Review of 2014 in pictures

JanuaryIMG_7633

FebruaryIMG_0458

MarchIMG_7878

AprilMy HipstaPrint 965495025

MayIMG_1710

JuneIMG_2257

JulyIMG_2699

AugustIMG_3492

SeptemberIMG_4285

OctoberIMG_4218

NovemberIMG_5035

DecemberIMG_5384

My garden in December

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Harvesting My garden is currently brown, muddy, messy and rather abandoned. But that is OK, as my attention is focussed on the inside at this time of year. I have been gathering pretty branches, holly, ivy and dried seed heads from the garden to decorate the house for the festivities to come. We are still getting 3 eggs per day from the chucks, not bad for this time of year. The cockeral has still yet to crow so he is still around ruling the roost, the girls like him a lot!

Planting I finally got around to planting the spring bulbs yesterday. In the end it was an easy task as I decided to use large plant-pots rather than dig holes in the cold wet ground. The pots are lining the steps to the deck where they can sit quietly all winter, waiting for their chance to shine come the spring. I like having bulbs in pots because you can easily move them to where they will best be seen when they are in full bloom, then stash them out-of-the-way to die back.

Thinking An old Willow tree has crashed to the ground this week, it amazingly fell directly into the only clear space available, narrowly avoiding our greenhouse, next doors shed, the trampoline and the compost bays. I am grateful for that at least and I am pretty sure the tree will spring into life again from the trunk. The kids are enjoying the fallen tree, it brings a new aspect to the garden and provides exciting places to play and hide. We will get around to cutting up the tree soon and storing it for next years firewood, but currently there is just too much to do.

Feeling I am finally feeling well again after two weeks of suffering with the dreaded, full-family pre-Christmas cold. We have all been laid low and suffering for weeks. I have been dosing myself up with vitamins, manuka honey, whisky toddys and lots of fresh greens and garlic. I am almost ready for Christmas, the kids break up from school tomorrow and we have a few surprises up our sleeves for them. They have really enjoyed putting a bauble everyday on the ‘tree’ (pretty branches in a vase) We have also had fun making Christmas cards together and lighting candles and the logburner to cosy up in front of to light up the long dark evenings of December. We are almost at the Winter Solstice now, so it always feels good once the light levels begin tipping back the other way.

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Note the fallen Willow tree filling the left-hand side of the back portion of the garden. This was where I had proposed to build a poly-tunnel, I am so glad I didn’t!

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The chickens love coming right up to the house and sitting on the deck, seeking out the last rays of evening sun.

Weather stats

Thursday 18th December 2014

Cloudy and mild with a little drizzle

High 13 Low 5

Sunrise 08:12 Sunset 15:50

 

My garden in November

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Harvesting The harvest is now over in my garden. This week I have gathered in the last few bits, a few cooking apples, some Oka, Jerusalem artichokes and chilis from the green house. The oka were an experiment, it is the first year I have grown them. From 4 tiny tubers, I harvested about 20 small and a handful of larger tubers. I am yet to try eating them and may save them and replant next year to get a bigger harvest, I am assuming this would work? Can anyone enlighten me?

Planting I have still not got around to planting out my spring bulbs, so need to crack on this very soon before the ground gets too hard. We had our first frost last week. But generally the weather has been rather mild so far.

Thinking I am loving looking out of the window onto the tree with star-shaped bright red autumnal leaves (Is it called an Acer?)  The sun catches this throughout a lot of the day and makes the leaves glow brightly. It is currently holding onto its leaves well and cheering up a dark, muddy garden! I am planning on shifting a new load of woodchip into the chickens run and putting their old stuff onto the raised beds. The chucks always look rather fed up at this time of year. Cold and damp weather doesn’t really suit them. I need to spend a few days in the garden doing a general tidy up. Shifting leaves off paths to where they can be useful as soil improver, moving summer sandpits, pushchairs and kids bikes into the shed and having a good old clear out. The wood is now chopped and stacked, so that feels good with a promise of many cosy nights in front of the log burner to come.

Feeling  I am finding the dark evenings hard. I am making a real effort to spend an hour on the park, in the garden or trudging through the woods after school with the kids. Without that bit of outdoor time we all go rather stir-crazy. By the time we arrive home at 4pm, it’s very nearly time to close the curtains and out the lights on. To help make these dull, drawn-out evenings more enjoyable and productive, I have enforced a cebeebies/ DVD ban. My kids were previously allowed an hour of screen time each evening, but this makes them restless, argumentative and difficult. There were a few objections to this ban, but generally my household is calmer and happier for it. We have discovered more time in which to chat, do homework, cook a meal together and play games. The lego, jigsaws and colouring book have been rediscovered!

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I struggled to find things to take photographs of in the garden this month. Everywhere is looking spent, muddy and dull. The richness of autumn has passed and the stark, frozen beauty of winter has not yet arrived. We are waiting in limbo for the hard frosts and real winter to begin. I am looking forward to a quiet, simple christmas period. I am planning ahead for advent, more on this in another post. My thoughts and activities are heading back indoors and leaving the garden to its own devised for a few months.

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Weather stats

Thursday 20th November 2014

After a foggy morning the sky is now a bright clear blue. It feels cold but still and dry

High 9, Low 6

Sunrise 07:35 Sunset 16:05

My garden design – Evaluation 2014

I shared one of my Permaculture designs on this blog in the spring. It was a redesign of the food growing spaces in my back garden with the aim of providing us with something to eat on four days out of each week from May till September.  Here is a reminder of how that design looked. IMG_0953

I have also been sharing my monthly garden updates to keep track of how the garden is looking and progressing throughout the year. I am now coming to the end of the growing season and have been looking back over the design and how it worked out this year. I have looked at the garden features I had planned and the foods I had planned to grow. I have done a PNI analysis. Each item has also been graded from 10-1 with 10 being best. Items scoring under 5 will not be included in my garden for 2015 unless I can justify why they deserve a second chance!

DESIGN FEATURES POSITIVE 10-6 NEGATIVE5-0 INTERESTING
Polytunnel 0 Decided against this as the site proved unsuitable as it is too shaded by overhanging trees.
New Pond 0 Again the suggested site was too close to trees so the pond would fill with leaves each autumn. Also my children created a den behind the chicken run that required access over this area.
Stepping stones 2 I put a few in by the chicken run where I had the most trouble with mud. No other paths implemented due to lack of funds and time
Sectional chicken run 7 Works great in space b the shed, can open it up to let the hens forage behind the greenhouse too. Not used for chicken tractoring as yet, but plans to do so over this winter.
Raised beds 9 Great success, easy to make and maintain, very productive, great use of sunny part of garden, kids enjoy helping me.
Key hole beds 3 The woodchip paths rotted very quickly, the space is under trees so not great for annual veg. Difficult to access. Redesign as forest garden in 2015?
Water storage and capture 7 New tanks installed and collection off shed and overflow into pond. All functions well. However my son learnt to open the taps this summer and kept draining the tanks.
Wood store 6 Lots of wood storage spaces in garden now. We don’t need to buy in any wood this winter.
Pots on patio and deck 7 Looked lovely all summer and productive for herbs and cut flowers. However, v hot sunny position so lots of watering was required.
Table and chairs 8 New table and bench seating created out of reclaimed timber. Easy to crate seats up to 12 people. Kept on patio not lawn in the end seemed more practical option.
Grapevine 6 Great at shading deck in summer and letting in light in autumn/winter. However again it needed watering more and did not produce many grapes. They grapes that did grow were eaten by birds, but gret for birdwatching from kitchen
New lower fencing 5 I lkie it as it lets more light in and hopefully it will stand up better to winter storms. Our neighbour did not like it and put up a 6 foot fence along the remaining boundary would not consider a lower fence.
PLANTING
FRUIT
Rhubarb 5 Old plant needs dividing
Black currant 8 Loads of fruit but old bush, getting unstable
Gooseberry 6 Lots of fruit but tricky to harvest
Red currant 8 Great, need to take cuttings to start new plants as per black currants
Apple trees 6 Cooking apples was great, not loads on eating apple trees. Shared harvest with neighbours
Pear trees 4 Still establishing, spots on leaves diseased?
Blackberries 6 Were cut back hard this year so smaller harvest than normal
Raspberries 8 Good crop considering 1st year
White currant 4 Tasty but didn’t harvest many
Grapevines 5 Not too many grapes set and most lost to birds. Beautiful autumn colour
Fig 9 Fantastic, 50 ish fruits this year
Strawberries 6 Kids ate them all
Alpine strawberries 7 Spreading well
Cherry trees 6 First few cherry this year
Plum trees 4 Rubbish this year
ANNUAL VEG
Courgettes 2 Rubbish in my garden for last few years
Carrots 3 Didn’t really come to anything
Parsnips 0 Forgot to sow any
Beetroot 8 Great, ate stalks and leaves too
Raddishes 4 Ok in spring, went woody v quicky
Leeks 0 Dug up by chickens
Pumpkins 1 Lots of leafy growth but no fruit
Sweetcorns 1 Only 1 cob set! Rubbish
Cucumber 3 Didn’t do much
Mange tout 7 Great value
Broad beans 6 Good but needed more
Potatoes 6 Only had a few as take a lot of space but kids enjoyed harvest
Kale 4 Too late growing, chickens ate it
Spinach 3 Bolted v fast despite being in shade of grapevine
Lettuces 6 Great early and late in season, don;t bother in midsummer
Tomatoes 8 Great, lots of good outdoor toms, lots of work though
Peas 5 Not great this year
Chilis 9 Loads and v tasty and easy to grow
Aubergine 2 Small fruits set but none harvested
HERBS, FLOWERS AND MISC
Mint 7 Loads, need to keep in check
Edible flowers 9 Lovely and useful
Herbs in pots on patio 8 Fab
Sunflowers 6 Did ok, kids enjoyed the race
Lavendar 6 Establishing well
Calendula 9 Love it
Green manure mix 4 Didn’t do much
Sweetpeas 8 Lovely
Roses 9 Fab
Clematis 8 Lovely
Spring bulbs 6 Need more
PERENNIALS
Wild garlic 9 My fav, no effort, more each year, v useful in spring cooking
Perennial leaves patch 3 Not very successful, still needs to establish, went to seed quickly
Jerusulmn artichokes 8 Useful plant, lots of tubers but I don’t like eating them and fed to hens. Useful poles in garden.
Per.onions- various 6 First year so still at trial stage but hopeful.

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I have looked back at the five key functions I wanted my garden design to fulfil. They were; food production, attracting beneficial insects, water capture and sustainable usage, soil improvement and places to sit and enjoy the garden. 

Food production See notes above and below, the garden was pretty productive for a relatively small space and I am pleased with the amount of food i was able to produce.

Attracting beneficial insects I planted lots of flowers and herbs. I left wilderness areas and log piles. I could have concentrated more on this function but I felt the ecosystem in my garden is pretty well-balanced.

Water capture and sustainable usage New water capture and storage systems installed. See table above for details.

 Soil improvement I worked on mulching, green manure, composting and sheet mulches this year and I have started to learn what works and what does not work so well in my garden.

Places to sit and enjoy the garden. New table and bench seating created. I was gifted a bench, we made seating from timber around the firepit. I definitely enjoy my garden and would often rather hang out in my outdoor space than venture out into the wider world!

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I have looked at the food diary that I kept from May-September to see if I achieved my goal of eating something from my garden four days out of each week. Most weeks did achieve this goal, excluding those when we were away on holiday. Most harvests were small, with homegrown crops being pleasing addition to a meal rather than the bulk of what we ate. Salad crops and herbs did well as did fruit especially figs, currants and cooking apples. This is what I harvested each month.

MAY – wild garlic, parsley, lettuce, radishes, lemon verbena, mange tout, mint, lovage, eggs, pea shoots.

JUNE – Calendula, chives, beetroot stalks and leaves, onions, broad beans, basil, cucumber, nasturtiums, oregano, lettuce, raspberries, rocket, corn salad, eggs, rhubarb, strawberries, red/black/white currants, wild strawberries, gooseberries, cherries, spinach.

JULY – Broad beans, spring onions, beetroot stalks and leaves, blueberries, red/black/white currants, gooseberries, new potatoes, welsh onions, runner beans, eggs.

AUGUST – Runner beans, plums, tomatoes, chilis, figs, cucumber, courgettes, parsley, celery, purple beans, black and yellow toms, eggs.

SEPTEMBER – Figs, beetroots, courgettes, tomatoes, purple beans, blackberries, cooking apples, eating apples, raspberries, grapes, eggs, peppers, chilis, runner beans.

IMG_4924So in conclusion, my design was a great start to re-vamping the food growing areas in my garden. I have learnt a lot from this first year. All the record keeping has been manageable, enjoyable and a useful resource for me to refer back to in planning my tweaks to this design for my garden plans for 2015.

 

My garden in September

I started keeping this garden diary in September 2013, so this post marks one whole year of recording my garden every month. I find it interesting to look back and see the changes to my garden throughout the seasons and note the progress made and challenges fought in making my garden as productive as possible. I hope to keep up this regular blog post for a while yet. I hope to get a chance to take some picture of my garden in the snow! I wonder if this winter will provide that opportunity? I am grateful to have such a lovely garden that can provide my family with fresh, organic and seasonal produce. I am also grateful that my children get the chance to run around, play in the brook, climb the trees, keep chickens, enjoy playing with neighbours and generally get muddy!

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Harvesting Since my last post I have harvested food from my garden as follows; Figs, beetroot, courgettes, loads of tomatoes, purple beans, chilis, one tiny aubergine, lots of runner beans, blackberries, cooking apples, eating apples, a couple of grapes and a handful of yellow raspberries. In addition to this, we have returned from trips to the school garden laden with yet more runner beans, plums, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers and courgettes. The figs are over now, but they have been wonderful this year. The apples tree however have been far more stingy with their fruits this year. We normally like to press our apples for juice or cider, but we didn’t have enough this year to make borrowing a press worthwhile. So we gifted our apples to a neighbour who has promised us a few bottles of homemade cider in return.

Planting. I have sown some winter salads and Pak choi in the greenhouse. I have planted out the red and blackcurrant cuttings that have been taking root since last winter. I have also popped in a few more strawberry plants here and there. I spent a careful few hours planting out winter carrots and beetroot seedlings, such fiddly work. The chickens later broke out of their area and rampaged through the garden, scratching up and eating all but a few of my newly planting winter crops. I was not best pleased and just can not find time or energy to re-plant them.

Thinking. I can feel the shift in the seasons this week. Mornings are darker and beginning to feel chilly. I have searched out the children’s slippers and my dressing gown. We have had a couple of misty mornings. My walk to school was decorated with jewelled spider’s webs yesterday. I do enjoy autumn, especially all the celebrations associated with fires and tasty food. I like lighting the log burner and feeling cosy in the evenings, but we have not had to do that yet. We try to wait until November rolls around before heating the house.

Feeling My daughter’s birthdays beautifully bookend the summer. C at the end of May and E at the end of September. We celebrate Miss E’s 8th birthday next weekend, then autumn is allowed to begin!

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Weather stats

Thursday 18th September 2014

A foggy morning becoming brighter as the day goes on

Sunrise 06:43 Sunset 19:13

High 23 Low 15

 

My garden in August

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Harvesting Since my last garden update post in mid July we have been away from home a lot. We have spent some time at our cabin in the woods and have been on a camping holiday to Cornwall. So this blog space and our garden have been rather neglected I am afraid. The garden has however been getting on pretty well without us. It has produced; runner beans, plums, tomatoes, chilis, figs, cucumbers, courgettes, parsley, celery and purple climbing beans. The fig tree in particular has been fantastic this season. We dug it up and brought it with us when we moved here six years ago, it must be about 10 years old now and is really hitting its stride! Its only six-foot tall but has produced around 40 figs so far with loads more to come.

Planting I have pulled up some of my tomato plants now. They were a mixed bunch this year, with some performing brilliantly and others never really getting going. I have taken out anything that hadn’t yet produced much fruit as well as a few that had exhausted themselves already. The outdoor toms did better than those in the greenhouse, probably due to water I should think and we seem to have avoided blight so far. The plants in the raised beds are still doing well, so I have left them to see if many more toms ripen before the weather cools down too much.

Thinking I am planning on planting some winter lettuces and pak choi in the place of the tomatoes in the green house. I’d also like to crack on with my autumn/winter garden over the next few weeks. I will have more time available for this once the girls return to school. September always feels like a fresh start, a new school term is a good time to begin a new regime at home too I always find. So I have began making a meal plan every sunday night. My aim is to do another one of my Permaculture Diploma design around healthy lifestyles, I am taking an online health and nutrition course currently and thinking carefully about what my family eats.

Feeling I am holding on tightly to the last weeks of summer. I do love the autumn but am always very sad too to let summer go. The last few weeks have turned colder with a slight autumnal nip in the air occasionally, this fills me with an equal dread and excitement! We are packing in the park visits, garden visits, BBQ’s and parties outdoors while we can. I am not quite ready to pack away my sunglasses and hunt out the woolens just yet.

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We had a party last weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We shared the party with our next door neighbours. We took up some fence panels and enlarged the child-sized gate that connects our two gardens. We had a fantastic day, with around 100 friends and family coming and going all day from 3pm – 2am! We made extra seating out of tree trunks, made a firepit for an evening bonfire and our talented musician friends entertained us in the wee hours with firelit acoustic music. It was such a wonderful day. I just wish I had taken more photographs! Here are some from the set up.

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IMG_3924You just can’t beat a glitter ball in the trees!

Weather stats

Friday 29th August 2014. breezy with isolated showers and sunny spells.

High 18, Low 13

Sunrise 06:09  Sunset 20:00

 

 

 

 

 

My garden in July

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I am a little late with this month’s garden update as we have been away on our hols. We spent a week staying on an Organic farm in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It was a great break. The sun shone (some of the time) and we ate well, walked lots, saw family, visited an island and swam in the sea. We returned to an overgrown garden heaving with produce and weeds popping up everywhere. I have been picking, cooking and eating all week and hacking back some of the exuberant vegetation that was threatening to takeover!

Harvesting Since my June post we have harvested the following crops; black, red and white currants, strawberries and wild strawberries, yellow and red raspberries, gooseberries, cherries, peas, mange tout, spinach, broad beans, beetroot plus its stalks and leaves, spring onion and welsh onions, blueberries, new potatoes and shallot stalks.

Planting I have been planting out a few more bits; butternut squash plants, cutting celery seedlings and kale plants. I have been clearing some spent plants such as the broad beans, peas and potatoes to make space for these.

Thinking The garden has run away from me. One minute I felt like I was almost on-top of things, then it only took a week away to lose control! While we were away the peas and sweet peas went over, the ‘meadow’ area turned into a nettle-filled wilderness and the lettuces ran to seed. I am ok about all this thought, its part of the great cycle of life! I am enjoying the summer hols a lot but only have limited time to garden as I need to devote most of my time to the children. The poly-culture areas are still working well, they look beautiful and are productive. I am trying to get a few more autumn/winter crops in over the next few weeks to attempt to extend the season somewhat.

Feeling I am feeling proud of the produce that the garden is providing us, although I would need heaps more space if this produce was to put a real dent into our weekly fruit and veg shopping bills. The two square areas in the mid part of the garden that I had envisaged as keyhole beds were a dead loss this year really. They are difficult to access, greatly shaded by overhanging trees and full of weeds. I need to re-think these areas in my plan for next year. We use the garden everyday, for the majority of the day. So its full of kids bikes, scooters, hoses, cushions, dens, shoes, drinks and books! I love it.

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Weather stats

Thursday 24th July 2014

Another bright and sunny day with light warm breezes

Sun rise 05.12  Sunset 21.09

Max Temp 26  Min temp 15