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Hi from Cornwall and a question about small scale Permaculture.

 
Paul Andrews
Posts: 155
Location: Cornwall UK
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Hi All
I am aman from Cornwall in the far south west of the UK. I have been interested in growing veg for a while now but have only recently been introduced to the idea of Permaculture by listening to jack and the survival podcast and more recently of course Paul and his wild and wacky podcasts.

The problem I have is that do not have a permanent home or any land of my own. We do however rent a small allotment. I don't know if you have allotments in the states but they are small parcels of land put aside for people without gardens to grow veg. I think they started during the war to boost food supplies. In recent times they have become very popular again and are now quite sought after with some places having waiting lists running into decades.

Anyway. we are luck enough to have one and I am determined to make a go of it and start growing a sizeable percentage of out food next year.

It is quite small at 25M x 7.5M with a gentle slope but it used to be farm fields so I think the soil is pretty tired. My wife is a very traditional veg gardener and is not very open to new ideas so i am going to have to work around her methods and gently introduce her to new concepts as and when I learn them. I'm hoping the results will speak for themselves.

We have a long growing season here in Cornwall and rarely have snow that lasts more than a few days. It is rather wet though. We are a seaside town and benefit from the warm waters of the gulf stream.

As a complete noob to all of this what is my first step as it all seems a bit confusing to be honest.

Tanks

aman
 
Aljaz Plankl
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To plant some trees and bushes beside veggies. Could you plant some on that plot? Of course size matters but you could plant a nice number of small fruit bushes, which will give you additional food. Maybe some dwarf fruit trees or maybe even some big trees, it depends where you plant them and other things.

Have you heard of food forest? It's a great concept, It can be done on a small scale.
- Food forest by Rober Hart
- Martin Crawford´s FOREST GARDEN

As veggies are concerned - maybe you could watch this video with your wife, it's about permaculture vegetable garden suitable for your climate.
- Emilia Hazelip Synergistic Garden

Google Cornwall permaculture.

Have a good time.
 
Lori Crouch
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
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Ask your landlord if they would mind you planting anything in the yard. I had one a few years ago who was so excited at the prospect of a renter taking care of the yard that she bought me 10 trees to plant. Maybe they wouldn't mind a well-tended tree or fruiting vines and bushes lining an existing fence.

Also, you could do plantings in flower pots and such around the house or perhaps a raised bed that could go with you when you leave. There's a lot of DIY Australian videos on youtube as to how to make these and others for solutions to farming while renting from the same people.

Good luck in all your endeavors!!
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1012
Location: Northern Italy
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Your situation is pretty analogous to mine. Instead of my wife farming traditionally, it's the part of the family that owns the land. You do what you can, try and get along, try not to be too critical of their practices even if you know they are wrong, play stupid, let things in one ear and out the other. And get angry sometimes. That works for me.

Also with your square meters, pretty much like mine. I also have my friend's yard that I'm trying to put into production, so that gives me an extra 30 square meters.

I've been doing "stuff" for 2 years now. I've been busy with work, so I can't dedicate much time it, but I'm hoping this year we'll get some more of our food needs met. I don't have any dreams of 100% or anything. Just something to make it worthwhile.

Suggestions I would make looking back:
-make commitments to perennial plants early on, even if it's just one frickin' plant, grow that thing. Berries are friendly. So are perennial herbs. So are Sunchokes (not perennial, but it acts perennially), tons of others.
-fruit trees and bushes if you can. I'm planning on setting out 4 or five fig trees this (3rd) year. Even if "the family" decides I can't have them, I'll just dig them up later.
-Be agressive on resource gathering. Every load of organic matter you bring to your site increases the fertility of the site in the first years. Later on you can grow your own biomass.
-Figure out how water flows on your land early on. The first year they tilled my land and all the water ended up in a muddy pool at the bottom end. Then we had a drought. Slow, sink, soak, and grow water. Even on my small and flat site, water was lost and the plants suffered.
-Get to know your area. What grows there? I'm constantly realizing that there are opportunities I never thought of just by getting to know what grows near you.
-Grow weeds. You can get seeds for lambsquarters, amaranth, and dandelion, purslane, dock-rumex-sorrel, and tons more. They won't fail you. I wish I had those seeds earlier.
-Go out and look at areas that look "wild", like when someone forgot to farm it for the last 5 or 10 years. Or keep an eye out when you're driving. What's growing there? A lot of times you can find natural plant communities to replicate in your garden. I found a blackberry-dog rose-tree-hops plant guild in a hedgerow. Nobody was tending it, but the plants were fantastic, much better than what they were tending on their property.

Good luck to both of us.
william
 
Paul Andrews
Posts: 155
Location: Cornwall UK
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Aljaz Plankl wrote:To plant some trees and bushes beside veggies. Could you plant some on that plot? Of course size matters but you could plant a nice number of small fruit bushes, which will give you additional food. Maybe some dwarf fruit trees or maybe even some big trees, it depends where you plant them and other things.

Have you heard of food forest? It's a great concept, It can be done on a small scale.
- Food forest by Rober Hart
- Martin Crawford´s FOREST GARDEN

As veggies are concerned - maybe you could watch this video with your wife, it's about permaculture vegetable garden suitable for your climate.
- Emilia Hazelip Synergistic Garden

Google Cornwall permaculture.

Have a good time.


Thanks for the relies and sorry for the delay but it has been a very busy Christmas.

Great videos Aljaz. I have started watching them and there are many more to watch but I am already getting some ideas for the plot. My wife is all for fruit trees but she is finding it hard to imagine perennial veg at the moment and not digging the soil is totally alien to her. We will get there. I have contacted a local organization called transition Falmouth to see if I can find like minded people in the area who may have land they don't use.

Lori Evans wrote:Ask your landlord if they would mind you planting anything in the yard. I had one a few years ago who was so excited at the prospect of a renter taking care of the yard that she bought me 10 trees to plant. Maybe they wouldn't mind a well-tended tree or fruiting vines and bushes lining an existing fence.

Also, you could do plantings in flower pots and such around the house or perhaps a raised bed that could go with you when you leave. There's a lot of DIY Australian videos on youtube as to how to make these and others for solutions to farming while renting from the same people.

Good luck in all your endeavors!!


Hi lori. We don't have a landlord or a yard as we are effectively homeless, this is my problem but I am going to try to find people in the area that have under used gardens and see if they would allow me to plant some food plants in return for produce and a tidier garden.
I noticed my Father has a green house he doesn't use It is only a small one but it might be good for a small aquaponics system plus it means I will visit my Father daily.


William Hatfield wrote:Your situation is pretty analogous to mine. Instead of my wife farming traditionally, it's the part of the family that owns the land. You do what you can, try and get along, try not to be too critical of their practices even if you know they are wrong, play stupid, let things in one ear and out the other. And get angry sometimes. That works for me.

Also with your square meters, pretty much like mine. I also have my friend's yard that I'm trying to put into production, so that gives me an extra 30 square meters.

I've been doing "stuff" for 2 years now. I've been busy with work, so I can't dedicate much time it, but I'm hoping this year we'll get some more of our food needs met. I don't have any dreams of 100% or anything. Just something to make it worthwhile.

Suggestions I would make looking back:
-make commitments to perennial plants early on, even if it's just one frickin' plant, grow that thing. Berries are friendly. So are perennial herbs. So are Sunchokes (not perennial, but it acts perennially), tons of others.
-fruit trees and bushes if you can. I'm planning on setting out 4 or five fig trees this (3rd) year. Even if "the family" decides I can't have them, I'll just dig them up later.
-Be agressive on resource gathering. Every load of organic matter you bring to your site increases the fertility of the site in the first years. Later on you can grow your own biomass.
-Figure out how water flows on your land early on. The first year they tilled my land and all the water ended up in a muddy pool at the bottom end. Then we had a drought. Slow, sink, soak, and grow water. Even on my small and flat site, water was lost and the plants suffered.
-Get to know your area. What grows there? I'm constantly realizing that there are opportunities I never thought of just by getting to know what grows near you.
-Grow weeds. You can get seeds for lambsquarters, amaranth, and dandelion, purslane, dock-rumex-sorrel, and tons more. They won't fail you. I wish I had those seeds earlier.
-Go out and look at areas that look "wild", like when someone forgot to farm it for the last 5 or 10 years. Or keep an eye out when you're driving. What's growing there? A lot of times you can find natural plant communities to replicate in your garden. I found a blackberry-dog rose-tree-hops plant guild in a hedgerow. Nobody was tending it, but the plants were fantastic, much better than what they were tending on their property.

Good luck to both of us.
william


Thanks William
I am going to plant a few fruit trees and bushes this year. We have a big bird problem on our plot (big problem, not big birds) so I might have to build a fruit cage. My sister has just had her roof replaced so I have a ton of free wood at my disposal.
We live by the coast and we have many beaches near by. Would seaweed be a good mulch? I hear differing stories. Some say you have to dig it in or else it will dry out and blow away and others say use as a mulch. I have heard that seaweed can help to reduce slugs as they don't like the salt.

There is so much to learn

I will keep you all informed. I might go down there today and draw up a plan of the plot so I can start planning
Thanks

aman
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Aman, seaweed is good everything! I love it and here's a bit of an ode to the stuff from me
Unless your soil's very heavy, I wouldn't rinse seaweed: seawater's full of valuable minerals but very little sodium chloride (table salt).
Seaweed breaks down really fast when damp, but if exposed it goes very, very hard. The way you use it depends on the type(s) of weed on the beach.
Bull kelp, the big, fat stuff with the 'anchor' sometimes still attached is the most nutritious. In order to mulch with it, you really need to run over it with a mower or hack it up with a machete. When it comes up in the winter storms, I wheelbarrow it up the road to my compost heap.
You may have bladder wrack, which is kind of in-between the really good stuff and...sea lettuce (the bright green one) isn't very minerally rich, but makes great mulch.
This clip isn't what I was after, but gardeners on the Orkney, Aran and Shetland slands would be stuffed without seaweed. http://www.aranisland.info/wordpress/2011/04/03/invention-inis-meain/#.TvziyFZVVkw

I don't get too tied up with the perennial/annual thing. While I know the reasons behind permaculture's love of the perennial, I also love tomatoes and unfortunately they're not perennial in my climate. So I grow tomatoes. Actually I grow a LOT of annual/biennials, but let many of them self-seed.
Easy perennials here are rhubarb and many herbs, but there's loads of them. I'm growing rocoto chillies that are perennial in my climate.
When you say your wife's a 'traditional' gardener, what does that include? Often it's fairy superficial stuff like rows, 'tidyness' and such. I know it's not that simple, but it's not a make-or-break and maybe you can do your thing and she hers in the same space for a season?
Tilling is handleable and in my experience, many gardeners till because of weeds. If you can get everything really heavily mulched, she may be less inclined to dig...
Poisons are a different ballgame though.
What's the deal with the allotment? Is it yours as long as you want to rent it? Limitations on planting? Spray drift? I know the powers-that-be can be a bit anal and a permaculture garden can look a bit messy to the untrained eye...
 
Paul Andrews
Posts: 155
Location: Cornwall UK
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Thanks Leila

We are very restricted to what we can do on the allotment I'm afraid. No livestock of any kind including bees, no green houses or poly tunnels etc. We rent it on a yearly basis but it is quite cheap. I am a little concerned about the amount of development in the area. The owner of the allotments is dead against the land being developed however there is only so much pressure one can take and money talks. plus it is not unknown for compulsory purchase to take place.
I do not see this allotment as the end of my permaculture dream it is very much the beginning.

We have an abundance of all the seaweeds you mentioned and the beach is just down the road so I will fill up the trailer a couple of times this weekend I think. I have a lawn mower (from before we were evicted and had a lawn) so I can use that to chop up the seaweed. I might pull out the compost heap and give that a mow as well as there is a lot of clumps and stuff in there and i'm no too sure how well it is composting to be honest.

Talking of compost heaps, is it better to keep it in a heap or do i just chop it up and add it to the soil surface as mulch as and when I have scraps.

Tanks

aman


 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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With composting, so much depends on so many things
What kind of things are you composting? I wouldn't leave compost stuff on the garden surface since I chuck whole cardboard boxes, rotten pumpkins, meat etc into mine.
If y ou wanted to avoid a separate bin, maybe look at trench composting. You're certainly limited with space, so going for the most intensive option is really the only practical option. I'm on a small suburban place, but it's not that small.
Does your garden have have an allotment boundary fence on any side? Fences can be really useful for growing up/against: thornless blackberries, cherry tomatoes, whatever vines grow for you...
Yay seaweed and a trailer! I'm jealous, my missions involve a wheelbarrow and mystified looks from the locals.
Just have a plan for where it'll go; piles of rotting seaweed won't make you popular with anyone!
 
Alison Thomas
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Hello aman, you're not a million miles from us so I guess we have similar(ish) weather, and we're originally from the UK so I understand the allotment thing (my Mum had one).

I'd just like to expand a bit on what William said - weeds. Try to see them as friends as their roots bring up lots of nutrients and minerals from deep down in the soil. The other allotment holders won't see them as friends I shouldn't think, so you don't want them (the weeds) to get totally out of control but if you mulch the ground well then they shouldn't. The mulch can actually be the weeds - if you chop off the tops of the weeds and put them back on the top of the soil then all those nutrients will go back into the earth and help your crops. If you chop them rather than pull them up, the roots of the weed will die off in the soil building valuable organic matter. Except perhaps docks and dandelions that will resprout but that's OK as they generally don't compete at surface level, having long tap roots, and will constantly bring up nutrients that you can harvest in the leaves and re-mulch.

And if you can squeeze in short-term nitrogen fixers all over the place, like beans and peas, then they'll release their nitrogen into the soil when you harvest them to feed the next plants (chop off at ground level and leave the roots in - or better, pull out the support and leave the whole plant to rot down over winter under a straw mulch). If you can grow sacrificial nitrogen fixers as well, every time you prune them then they'll give up some of their root-nodule nitrogen to surrounding plants plus use the tops as mulch for a double-whammy.

We do use the Emilia Hazelip bed system here and the yields were unbelievable last year even though there was a drought here!

Good luck, you're doing a great thing. So many folk wait to have a house and garden before they start learning!
 
Paul Andrews
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Thanks Alison.
Are you in the UK or have you moved abroad?
We are thinking of moving to central Portugal because of the cost of land and planning laws here.
I t is amazing to think about the the amount of time and energy I spent last year digging and removing all the docs and dandilions.
We have loads of bean plants left in the ground which we were going pull out this weekend but we will now just let them mulch and cover with the seaweed. (wife agrees)
What about really woody stems like brussel sprouts. I suppose I could bash them up with a hammer so they rot down quicker.
Thanks
aman
 
Alison Thomas
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You're answering your own questions - you can bash up those brussels if you want them to rot quicker. However, there's also merit in leaving some chunkier stuff so that there's a slow and steady release throughout the year. In fact, small branches (that Monty Don would have you sift out of your compost!) are actually very beneficial in attracting fungi that in turn work for you.

We're now in France and loving it. We've been here for more than 3 years now - lovely wee farmhouse, 17 acres of land, on the edge of a National Park and daylight at this time of year until past 6pm!!! That beats Scotland by a LONG way!

Oh yes, know what you mean about planning (we wanted to build an off-grid strawbale house in the UK), and cost. It's just a different attitude to land here and folk are much more connected to it - at least in rural France. I'm afraid that I don't know much about Portugal but Burra might chime in. We wanted to have a family life and the crazy hours that seemed to be 'needed' by our jobs in the UK were preventing that - so we upped sticks, bought a farm, are now life-rich if not monetarily-rich.

And I have been an organic gardener all my life, yet religiously pulled out all weeds and took them to a compost bin only to bring them back in six months rotted down. Chop n drop is a no-brainer if you look at the dynamics - just some folk (like my Dad) think that it looks untidy. My children however (aged 8, 6 and 2) now argue with him and show him just how many interesting bugs live in our garden that don't live in his!!! That makes me smile. We may have been un-environmentally friendly by having three children instaed of two but hey, these guys sure are respecting the world that they live in and I hope it will stay that way.
 
Paul Andrews
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:. We may have been un-environmentally friendly by having three children instaed of two but hey, these guys sure are respecting the world that they live in and I hope it will stay that way.


Hi Alison
We don't have any and are not likely to now so you can use up our quota.

Weather is really rubbish here today so might just go down to the beach and get some seaweed.

It is great weather for staying inside and cooking comfort food. I made brussel sprout soup yesterday from our own brussels. Life is good.

aman
 
Burra Maluca
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aman inavan wrote:
We are thinking of moving to central Portugal because of the cost of land and planning laws here.


Excellent idea! That's why I'm here, too...
 
Milton Dixon
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Hi Aman,

Where to start in permaculture seems like a common problem for a lot of people!

I think the best place to start is with yourself, which you've already done by seeking out this forum and asking questions. I would recommend you continue that by checking out Holmgren's site on Permaculture Principles and reading through his Essence of Permaculture e-book. The principles of permaculture are patterns of sustainability that can be applied to any system, whether it's your garden, life, work, home, etc. There's lots of other resources out there like Hemenway's gaia's garden, Mollison's Intro to Permaculture and any number of classes all over the world.

Permaculture applies to much more than gardening. Holmgren's Permaculture Flower gives insight into how permaculture can be applied in many different areas. (Can you tell I like Holmgren?)

If you're just looking for places to garden, realize that you're only limited by your thoughts. The whole world can be your garden! If you can garden organically by working with your local ecosystem, adding the human ecosystem is too much more trouble. I personally have a garden at work, my mothers, gardenshare with a couple neighbors, and forage in local "wild" spaces. I just harvested some crabapples that I'm going to brew up into mead... Yum!

As for your allotment the other recommendations here are spot on. Perennials, mulch, and nitrogen fixers are all good things. Passive water harvesting is something else to think about, though you may not need to worry too much about that where you're located.

Additionally I would invite you to think more generally about your plot. What are the inflows and outflows of your plot. Local resources that are available? Seaweed is good but how much do you really want to add? Are there other sources of mulch around? What happens to your food scraps, do you compost? Can you plant things that the birds are not interested in? The bird droppings can be valuable fertilizer, it might not be such a bad trade for some of what you grow. What are your needs vs. the effort you'd like to or are able put into the plot? People are your most valuable resource, who else can you make connections with in or around your allotment?

 
Lolly Knowles
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Connections can come in handy. I have owned some land for several years now, but live 45 miles (70 kilometers?) away. Friendship has developed with one of the neighbors and she has been a great source of local knowledge and who has what.

Yesterday I found out which neighbor raises pasture beef without growth hormones and that he has clay soil. I have the need for some manure and clay for future projects and could trade off some rich peat soil for his garden area. We will meet, soon.
 
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