A morning walk. Ten photographs.

Last week I took a long walk along the canal near my house. I have lived close to this stretch of water, in various houses for ten years now. I love it. I walked these paths while in early labour with all three of my children. I have walked my dogs here, cycled this route to work and chased along the tow bath after kids on bikes. I have seen Kingfishers and Water snakes here.  I took lots of photographs with my i-phone on random and have chosen ten images to share here today. IMG_7913

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My garden in March

Today is 20th March, the Vernal equinox, first day of spring! I usually post my garden update on or around the full moon, but this month I thought it would be nice to coincide with the equinox. IMG_0923

Harvesting The garden is pretty bare of things to eat still, but the promise of spring crops is keeping me going! There are a few leeks hanging on still as well as my trusty herbs in pots near the house. The wild garlic has just started peeping through this week, so i am looking forward to a first taste of that very soon. The chickens are laying brilliantly, 6 or 7 eggs each day from 10 hens. We are giving away or trading lots of eggs, even our kids can’t eat as many as the chucks are producing! We have a broody hen at the moment, so we are wondering about maybe buying some fertile egg and raising chicks again. That is always fun and a fascinating process for the kids to be involved in.

Planting I have been keeping a record in a diary of what I am planting. So I will start sharing photos of the diary here rather than writing all the details out twice.  IMG_7898 IMG_7900

Thinking I thought at least one of my garden posts during the winter would show a beautiful snowy garden. But here we are on the first day of spring and not a snowflake has fallen. I don’t remember a winter without any snow for a long time. It has been a very mild winter, but oh the rain! So much rain and so much mud in the garden. Things are finally beginning to dry out and we are using the garden a lot more again. I have been busy with my garden design, writing up the process and planning planting for the seasons ahead. I am starting to plant seeds now which is always an exciting time. I find April and May seem to dash away from me with the busy days of spring. Before we know it summer will be just around the corner.

Feeling Looking out of my kitchen window today, I can see four different types of blossom. The flowers make a beautifully clashing show that only lasts a few weeks at most, but I love it. It lifts my spirits every year and gets me excited about the coming year. I am feeling positive about the progress I have been making with my Permaculture diploma. I am feeling pleased that I decided to focus on my home garden for my first design and am looking forward to seeing how productive and sustainable the systems are.

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Weather stats Thursday 20th March 2014

Dry and mild day with blustery wind and rain forecast for this afternoon

Max temp 13 Min temp 3

Sunrise 06.08 Sunset 18.17

My garden design – Design process part 5

Two weeks ago I had a design support tutorial with my tutor Hannah Thorogood. This spurred me on with writing up the design and was a great way of accepting and sharing feedback. We worked through an assessment sheet, looking at areas requiring work and discussing helpful suggestions for the next time I work on a design. I left feeling pleased with what I had achieved and with a clear plan of the stages I needed to complete. I have shared my design on this blog and via Facebook, so would be happy to receive feedback from anyone who feels they would like to offer me some!

Now that I have completed the ‘Design’ stage of the action learning cycle, I move onto the ‘Do’ stage.  So I have been busy developing an implementation plan. I have actually already began stages of the design. I have been considering this design since I completed my PDC in 2012, so I have been making changes in my garden with the design in mind.

IMPLEMENTATION PLAN.

WORK COMPLETED TO DATE                                                                                    Spring 2013 – Raised beds created to provide additional growing spaces.                      Fruit trees planted and additional soft fruit bushes added.

Autumn 2013 – Garden observations began to be recorded as monthly blog updates. Raised bed edges fixed and increased in height. Raised beds mulched for over the winter with chicken bedding, cardboard, chop and drop and compost heaps.

January 2014 – Sectional chicken run created and old chicken run area reclaimed to be   key hole bed.

February 2014 – More fruit trees planted

March 2014 – Fence panels mended and water capture and storage system created from the chicken shed roof.

WORK PLANNEDIMG_0954I have drawn up a basic implementation plan using tasks on post-it-notes. This allows me to shift the jobs around on the planner to create an adaptable plan that is flexible. I will probably also do a more detailed plan focusing more on the plants and when things need sowing, potting on, planting out etc.

I just wanted to finish by sharing my daughter’s garden design. She presented it to me and asked me to put it on my blog! She has been inspired to create her own Permaculture design for the garden. I think it looks great, I am a proud mum. IMG_0955

 

My garden design – Design process part four Design proposal

This post will share the design proposal for my garden design. The design aims to improve the food production areas in my garden and focuses on five key functions. As detailed in a previous post, they are; food production, attracting beneficial insects, water capture and sustainable usage, soil improvement and places to sit and enjoy the garden.

Food production – A lot of time has been spent on planning and developing new productive food growing spaces in the garden. I have added fruit trees and perennial crops to many of the beds. This aims to increase yields over the coming years with the minimal work possible. I have considered placements of annual crops for this summer, looking at companion planting and guilds of plants. I have added buckets and pots of food crops, placed near to the house to get lots of attention for watering and weeding and to make the most of the south-facing suntrap. I have considered what food we want to eat and planted accordingly. I have planned a polytunnel to grow more tender crops and to increase the season in which I can grow food.

Attracting beneficial insects – Flowers and herbs are interplanted throughout the garden. I have included lots of multi-use plants that are good for insects, are good companion plants, have medicinal properties, are edible and are attractive. I have included lots of self-seeding plants and will let them increase naturally in my garden over the years. I have ponds, wild areas and a diversity of planting, hoping to create a balanced and natural environment that is welcoming to insect life.

Water capture and storage – I have added water capture systems on the tool shed and the chicken shed. The chicken shed water tank will overflow to keep the pond topped up and provide water for a drip feed irrigation system into one of the vegetable beds. I have added a second tank to store water collected off the conservatory roof. I have fixed the guttering and added a water-butt to the greenhouse. I have planned a second pond to the south of the greenhouse to reflect light and heat into it.

Soil improvement – I have created a sectional chicken run that can be formed in many arrangements, fitting behind the chicken shed or over the raised beds. This will be used for chicken tractoring on a small-scale. This can also be used in the wilder areas of my garden in the future to bring more of the garden into productive use. I have been mulching the beds with chicken bedding and manure. I am experimenting with sheet mulching. I am composting all household food scraps and garden waste. I am adopting a no-dig approach in the garden. I am using green manures to retain cover on all available soils.

Places to sit and enjoy the garden. – I have plans to move the table and chairs onto the lawn, possibly onto a hard-surface eventually. This position will make the most of the evening sun in my garden. I would like to get hold of a second table and chairs for the terrace for morning coffee. We have some seating made out of chainsaw carved timber under the apple tree around a fire pit. I intend to tidy up this area and enjoy sitting here during the warmer months. The edges of the raised beds make good places to perch and watch the chickens or observe the changes occurring in the garden.

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The design – The full garden design is on the image on the left hand side of the paper. Changes made as a result of carrying out the design process are shown in red. The main food production area is shown at an increased scale on the right.

 

 

My garden design – Design process part three.

The write up for my garden design now enters the ‘Design’ stage. This post will cover; Ethics and Principles, web of connections, placements and pattern, companion planting and guilds.

Ethics IMG_0903I have considered where my design fulfilled Permaculture ethics. I drew this out in the form of the three ethics circles. I also considered where garden elements touched on two of the ethics simultaneously and included this in the overlap areas.

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The diagram above shows how my design fulfils Permaculture principles. Some principles were focussed on more than others, but I have considered each principle at least briefly during the design process.

Web of connections

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All of the garden elements are linked with at least a few of the others. The web of connections represents this visually. I can instantly see that water capture, perennial vegetables, chickens and the greenhouse have many connections. So this was considered during the placement stage.

Placements and pattern.  I talked about placement of man-made elements such as paths, chicken run, water catchment and table and chairs in my previous post. I  used Random assembly to consider placements and connections. This is also detailed in a previous post. For natural elements, in particular the planting, I looked at the Permaculture Principle ‘Design from pattern to detail’ to help me consider how to place the elements required in my garden. I drew out the current planting and marked where the spaces were for new or additional planting.

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I then chose to focus on the mid section of the garden as this was the most intensive food production zone. This includes the 7 raised beds, 2 key hole beds, greenhouse and chickens. I drew out this section of the garden at a larger scale.

IMG_0908IMG_0906The overlay shows this section of the garden and the pattern of the beds labelled in their most simple terms, ie, the pattern,  annual veg, kids bed, chickens etc.

IMG_0907This overlay adds detail, with existing planting marked in and details of mulching done over the winter.

IMG_0905Even more detail can be seen when the two overlays are viewed together. Gaps for planting are easily seen alongside the broad plan for what type of planting I have in mind.

Placement of plants. I used the design tool, Planning for real to decide where to plant my crops. This is a great way of trying out various combinations and moving them around until you find a layout you are happy with. The plants were written onto post-it notes and shuffled around on the maps and overlays. The photo below shows the process

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Companion planting and Guilds. I created a Web of connections to help me to think about companion planting. I wrote crops that I wanted to grow around the edge of a sheet of paper, then drew lines to connect plants that grow well together. I found this a very useful tool to depict visually a lot of information in a simple way. I’d like to do this again for a future project, adding more plants and connections. I could also include information on plants to keep apart (maybe by colour-coding the connection lines?) IMG_0913

IMG_0915 I noted ideas for good companion planting schemes for crops I wanted to grow.

IMG_0914I thought about guilds, specifically for around the young fruit trees. I intend to replicate elements of this guild around each young fruit tree in my garden. The left hand page of my sketch book above shows the guild plants and their purposes. The right hand page shows some initial ideas for the new keyhole beds.

My next post will share my design proposal.

My garden design – Design process part two.

My Garden design is coming along well. I have done lots of work on it over the past months. The rapidly approaching spring is pushing me on, as I need to be ready to begin planting by the beginning of next month. This post follows on from the post entitled ‘My garden design, beginning the design process’. This post will detail additional stages in the ‘Think’ stage of the Permaculture design process.

Base map. The Base map below shows the dimensions, orientation and major features of the garden as it was in January 2014. The set of six beds in the centre of the garden were put in last summer with a view to doing this design and upping food production.

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Overlays. I created overlays onto acetate. These are useful as they can show different aspects of the garden on different maps, keeping the original base map simple.

 

This overlay shows Zones and Desire linesIMG_0897

IMG_0899This overlay shows Sectors

Additional client interview                                                                                               

I have spoken lots to the other members of my family in an informal way about what they wanted from our garden. However, on reflection, I thought maybe I had made some assumptions about their wants, needs, likes and dislikes. So I went back over this with each member of my household and recorded their thoughts. For the children I did this in the form of a mind-map and for my husband we used an adaptation of the 4 questions tool, where he spoke and I wrote, then read his answers back to him. Photos of my notes are below. The blue building blocks are just used to cover their names and ages for reasons of privacy.IMG_0910IMG_0912

Key functions. The next stage was to decide upon Key functions. They were taken from considerations of the client interviews along with the work detailed in my previous post such; observations, boundaries, resources, functions/elements/systems and mapping. I decided to focus on five key functions for my design; food production, attracting beneficial insects, water capture and sustainable usage, soil improvement and places to sit and enjoy the garden. For each of these key functions I have set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bounded.

1. Food production. I aim for the garden to provide something to eat four days out of each week from May to September 2014. I will record what I pick, cook and eat in a diary. I plan to grow annual and perennial vegetables and add more fruit trees and soft fruit.

2. Attracting beneficial insects. I will research and grow suitable plants to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to help my food crops be successful. I will add these plants to my planting plan by the end of March 2014. I will make a special effort to observe the garden insects and keep a record of what I see. I will use companion planting and guilds in my garden.

3. Water capture and sustainable usage. I will add guttering and water storage tanks to my sheds by May 2014. I will use drip irrigation in some of my vegetable beds. I will set up an overflow system from the rainwater tanks to keep the pond topped up. I will try not to use mains water at all this summer to irrigate my plants. I will record in a diary anytime my tanks are dry and I have to use mains water in the garden.

4. Soil improvement I will research sheet mulching and use this technique to improve the keyhole beds where the chicken run previously was. I will sheet mulch by the end of March 2014. I will use green manures on available beds to cover the soil throughout the year. I will continue composing the chicken bedding and our food and garden waste. I will aim to get horse manure for free in the autumn to cover the beds for the winter. I will aim to not buy in more than five bags of compost this year. I shall hope to reduce this consumption each year.

5. Places to sit and enjoy the garden I will move the position of the table and chairs to where it gets the evening sun. I will aim to eat dinner outside with my family at least once a week from May onwards, hopefully many more times. I will have at least six meals or BBQ’s in the garden with family and friends during the warmer months.

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Remedial actions. The most pressing things to be addressed seem to be; the muddy paths, the lack of water capture on the sheds; developing a new run for the chickens and moving the table and chairs into a sunny spot.  I have created a new sectional chicken run, more on this in a later post. I am hoping to address the water capture and storage issue one weekend soon. I was be laying some stepping stones initially from the terrace to the main path, to avoid the muddy patch. The table and chairs are easy to move but I am waiting until after giving the lawn its first mow of the year when it has dried out a little more.

IMG_0901                                 This overlay shows some initial ideas about areas requiring attention.

Twelve Principles for twelve months – March – Catch and store energy

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This morning I have been ‘Catching and storing energy’ by sitting in my garden in the sunshine and drinking coffee. That may sound like procrastination, but under my rules I am fulfilling my brief for the month! The weather has been so beautiful over the weekend, we have been very productive, tidying up the garden, stacking and chopping wood, fixing the raised beds and taking advantage of the sunshine to dry our washing outdoors.

So, my Permaculture Principle for March is Catch and store energy. I intend to address this in the following ways.

1. Continue moving, chopping and stacking the wood that we have collected over the last few months. Our front garden had become a dumping ground for timber. All of this has been acquired for free from family and friends or tip-off from our tree-surgeon friends. WE need to move the wood into the wood stores in the back garden. This energy will be stored up and used next winter to warm our house via the log burner.

2. I want to look into ways of using renewable energy to power our cabin in the woods. We are off grid there, which is lovely. We use candles for light and have a gas bottle powered stove. I’d like to get some solar power up there this year to add additional lighting. I was there yesterday, taking the opportunity for some peace and quiet away from the kids. I was working on my diploma designs in preparation for a design tutorial with my lovely tutor later in the week. I spotted that a few cabins have small wind turbines, so I’d like to investigate the cost and usage of these too.

3. I also intend to look at energy use in my life. I am up at least twice most nights, breast-feeding my son and looking after my daughters, so I am pretty exhausted most of the time. I’d like to find ways to give myself more energy and look at where I waste energy in my day-to-day activities. I think it would be interesting to look at energy and activities in terms of zoning.

4. I will be fixing up guttering on the shed where our chickens live. I want the guttering to feed into a water storage tank and overflow into the pond to keep it healthy and topped up. I also hope to fix a drip pipe to the water tank and loop this around the adjacent vegetable bed so this is one less bed to water come high summer.