Spring Equinox

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One of my aims for this year is to learn more about the special days of the year following the Pagan calendar. I have always been interested in the changing of the seasons and the solstice, but I want to learn more. I plan to post on each special day this year with a reflection on what is happening in my garden and what I am up to.

Today is March 20th, Spring Equinox, the point in the year when hours of darkness and light are balanced. The midpoint between the longest day (summer solstice) and shortest day (winter solstice) This year the Spring Equinox co-insides with two other special celestial events, a supermoon and a solar eclipse.

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Noticing more bird-song everywhere

Feeling over-whelmed by my to-do list but grateful to have such interesting things to do!

Wishing there were more hours in the day

Eating the first wild garlic shoots as they appear

Wondering when I will get around to planting seeds this spring

Wearing thermal leggings, thermal t-shirts and thermal socks

Watching Orange is the new black (again)

Listening To my neighbour’s music, son’s DVD, my kids rowing and wishing for silence

Drinking Not enough water and too many cups of tea

Planning My Outdoor playgroup activities

IMG_5815Yellow flowers on the Forsythia. Primroses and Daffodils are opening to splashes yellow around my garden too.

IMG_5829  The ornamental cherry tree is speckled with pink today. A few brave buds have opened their baby pink flowers and the rest are sure to follow suit as soon as we get a bit of sunshine. I cut some branches from this tree a week ago and brought them inside to hurry spring along a little. They opened within days and brightened up my kitchen just in time for mother’s day.

IMG_5823The first wild spring greens are appearing, nettles and wild garlic pop up around the margins of my garden. I love to eat both of these plants, yesterday I nibbled on a few garlic shoots straight from the earth, delicious, strong and a real sign that spring has arrived.

IMG_5822I have finally finished the new chicken run and the chucks are happy with their new spaces. I can now clear the paths and begin planting. I went mad with pruning last weekend and tidied up ready for spring. I love this time of year so much.

 

 

Imbolc

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One of my aims for this year is to learn more about the special days of the year following the pagan calendar. I have always been interested in the changing of the seasons and the solstices, but I want to learn more. I plan to post on each special day this year with a reflection on what is happening in my garden and what I am up to. This is an extension of last years project, looking at changes in my garden each month.

Today is February 2nd – Imbolc. Today marks the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The days are visibly lengthening now and if you look very carefully, signs of spring are starting to appear. Bulbs are pushing their shoots up towards the light and tiny buds are beginning to unfurl. It is often the coldest part of the year, we had a scattering of snow a few days ago on my birthday. I am running in the mornings with the sunrise which is always beautiful and there is time now for the kids to have a brief play in the garden after school. I have lit a candle tonight and plan to enjoy this quiet part of the year planning my activity during the warmer months ahead.

IMG_5507The view down my garden today.

Noticing the buds on the clematis opening a little more each day.

Feeling cosy sat by the log burner

Wishing for more nights of unbroken sleep

Eating vegan ‘cream of tomato’ soup with chickpeas croutons

Wondering whether to stay home or go to the farmer’s market tomorrow

Wearing always two pairs of socks

Watching River Cottage Australia and loving the beautiful coastal small holding

Listening to a woodpecker in the woods near my house

Drinking red wine again after a dry January

Planning our trip to Norfolk in a couple of weeks time.

IMG_5544Bay leaves growing well on my patio

IMG_5543 The branches of the ornamental plum-tree are looking fuzzy. This is always the first tree to have blossom in my garden. When it starts to look like this I love to cut a few branches and put them in a vase inside where the heat of the house makes the flowers open.

IMG_5541 Buds on the plum-tree and the setting sun behind

IMG_5537 Clematis and a beautiful lichen covered support

IMG_5532 The sun dropping behind a house

IMG_5513 Honeysuckle

IMG_5508 Day lilies

IMG_5552Tonight’s dinner is a new recipe kfrom the ‘Oh she glows’ cookbook. I chose this for today to fit in with Imbolc as it is the colour and shape of the sun!

My garden design – Tweaks

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I have started this post with an image of a sunflower head as I think it fits well with my current activity of bringing all my ideas together in a harmonious way and looking to nature for inspiration.

To approach the ‘Tweak’ stage of my garden design, I revisited OBREDIMET.

Observations – I looked back at my notes for 2014. I walked around the garden and checked what needed immediate attention. I looked back over the monthly photographs I had taken of my garden.  See post here. I used my in-depth knowledge of my garden, its eco-systems and microclimates built up over the seven years I have lived here.  I looked back at my records of what I harvested from the garden and graded each crop and garden feature to access the effectiveness of my design. See more about this on this post

Boundaries– I looked at what did not work last year and needed changing. I looked at my available time, energy, assistance, resources and money to make changes. I considered the changing needs of my family, how they use the garden and what they like to eat.

Resources– I again looked at my blog posts planning the garden and read over my notes from last year. I looked at the flip-side boundaries and focussed on the positives of time, energy, assistance, resources and money I had available to devote to the design. I looked at the seeds I had left over from previous years. I looked at the garden vouchers I was given for Christmas. I looked at what I could propagate from existing plants in my garden.

 

Evaluation – I brought all of the above together and considered what my priorities were. I set myself aims for my garden in 2015. These are detailed at the bottom of this post.

Design – I looked back at my original design and created an overlay. I used a temporary pen to play around with fitting crops into spaces on the plan, using the tool ‘planning for real’ When I was happy with these I wrote them in with permanent pen. I used the Permaculture principles of ‘Least change for greatest effect’ ‘Creatively use and respond to change’ ‘ Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’ and ‘Observe and interact’

Implement – I will create an implementation plan over the next few weeks

Maintain – I will create a maintenance plan.

Evaluation – I will keep notes on the effectiveness of the design like I did during 2014 in order to evaluate it against my aims at the end of the growing season.

Tweak – I will tweak the garden again next year and continue this cycle year after year.

IMG_5497The original design

IMG_5495 The tweaked overlay

The overlay shows new planting plans for the annual vegetable beds and more focus put onto Forest garden areas. I looked back to my notes about which crops were best for the needs of my family and the environment of my garden. I have excluded lots of crops that don’t do well in my garden and plan to focus on a more limited range of crops this year. I have chosen crops we like to eat a lot of and those that taste better fresh from the garden. I also plan to use varieties that are not easily to purchase in the shops. I also plan to develop the forest garden areas.

IMG_5496This image shows the original design and overlay combined to show how the new and old designs work together.

 

Aims for my garden design during 2015

1. To develop the forest garden areas. I plan to re-read my books on Forest gardening and plan these areas carefully to be as self-sustaining as possible.

2. To focus more on perennial crops I have a lot of demands on my time this coming year which will take me away from the garden, so one aim for this year is to plant less annuals and focus more on perennials that will need less input from me to do well.

3. To ensure the chickens are safe and well cared for. To develop a new enclosed run area using the space behind the greenhouse that is currently neglected. A fox has moved into the area and took two of my chickens recently, so I am being far more wary about allowing them to free-range.

4. To experiment with new varieties of crops that I know do well in my garden.

5. To grow more edible flowers and salad crops.

6. To maintain and develop the good work I have started in the garden, especially with composting, mulching and water capture.

 

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan Cornwall

We had a fantastic day at The Lost gardens of Heligan. I had read a couple of books about these gardens. They were abandoned for many years and became overgrown and like a jungle! It must have been so exciting for the garden restorers to hack their way into the undergrowth and rediscover old paths, fallen down greenhouses and wonderful planting. The gentle Cornish climate and the unique aspect of the site makes it suitable for semi-tropical plants, so it really feels like another world. I was very impressed with the outdoor education facilities. We spend a fun few hours constructing elaborate dens out of ropes, branches and tarpaulins. So much fun, especially when it briefly rained and we took shelter in our dens to eat lunch. The kids will always remember that adventurous pack up! The walled productive gardens were something special. Every fruit, vegetable and herb imaginable planted out in the longest rows I have ever seen. It looked beautiful.

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There was lots of plants, flowers and sculptures. You got a map and compass at the beginning to help you find treasure. There was also a vegetable garden that grew lots of vegetables in long long rows. My mummy loved it there. There were two sculptures and one of them was a face and another was a person lying down and they both looked really weird! They were made out of stone, plants and rocks. I quite liked the look of them.    Miss E age 8 

We build an amazing den and ate our packed lunch in it while it was raining. We walked over a high up bridge. It was high and a bit scary.                                                        Miss C age 4 

I spilt a whole bottle of water over myself in the vegetable garden so we had to go home  Master S age 1

 

The Botanical gardens – Leicester

We love to visit the Botanical gardens a few miles from our home. It is a beautiful garden with university buildings, a cafe, open spaces for the children to run around it, a large pond and a sculpture park. The double boarders are full of herbaceous perennials and look stunning in the summer months. I suspect there is a bee hive or two somewhere near by as the flowers are always covered in bees on sunny days.

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In the summer there are millions of bees and wasps. I think they like the bright flowers. There are lots of sculptures there on the grass. My Daddy did a sculpture project there once making things out of wood. There is a pond with fish in it.  Miss E Age 8

I like running down paths and blowing bubbles. I do like the pretty flowers. Miss C age 4

 

The Eden Project Cornwall

We camped close to The Eden Project for our summer holiday in August. We loved it there so much that we visited twice in ten days. It was lovely seeing so many people exploring ideas about sustainability and gardening. However the site does tend to get very busy, so a good tip is to arrive just as the doors are opening at 9.30am. Not too difficult a task when you are living in a field with children who wake up at the crack of dawn! We had been before about ten years ago soon after it opened, so it was great to go back and see how much the plants had established and the site had expanded. We had a buy one get one free ticket from Gardener’s World magazine, which made it a very good value family day out. Highly recommended.

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The Eden project was really fun, but Coco was scared of the dinosaur. I thought the dinosaur was lovely, it had a baby one that walked around on someones hand everywhere as well. There was a bare-foot walk that I liked. I found a big fat caterpillar on our walk. Miss E aged 8

I didn’t like the dinosaur, he was scary, I did have a dream about him once.                     Miss C age 4

 

Calendula flowers

Our garden is bursting with Calendula at the moment. I love these flowers, all the different hues and the subtlety of the different petals forms really appeal to me. The bees love them and they are such a useful plant. I told the kids at gardening club that they could eat the petals in salads, they looked at me in disbelief, then proceeded to spent the rest of the session stuffing flowers into their mouths whenever the teacher’s back was turned!

I even like this plant when the flowers are going over and they start to look a little disheveled. They produce so much seed, so its a plant you will only have to buy once and it will pop up in your garden for years to come.

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I collected some petals yesterday and they are drying out now ready to use for calendula oil in a few weeks. What do you use Calendula for? I’d love to try out some new ideas.

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A posy from my garden – Rainbow

We found a rainbow in our garden today. Like all good rainbows, it didn’t stay around for long, but it was beautiful while it lasted. IMG_2668

Plant Love – Poppy

I think I have realised why Poppies are called Poppies. One day they are a mass of tightly closed buds, the next they literally “POP” open and reveal their vibrant flowers. The self-set flowers in my garden started popping open today and their scarlet, yellow and black centres looked just stunning in the morning sun. There are loads more buds to open so the garden should be dotted with red flashes for weeks to come. I love the dried poppy heads too, both in the garden and in a vase in the house. A good value plant!

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