Muddy Boots garden re-design. CEAP. Collect site information.

Design Project overview

At the moment I am re-designing the area of the community allotment where I run Muddy Boots Allotment Playgroup. We were lucky enough to be awarded £250 from a local funding body at the end of last year. I have managed to squirrel away most of this money and plan on putting it towards physical improvements and enlargements to the space.

My Muddy Boots group is entering its 5th year now, but its only really the 2nd year that I have ran it as a businness with the aim to make money and for it to be my career rather than a hobby. So this year I hope to enlarge the space to be able to fit in more people and to run twice the amount of sessions.

The aim of this Permaculture Diploma design is to enlarge the fenced-in area and re-design the space where the group meets. I initally designed the space as the project I undertook as part of my PDC back in 2012. You can view the original design and process here. My PDC design.

I have decided to use the process C.E.A.P to structure my design. This design process has been chosen for two reasons, firstly because I’ve not used it before and secondly because it seems quite quick and easy compared to other design processes. I need this design process to happen quickly due to a deadline of mid April for the changes to be implimented by when the group begins meeting for our Spring season.

CEAP                                                                                                                                                     Collect site information
Evaluate the information
Apply Permaculture principles
Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation and tweaking


Collect site information

To collect site information I used the following Permaculture tools; meeting with relevant people, observed and measured the space, drew a base map, did a client interview, thought about boundaries and resources, did some wild designing, thought about functions and elements, looked at zones and sectors and took observational photographs.

In October 2015 I had a meeting with Sue, the lead volunteer gardener for the community allotment and we discussed my plans for extention and redesign. She gave me the go-ahead to proceed with the proviso that I do all the implementation and general maintainance myself or with members of my group. I am lucky that Sue is also involved in Permaculture and is very supportive, even if some of the other allotment gardeners have not always been so happy to have a large group of toddlers and children rampaging around their patch!

I measured up the space and drew a rough map showing sizes. I considered how much additional space I would need and where this could be located on adjoining land to make the best use of the plot. This showed me how much additional fencing I would need to purchase. I measured up the existing fencing to try to match fencing for the new area.

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I did a client interview with myself as client to really focus in on why I wanted to do this redesign and what I wanted the outcomes to be. I thought about functions of the space, what my boundaries and resources were.

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I looked in more detail at my boundaries and resources;

Boundaries. The main boundaries are time, money, energy and skills.

Time I have about 10 weeks currently till the site needs to be ready (early feb – mid april) I can devote a few weekends and a few thursdays to implementing the design.

Money I have £250 funding plus £50 saved from last years takings, so a total of £300 available to cover all expenses. This must include plants, seeds, compost and this years resources I need to buy in advance.

Energy I have some time put aside to devote to the design and implementation. I will have some help from my husband and can maybe suggest to the group that they can help too if they’d like to. Maybe the community allotment volunteers could do some jobs on tuesday mornings? I need to talk to Sue about this.

Skills I have very basic skills in woodworking. I am good at gardening, creative jobs and garden design. I need help with the heavy lifting and technical stuff. Lots of the jobs will require two or more people.

Resources on site that I can use in my redesign.

  • 1 wooden pallet 100 x 120 cm
  • 4 decking boards 200 x 15 cm (currently sandpit edging)
  • 4 decking boards 150 x 15 cm (currently sandpit edging)
  • 2 tractor tyres
  • 20 15cm square block paving tiles
  • 7 planks 12ft x 15cm (currently made into a raised bed)
  • Possible to prune the willow to make a den or structure
  • Various paving slabs and planks of assorted sizes

To stop myself getting too bogged down in the detail and to see the bigger picture again, I did some wild design thinking and came up with some outlandish ideas just for fun. I have had some time, space, money, help, ownership of the land then I’d love to do some or all of these crazy ideas!

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Then I brought myself back to reality and I thought about what elements were already in the space and what I wanted to keep, remove, change and add.

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Next I looked back at my original basemap drawn for the site in 2012 where I had added notes about the zones and sectors of the site. IMG_1448

These initial observations were pretty accurate, so I used this to do an updated base map showing the increased plot size and what was currently on site. The portion of the space to the left hand side of the dotted line is the new area that we will be expanding into.

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I took some more photos of the site as it is now, 3rd feb 2016 for reference and to help me with my designing.IMG_0857The new boundary will follow the existing fenceline out to almost the end of the dug bed in the middle of the picture then turn 90 degrees and meet the fence. This will enlarge the space available to me by approximately a third.

IMG_0867Looking over the existing fenceline to the area that will now be included. The area currently includes a raised bed, two barrel planters, a small cherry tree, a wire and wood fence and material storage.

IMG_0861The fencing can be reused. I will take down the fence at the east end of the plot and reuse this elsewhere. There are two sections of picket fence here 1 is 10.5 ft long and the other is 12 ft long. The fences look like they have been purchased as individual elements and constructed to fit the site. It should be possible to take them down as two pieces and then remove the fence posts or use them within my design.


 

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.

PrinciplesIMG_0946

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.