After having lurked here on and off for the last year, and getting thoroughly overwhelmed by the amount of info contained in some of the threads, I have decided to actually sign up and start taking part in the forums.
So here is my first post on the forums, and I thought I should probably introduce myself:
I live in Dorset (South Coast UK), where I look after my grandmother, and am very thankful to have a smallish garden that has kept me sane since the start of the UK lockdowns when all of my work dried up and I have been isolating for my grandmother's protection. 2020 was the first year that I have actually lived here in the summer, since my job is so seasonal I am normally away from home all summer, which has finally given me a chance to produce some food from the garden.
I made a hugel bed in the garden in spring 2020 and reclaimed a number of beds from the wilderness that had taken over to enable me to grow a selection of annual veg, but the soil here is really poor and quite acidic thanks to the large selection of conifers along my boundary.
My aims this year are to add/ cultivate more perennial food plants and use a combination of food forest and "conventional" annual beds to provide a large selection of my food for the year. I am really lucky that the previous owners of the property were keen gardeners and it came with a selection of mature fruit plants: 1 giant apple tree (the other one succumbed), Plum tree, Meribel (possibly), grape vine, Flowering quince, and a fruit cage containing raspberries, red and black currants, and a gooseberry. it also has an Amelanchier which I have just learnt produces fruit so I am looking forward to seeing what they taste like. Oh and a vast supply of both wild and cultivated strawberries. So with the addition of my grandmothers two appletrees, crab apple and another flowering quince, I have more fruit than I know what to do with at the end of the season. Unfortunately, I don't really eat that much fruit so would love to add more perennial vegetables to the mix.
I would love to "meet" more people who are interested in this type of growing etc, within a similar climate, so Hi in advance. *waves *
Pippa, welcome to Permies! How lovely that you have a place that was previously owned by gardeners. And it sounds like you made constructive use of your time during the pandemic restrictions. Good for you. I love your plans. My climate is different from yours, but I have the same interest in growing more perennial foods. Have you found our Perennial Vegetables Forum yet? Lots of good ideas and information there.
Welcome Pippa. If i were living back in England it would be either Devon or Cornwall. I used to always vacation in those areas when i live there.
It sounds like you and your grandmother have quite a well established garden, I'm quite jealous of the gooseberries. I planted a couple a few years back, but the squirrels always seam to get them before i can.
Leigh, Thank you for the push to go and check the Perennial Vegetables forum out, just one more place for me to lose a day or two (or more if reading Pauls hugelkulture thread is anything to go by, I think that took me about a month to get through, lol).
I have just spotted a thread about Caucasian Spinach so am going to check that out next as I planted some of that last year and it never really took off. But I'm hoping it will come back up because I have just spotted some of the perennial leeks that I thought had all died have started to show up this spring, so there is some hope...
Phil, Yeah my grandmother has been in her property for 50+ years, and it was just a field when they moved in, the whole area has changed completely since then. My property is newer but the previous owners had owned it for probably somewhere in the region of 30+ years, I think.
As I spend a lot of the summer away from here, I hadn't actually realized that it was a gooseberry till recently. I am sure that I wouldn't get much in the way of a harvest if we hadn't reinstated the fruit cage over the fruit patch. (It was removed at the estate agent's suggestion when it was rented for a few years. I am currently trying to propagate it from some prunings, which is a bit of a stab in the dark plan. I am also trying to propagate some of the elder tree as well (Which I missed out of my list of established plants, ohps)
2020 was a good year to start gardening and from the sounds of things you are off to a great start. I personally think you did a great job by incorporating wood into your garden plans. My approach is to run trimmed up branches through a wood chipper and inoculate with mushrooms. I don’t know if you can do this, but even if you can’t, that wood in your garden will break down with time and turn into something almost like moist coffee grounds.
Again, welcome to Permies and I look forward to hearing more of your gardening adventures.
Hi Eric, Thank you. I have been doing some long-overdue hedge cutting so really need to get the ancient chipper out of the garage and see if it can actually cope with some of the branches. Hopefully, between that and the shredder, I should be able to get some mulch from the cuttings to incorporate some more organic matter into the soil to help with water retention which is a real issue here.
Inoculating with mushrooms sounds interesting, do you just do this to speed up the breakdown or to produce a harvest?
People grow mushrooms for different reasons. For me, they are primarily decomposers. I like the actual mushrooms as well, but I have an abundance of wood chips that get devoured by mushroom spawn. Not only do the mushrooms do a great job at breaking down the wood, they add a magical fertility thanks to the plethora of microbes they foster. I originally got started growing mushrooms as a way to essentially dispose (in a Permie way) of a large pile of wood chips. Now I see them as essential to my growing media.
If you are interested I can certainly help you out with getting started.
So poking around on here finally prompted me to create a plan of the garden... North is the top left-hand corner of the diagram.
Incase my handwriting isn't readable in the image the labels are as follows, from top left corner of the boundary which is the Norther corner:
Elder, Meribel ? (an unknown small yellow plum), Apple ? (unknown small apple, probably a seedling from the ex apple tree nearby), Bamboo, Hazel
Rowan, Apple (V large tree with cooking apples that I can eat raw), with currant bushes under the canopy, Plum, Almond ? (possibly but has never set fruit)
Quince (ornamental/flowering variety), Grapevines, Amelanchier, The other tree next to the Amelanchier is an unknown variety atm.
Fruit cage contains, Summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, Gooseberry, and red and black currants.
In the left-hand bed beneath the fruit cage, I am planning on adding an acid bed, I have three different blueberry plants (that got delivered today!) and I might be planting two of my mother's Camellia Sinensis plants. This bed is under the overhang of the coniferous hedge between my property and the next so will get lots of 'pine needles' added to it (and there is a lot of partly composted needles around the property that I can harvest to mulch the bed) Currently this bed has black plastic over it that the previous owner added and an infestation of Rose of Sharon which will be interesting to remove.
The right-hand bed beneath the fruit cage is currently my annual veg bed but has been colonized in the top by the strawberries that jumped across the path from the fruit cage.
The little rectangles inside the beds are raised bed 'collars' that I added last year to add some better soil to the growing beds, the soil here is mostly just sand, and they currently have a selection of rather poorly looking swiss chard and kale plants that overwintered. Between the collars, I have Purple sprouting broccoli, which I harvested my first spear from today! :) and some rather sad-looking cabbages that don't appear to intend to head up at all...
The little rectangle above the fruit cage is the rather small hugel bed that we created last year that seems to be harbouring a large collection of grasses, but also has another currant bush, more swiss chard (probably the best looking in the garden), feverfew, lemon balm, oregano and more strawberries. I am planning to try weeding the grass out soon and the 'mulch' with compost and red clover seeds to see if I can create a green mulch weed barrier which will help to keep the soil in place and will hopefully give me more of an opportunity to plant into it this year.
Although I have a large collection of annual vegetable seeds that I am planning to grow in the garden I would love to add far more in the way of perennial vegetables (especially if I get to go back to work in the future) and I would love to rip out a loarge portion of the hedging around the front garden and add plants that will provide a harvest. I have plans at the moment to create a hugel/raised bed on the front garden lawn just below the patio, which would be great to grow salad in because at least to start with it will be in a much mroe shaded part of the garden having hedges on 3 sides...
I am currently trying to work out where to plant a number of trees/shrubs. My mother bought me a Fig (Brown Turkey), Hazel (Webbs Prize Cobb), Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum sp.), Siberian pea tree (Caragana arborescens) and some Myrtle (Myrtus communis) for Christmas that are still in their pots and I have added Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) and a blackberry (Little Black Prince (Primocane)) to the selection which all need to find somewhere to set down their roots.
*There might also be an Issai Kiwi if my mother chooses to plant it here.
Other than planting the trees/shrubs I think the next most pressing thing in the garden is going to be working out how to increase the water retention in the garden, as growing on sand it can dry out super quickly... So I have bought some clover seeds as well as chamomile and probably enough sorrel to use it as green manure. I also have borage that I plan to use for eating as well as chop and drop. I have to admit that the lawns here are a)very thin and b)mostly moss so there is little maintenance but also very little in the way of green mulch from them.
I should probably take some photos of the garden before everything starts growing to document what I am starting from now. But any thought, pointers or general comments on the plan, or lack of...
The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron