Penelope Else

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since Nov 20, 2018
50+ system designer, relatively new to permaculture, but exploring all of it. Studying for my PDC in 2018-19 then onto the diploma.

Now in charge of an allotment site, attempting to move it in a biodiversity, permaculture direction.
London, United Kingdom
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Recent posts by Penelope Else

Do any of you have any tips for preventing feet (and specifically toenails) from getting clogged with dirt while gardening? I know some of you favour the barefoot life, but it's not for me!

It doesn't seem to matter how many layers of socks I wear inside my wellington boots, I still end up with ground-in dirt from toenail to heel, and it's quite a contortion exercise to clean.
Thank you for the responses so far -

Wayne: in the UK, allotments are sites of about an acre or so, split up into individual plots of 40-250sqm separated by narrow grass paths. Locals rent these plots by the year for a cheap rent, and are expected to keep them productive and not too weedy. Some have slightly raised beds, most are flat.

Burra: slugs - yes and no! I've found that providing habitat for the slugs is also providing habitat for their predators - my patience has paid off. It was a little tedious for the first couple of years, mind- lots of collecting by hand. But now there are beetles, centipedes, leopard slugs and frogs all living up close with the pest slugs. (I'm working on the hedgehogs.) All the slugs and their eggs are disappearing. But your point has provided me with one of my explanations, thank you! Thank you for the book reference too - I'll certainly promote that.

Casie: yes, it's a work in progress... My list was a bit of a brain dump, and I'll be looking for ways to join them up inspiringly. I very much like your summaries, and will follow your lead! I see your point about it not suiting every garden, though as we're all on one site we all have the same issues, none of which need serious digging once cleared at the start. I may downgrade the 'no need to dig' slightly, though.

I've recently - and unintentionally - become leader of my local allotment site in south London - which is a largely urban area with quite a few parks and allotment sites. As allotments go in England, it's pretty relaxed, but I am very keen to push it further in a biodiverse, permaculture direction.

So, for 2019 I'm compiling a list of eco-friendly things allotment growies could be doing that would actually result in less work/more success for them. Some of the old guys love a good dig and I'm not going to interfere with their little pleasures, but I'm trying to prevent the new youngsters from unthinkingly following their lead.

Here are some thoughts so far, in brief:
1. No dig: you simply don't need to dig, and digging is bad for soil structure and soil life - so ultimately bad for the plants. Plus it just means more weeds.
2. Mulch/chop and drop: helps prevent weeds and is a fertiliser. No need for a compost bin.
2. No chemicals/fertilisers: not needed and bad for eco - and humans
3. Plant some of your plot with perennials - they're efficient
4. Biodiversity: let nature sort out most of your pests for you. The more you interfere, the more you'll have to interfere.
5. Slugs (our biggest pest): hand-pick + scissors + habitat for their predators. Pellets are eco-bad.
6. Polyculture: confuses the pests, and the plants enjoy company
7. Wildflowers/herbs: plant as many as you can - attracts pest predators and confuses pests
8. Winter habitat: don't clear the plot, leave the dying wildflowers and piles of stuff for the wildlife, plant green manure
9. Patience: be patient and observe - your new eco-system will take a couple of years to come into balance
10. Water: soil is not polystyrene, it's alive, and the more plant matter in it, the better for how much water it can hold.

You probably have many more! I'm trying to distill it into Top 10 things. What are your favourites, and what would be your main message to connect with their thinking?