One of the problems I mentioned in my 2013 analysis concerned how much time we spend outside and how much we use the grassy area; as well as the herbs not being used enough in cooking. A couple of months ago I moved things around, but hadn’t blogged about it before today. So, some photos! (Sadly, some rainy photos, but there we go.)
I’ve move the mini greenhouse again, back up against the fence. This freed up the space next to the door for some of the most-used herb pots, and made it easier to get at the water butt. The herbs are now being used more often!
This little red paddling pool fits the space next to the door nicely. I’ve also hung a couple of the chairs on the fence to make more space.
I moved the blueberry in the Butler sink to be in front of one of the raised beds, rather than next to it. This makes it easier to walk onto the grass from the back door. I’d still like to replace the concrete part of the patio with something more pleasant underfoot, and at the same level as the brick part, to increase the amount of usable space and reduce the perceived barrier between the parts of the garden, but that’s a long-term project. The strawberry planter is also not very useful (only the top section works well), so I may replant the strawberries elsewhere at the end of the season and get rid of it, with the same aim.
In unrelated news, so far the plastic bottle cloches plus copper tape are protecting the baby courgette plants from slug attack successfully:
“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.
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.
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:
Mid-March – May (earlies)
9-10 wks after planting (early June – August)
South-west (once broad beans are up)
South/north-east perennial beds
Throughout year (not July)
Wherever there’s space
Throughout year (not July)
Indoors mid-April, plant out mid-May
Mid-Feb onwards indoors, plant ‘out’ mid-May
From July/August (harvest green to increase yield)
Nov (already in)
In edges of various beds
Next to fig up fence; in tomato pots until tomatoes ready
Nov (already in)
Square bean bed
March in greenhouse
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)
Sow chard as necessary
Sow rocket as necessary
Harvest podded beans
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.
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!