Helen Butt

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since Aug 15, 2016
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forest garden books food preservation
I’ve been converting my garden to a forest garden since 2010. It’s been slow progress due to 1) time, 2) money and 3) not wanting to be a consumer and add to the greenhouse gas burden (as far as I can).
I am self-sufficient in a number of crops, which sometimes requires self-discipline (e.g.. not buying out of season apples because I fancy one). I’m also increasingly making use of ‘weeds’ that find their way into the garden and am learning about and practising foraging to supplement my diet.
Leeds, United Kingdom
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Recent posts by Helen Butt

Catherine Carney wrote:Thanks Helen. I haven't used the wastewater from my fleece washing on tomatoes, but have usually poured it either around fruit trees or onto fallow portions of the pasture. I'd never really thought about the nitrogen content of the water--my concern was potential contamination with bacteria (E. coli) and soap/detergent on my vegetable crops.

Now, I hadn’t considered E. coli. Fortunately, we survived 😊

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:The Inhabit film, which is really inspiring about permaculture designs, is now available for free streaming due to the crisis.


Thanks very much - I missed the opportunity to watch this film when it was free before.
3 months ago
What I learned last year:

Don’t water tomato plants with water which a sheep’s fleece* has been washed in. The fleece seems to add large amounts of nitrogen which then causes blossom end rot.

* The fleeces were shorn and being washed to spin.

Carol Denton wrote:What I learned:

3. That hugel beds work and I need more of them.

4. And most of all, doing my part to change the world in my own backyard matters. It doesn't seem like such an insignificant drop in the bucket anymore.

Yes, I feel the same re #4.

How long have you have your hugel beds? I don’t know if mine have been a success, although after this winter or rain which turned my dry region into a soggy one, perhaps this year things will be different.
Good luck, Amanda. Sounds like you have got a lot on your plate!
5 months ago

William Bronson wrote:
I used to find my self landing on a certain racial supremacy website because of my googling of back to the land type subjects...
Yet another reason to appreciate Permies.

Oh dear! Thank goodness for permies indeed.
5 months ago

steve bossie wrote:i use wood chips around everything. been doing it for 10 yrs. now and that has added 6in. of new soil around my trees and bushes. i top off last years mulch every spring with 4-5in. of fresh stuff. have wine caps and blewits i put in there 5 yrs ago still flushing all over the yard as well as some other species.i have started growing creeping thyme from seed and planting it in bare spots. it fills in quickly and smell nice when touched and when blooming. i munch on fresh springs occasionally when i walk by. grows very easily. bakercreekheirloom seeds has seeds for good prices. try growing the sorba red japanese buckwheat they sell. its red blooms and stalks are absolutely beautiful and the bees love it. did a few strips of it in the yard behind the creeping thyme

Sounds beautiful 😊
8 months ago

Marco Banks wrote:I live in a similar climate as you, and from the sounds of things, similar soil.  As others have mentioned, mulch is a key ingredient to a successful orchard for a number of reasons: retention of moisture, feeding the soil and the soil microbes, keeping the soil and tree roots cool, and suppression of weeds.

Consider using black plastic mulch to kill those nasty weeds.  It's inexpensive enough and it should hold up for a couple of years.  You can use it to kill the nasty weeds [.....] Experiment a bit with it -- I think you'll find that to be a much better solution than Round-Up or some other weed killer.

I would endorse the black plastic method, as it saves a lot of hard work. The plastic will kill annual plants and the foliage of perennials. You can then dig out the roots of the perennials, if you so wish (easy to see and ground should be reasonably soft as the water won’t have been able to evaporate). The soil underneath the plastic will also have been nourished by the composted weeds.

From my personal experience of cover crops, they don’t prevent weeds, although there are some which are good at sucking the life out of plants around them. In my climate, I can grow mint, strawberries and Jerusalem artichokes, which have this effect, but I don’t know if they would thrive for you or not. (Average rainfall where I am is about 500 mm but we are cooler.)

On a different note, do you have a system for capturing rainwater? (Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere and I have failed to notice.) Presumably, the rainwater is not as high in salt and would therefore be less likely to adversely affect your soil.
11 months ago

Heather Staas wrote:
When I was on acreage my favorite tree was the weeping willow.   It was great fodder for ALL my livestock,  shed good amts. of whips and small branches naturally to be gathered/ eaten.   It was also beautiful and a great sturdy shade tree for my grazing animals.    Easy to propagate as most willows are.    On a small property though,  I am torn between beautiful and delicious Juneberry/amelanchier grown as a small multi-trunk tree..     or nice shade producing river birch that shelters birds all year and keeps my house shaded from afternoon sun.   Both leave enough filtered light to grow strawberries, etc. underneath!

Willow is such a fantastic tree and another advantage is aspirin. They grow like weeds in my part of the world - well, along the river banks, so not in short supply!
11 months ago

Tj Jefferson wrote:I can't possibly have a "favorite", that is like asking which is your favorite child!

So true, except that the yew tree steels my heart 🥰. They are just the cutest when small and can live for thousands of years. And the arils which encase their seeds are edible, although I would have a yew in my forest garden anyway just because...
11 months ago