they did very well last year. (Not really part of the ‘forest’.)
In the bed right of middle, I’ve planted a fig tree against the fence, in a paving-slab box. There’s some volunteer parsley in that bed too, and some ground cover strawberries. I’m planning to plant some fennel, chard, and perhaps Good King Henry in there later this month as a herbaceous layer; and probably some rocket will show up as it does everywhere else. I may well train the fig against the fence, which is a bit against the forest garden theory but more practical in this tiny space.
The left-hand bed has a grape vine, which I will train up the fence and over to the left. There’s also a Daubenton’s Kale (looking a bit toppled-over; it seems taller than the one I have had before but we’ll see how it does), some chard and rocket, and I’ve moved my thyme in there. I’m considering moving some of the other perennial herbs in there too.
Then looking left again there are the herb pots; and since taking that photo earlier in the week, I’ve moved the mini greenhouse again so it too is against the fence. I planted a dwarf cherry tree in a pot against the fence at the other side, and an autumn olive at the shady end of the garden, so there are lots of things to keep an eye on this year. I’ll take another photo like this in late summer to see how it’s all looking.
This year I am planning my annual veggies based on four criteria: ease of growing, how much better they taste home-grown than bought, whether we will actually eat them, and whether they’re expensive in the shops. Here’s how the analysis looks (green plus, orange maybe, red negative):
The ones with green stars to their left are the ones that make the cut: anything with one or more red minuses or no green pluses was out. After a little more debate I have ditched podded peas in favour of just growing mangetout (mostly eaten straight from the plant in the garden, mmm). Which gives me:
|Potatoes||Mid-March – May (earlies)||9-10 wks after planting (early June – August)||South-west (once broad beans are up)|
|Chard||Spring/self-sown||Throughout year||South/north-east perennial beds|
|Rocket||Throughout year (not July)||Throughout year||Wherever there’s space|
|Misc lettuce||Throughout year (not July)||Throughout year||North-west bed|
|Courgette||Indoors mid-April, plant out mid-May||From July/August||North-west bed|
|Pepper||Mid-Feb onwards indoors, plant ‘out’ mid-May||From July/August (harvest green to increase yield)||Greenhouse|
|Garlic||Nov (already in)||June||In edges of various beds|
|Mangetout||March||June||Next to fig up fence; in tomato pots until tomatoes ready|
|Broad beans||Nov (already in)||April-May||South-west bed|
|Podded beans||May||July||Square bean bed|
|Tomatoes||March in greenhouse||August/September||In pots along fence|
So my tasks so far look like this:
- Look over that list and existing seeds, buy seeds as necessary
- Transplant herbs into perennial beds
- Sow rocket as necessary (wherever)
- Chit potatoes (late March)
- Plant peppers on windowsill / in greenhouse
- Plant mangetout (in tomato pots / next to fig)
- Plant tomatoes (in greenhouse)
- Sow chard as necessary (perennial beds)
- Sow misc lettuce as necessary (NW bed)
- Plant courgettes in greenhouse (mid April)
- Pull up broad beans (late April)
- Plant potatoes (SW bed)
- Plant out courgettes (NW bed) (mid-May)
- Plant out peppers (greenhouse) (mid-May)
- Plant podded beans (square bean bed)
- Harvest garlic
- Harvest mangetout
- Sow chard as necessary
- Sow rocket as necessary
- Harvest podded beans
- Harvest potatoes
Next I need to work out what other tasks I need to do: fertilising, tying in fruit, peas, and tomatoes, etc. Then I can transfer it all into my calendar — thus minimising decisions to make and enabling me just to do things when I have a moment.
It’s about the time of year that I need to prune my fruit trees and bushes. I have done this before, but I am far from convinced that I did it the best way (and also I can’t remember what that was anyway). Hence this resource collection on pruning, and a summary for what I need to do.
- Prune to keep centre of tree open, cut back large branches to a lower branch, shorten each branch by 1/3 (as my tree is a spur bearer not a tip bearer). (RHS)
- Pick scaffold branches and prune back. (WeekendGardener.net)
- Cut back strong branches to about 50%, weaker branches to about 30%; goal is 7-8 strong branches by year 4. (This is specific to dwarf trees which mine is.)
- Prune this year’s growth by 1/3. (GardenAction.co.uk, has useful pictures.)
- Tidy up, then if tree is tall enough, reduce leaders by 2/3 and lateral branches to about 6 buds.
- SUMMARY: Lots of conflicting advice here. I’ll take a look at the tree, think about its height (full size for M9 is 1.8-2.5m), and cut back by 1/3-1/2, plus any tidying up. The tree’s branches are still quite thin as is its trunk so I’d rather prune a bit harder than not hard enough. I am most nervous about this pruning!
- Prune a little (just taking out weedy/rubbing stems) in year 2, then 30% of oldest stems, and all sideshoots, every year thereafter. (Ashridge Trees)
- Prune around 30%, right back to ground level or to a strong new shoot. (BBC) The BBC also suggest pruning when picking, rather than waiting until winter.
- Prune to create a light airy habit, and focus on taking out third year (black) branches that don’t have good first/second year growth. (The Chicken Street blog)
- SUMMARY: Nothing for me to do this year as the bush is only in its first winter.
- Remove any dead wood, then some of the oldest canes, taking them out at the base, and remove any twiggy growth. (BBC)
- Remove dead/damaged/rubbing stems, then 1/3 of the oldest stems (at the base) and any twiggy growth. (RHS)
- Tidy up, then remove oldest (grey) canes, and any twiggy growth. (GrowVeg.com) This site also recommends pruning in March. If I leave it til March I’ll forget about it…
- SUMMARY: Tidy up, remove some of the oldest canes, and any twiggy bits.
Any comments from experienced pruners (especially of dwarf apple trees!) welcome.