Twelve Principles for twelve months – September – Produce no waste

IMG_7707Plastic packaging is a pet hate of mine and unfortunately it is often what fills the majority of my household bin.

September is a month of abundance. The trees are raining fruit down on us by the bucketful. This is wonderful as long as you can manage to keep up with the deluge. Often I pass trees that have dropped all their fruit and it litters the floor beneath them, rotting on the ground and feeding only birds and wasps. I totally understand that September is a busy month and the task of harvesting fruit can fall to the bottom of people’s lists. But it always breaks my heart just a little.

I am as guilty as anyone, this year I have completely neglected to harvest one of our plum trees. The fruit ripened while we were away in Cornwall and it needed immediate attention on our return. My attention was also needed elsewhere (as always) so this year we have not eaten a single homegrown plum. I am trying not to make the same mistake with the cooking apple tree. I am collecting the windfalls and bringing them into the house, where they sit in a wicker basket and slowly turn brown, then are fed to the chickens. My intentions are to make wonderful crumbles and puree but again real life is getting in the way. I hate this waste but I accept that life is so full currently and sometimes I just have to prioritize what is most demanding of my attention on any given day and ‘let it go’.

Reflecting on this has made me more forgiving of the wasted produce I see at the community allotment and school garden. Cucumbers left to rot on the vine, courgettes grown monstrously huge and bolted spinach everywhere. At our first new school year gardening club this week, we spent a good hour harvesting and sharing out vegetables amongst the children. This felt good. So many people don’t have enough to eat, not only in far off impoverished counties, but also in our own neighbourhoods. Wasted food seems like a terrible sin. I think often gardening projects concentrate on the growing of produce and make the mistake of neglecting the harvesting, processing and eating side of the equation. I intend to do what I can to address this in the gardening projects I am involved with.IMG_8331

This month’s principle ‘Produce no waste’ is a difficult one to excel at. So I am going to aim for ‘produce a little less waste’ I am going to make a meal plan for the week each sunday and shop accordingly. I am going to try to buy foods with less packaging, I am going to try to cook the correct amount of food and use up any leftovers the following day. I am going to keep on recycling all my kitchen waste to the chickens or into the compost heap. And lastly, I am going to try not to waste my most precious resource of all – time.

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.