So when I first found Permies I had big dreams of buying cheap land back home in Canada and trying to rough out a little permaculture paradise for myself there. Maybe that will still happen in the long term, but for now I'm blooming where I'm planted. I've been lurking here for over a year but I'm excited to be more a part of things now.
I've just moved to a house in a small town in the west of Ireland, and while it's just a rented place and the land is extremely limited, I want to see what I can do here. Unlike my other rentals in the past, I have no housemates (just my partner and a German Shepherd) and the landlady says I can pretty much do whatever I like with the place. It's a two year lease, though I could see us staying longer. I don't mind putting work into it, even if we leave...I like to think we'd be leaving the neglected place better than we found it, and we can enjoy it as it develops in the short term.
We're right across the road from a beautiful lake, and I've seen lots of plant and bug diversity over there already, which is lovely. I'm keeping my eye open for things I might want to gather seeds or cuttings from in the future.
Ideally I'd spend a year observing it, but frankly there is not much here. Because it's a short term projects, Ill be focusing more on quick, beneficial improvements, as edible as possible, though I need to keep things relatively ornamental in the front, at least. I don't mind that as I am a beauty-hound and former florist. I'm planting for bees and diversity as much as to put food in my belly. There won't be much in the way of infrastructure, I don't think, though I might look at some simple rainwater harvesting in the future for the veg. Money is terribly tight, and we dont have a car, so picking up freebies is very challenging. That said, I'm just going to do my best with what I have when I have it.
The front garden is teensy (I'll come back with actual measurements when my guy is home to hold the other end of the tape) and I need to leave some lawn, but I am planning to create deep borders on the front and right side of the yard, about a meter and a half wide. Maybe more if I have the courage and materials. I'll also put a shallow border along the walkway, from the depression left there and some intel from the neighbours, there was one there once.
The naff planters and the gnome are there to stay, but I'm going to try to make them less hideous.
Right now we have two sickly tea roses, a sprawling rambler which will be severely cut back in a month or so, a little fuscia bush and two overgrown cedary shrubs. There's some pretty volunteer bupleurum growing in and around one of the weird concrete swans (not visible in this photo), and the pedestal planters have some heather and two other unidentified little shrubby things that I'll ID later. I'm probably going to empty them out/paint them/refill them with new soil, but my strategy is to save whatever plants are already here, even if they aren't the most useful. Diversity and economy!
The back is all paved over. Pretty small but not too bad, laid out in an L shape. The concrete is well drained in two spots, there is an outdoor water source, and what little sun we get in this wet gloomy corner of the world is trapped here most of the day. And I think the reflected heat from all the concrete makes it a bit of a micro-climate. I've only been here a few days so more observation is needed, and I need to figure out exactly what direction everything faces.
Above the back wall is a plot with gravel over landscaping cloth, planted with one big cedar-like shrub, but I can put pots and stuff up there. I'm going to be doing a lot of pot gardening for greens etc. Though sourcing upcycled pots and containers may be slow as I can't afford to buy a whack all at once. I want to build square-foot-garden type raised beds with trellises against the long sunny wall where the table and chairs are for growing beans and squash. The main challenge here is money and materials. There's a renovation across the street and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for builders so I can ask them if I can have the pallets and old scrap lumber that's piling up there. Fingers crossed.
We're mid "summer" here so it's a good time to observe as it's really past any kind of planting time unless I had pots prepared for summer salads etc. and I do not. I'm hoping to keep those three pots in the garden but they belong to the previous tenant and I don't know if she's coming back for them.
My first goal is to get some kind of composting going--probably worms. We have municipal composting but it kills me to see the stuff going off-site. Just need the money for bins and worms...we stupidly bought clear plastic boxes for moving because they were cheaper or I'd use those, but I know worms hate light. If I kept them in the dark shed, do you think they'd be okay? If not,, I'll plant stuff in them, as they are nice and deep. Plastic isn't ideal, but it's what there is. I'm burying banana peels and teabags in the front already. I'd like a proper big compost bin too, but I don't know if I can sacrifice the real estate in the back yard.
Near second goal is to lasgna-garden out the front borders ASAP. I need to scrounge some money for manure and mulch. I have lots of carboard from moving, thankfully! I'd like to get it rotting so that it's ready in the spring. And I want to put down some garlic and chard/kale in them for over the winter. If I can stretch the budget I'd also like to establish some rhubarb and fruiting anchor plants in this area--preferably fruit for me, but if it's just for the birds that's okay too. Maybe a butterfly bush or something along those lines for the polinators. I know autumn is a good time to get trees and shrubs in the ground, so I'd love to start planning for that now.
Not particularly permaculture or a priority but I'd also like to get loads of little bulbs in for some spring colour next year...February is a dark month here and they are such a boon to my mental health. Plus I justify it as biodiversity in the lawn. I'm looking at some native and rare/heritage varieties, though they aren't cheap.
We have two solid-fuel stoves to heat the house this winter, so I'd like to find some good ways to use the ash...need to research that. We can burn coal, turf, or wood. Though we'll have to chop the wood up pretty small to get it in the tiny stoves.
I very much welcome advice and ideas, and would love to meet other permies in this part of the world, especially those doing more with a little scrap of land! What would you do with a little place like this if you were stone broke from moving etc? What would you plant? How would you prepare for next season over the autumn and winter months? I'll be updating here as I go. Thanks for reading!
Hmmm. Slight hitch in my no-dig approach to the big border in the front. I just had a visit from the landlady, who says that there's a a very old, very big population of native bluebells there. I want to get rid of the grass, but I don't want to smother those little guys at all. I guess I might just peel back the sod wherever I want to plant something in, and then transplant whatever bulbs I find in the holes. I guess this is the type of thing that a year-long observation period would help! Going one plant at a time might be a smarter and cheaper approach than going whole-hog lasagne at once. Patience, patience.
Upon some consultation and thinking, I decided that cardboard and fine wood chips were not going to be enough to discourage the bluebells, so I set about a little bit of renovation last weekend. I nearly killed myself hauling 300 litres of soil ammendments nearly a kilometre from the local nursery when I discovered they didn't deliver. I was just feeling so enthusiastic and stubborn that I loaded them up on a trolley and pushed them home. I am pretty sure I've already established myself as an eccentric, a beet-faced sweaty girl slowly trundling down the road shoving a wonky-wheeled trolley ahead of her. But I got them home! And then I hauled the trolley back. My workout for the week.
I picked up a bunch of flower plants and a little gooseberry bush from a guy selling flats by the side of the road out of a truck. Hauled those home too. Then back to the nursery for a few more things to fill in...a lavender plant and a scabiosa, as well as a healthy looking rhubab crown. I might regret the rhubarb later if it tries to eat the whole front yard, but I am a sucker for it, having grown up with rhubarb forests and sliced stalks dipped in sugar on friends' farms in eastern Canada. I haven't planted it out yet though.
Now that I have indulged my immediate need for instant gratification, I'll be ordering most things online for delivery. It's a good story but my days as a freight animal are over.
So! Onto the work so far.
I emptied out the horribly dry and rootbound pedestal planters and filled them up with stones and gravel for drainage, then compost and a little stir of rotted horse manure, and a bunch of the flowers from the truck guy. I know the pinks, dusty miller, and assylium, though I'm not sure what the little yellow ones are and whether those big ones are a kind of geranium. Anyway I have seen these planters covered in hoverflies so I'm excited that there are polinators about where there previously none. I tossed a pink and a dusty miller into each swan planter too.
I planted a pretty astilbe and the last few dusty miller plants.
By the front door there were half a dozen busted sandbags from a flood years ago. I dug in lots of manure and some compost and planted out the scabiosa and a lavender with assylium and two little heathers rescued from the other planters. I sprinkled the inside of a few chamomile teabags over because I read they are likely full of seeds which could germinated, but no sign of any sprouts yet a week later.
I sheet mulched around the tired old roses in the front garden. They seem perkier already after a feed of manure.
I planted a little goosberry bush...my first edible. It seems happy enough. I have raspbery plants coming from a friend, too.
In the back garden I've intensively planted salad greens, radishes, and some broccoli raab in containers and windowboxes, along with a few beans. It's late but these are all successionally sown types so I think we'll get some salads before the season is done.
We drilled holes in a big black bin and started composting. It feels so great not to send that waste stream away anymore!
I have a bunch of mystery tree seedlings left over from the planter. I haven't identified them but I think they might be volunteered willows. I don't know what to do with them as I don't really have room, but I hate to discard any plants. Right now I am keeping them covered in wet newspaper. There are also two little shrubby things from the planters with tiny little yellow leaves I don't know what they are either but I might put them in pots to observe them.
What's next? I still have some leftover flowers and the rhubarb to plant. I also went a little nuts ordering seds and am going to plant a whole bunch of potted herbs. It's been largely ornamental so far, but food will be a big part of my plan going forward. I'm still deep in research and planning, but it feels good to get out there and do things outside.