Oliver Klimek

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since May 10, 2020
Munich Rubble Plain
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Recent posts by Oliver Klimek

Here is a small update. I have now built a "compost lounge" with 4 bins, about a cubic metre each. I am currently filling the first bin with the grass clippings that I had put on the large pile a few weeks ago, along with shredded trimmings of shrubs that have accumulated in the past weeks or which I shredded on location.

Unfortunately the process of digging up the old compost pile is slowed down because I discovered that the previous owner had dumped some plastic and metal waste. I even found an old battery that luckily had not disintegrated yet. Also there is a bottom layer of soil mixed with pebbles. This is appears to be our regular soil (a somewhat sandy loam with glacial pebbles) without humus, so I suspect they disposed of this when they were digging up something, probably for paving.

This essentialy means that I have to check every shovelful fur undesired content, and I also have to remove the pebbles. So far I have liberated about 200 litres of useable compost. I suspect the final volume to be 1 to 2 cubic metres.

Things are further complicated by the fact that I found a slowworm wiggling just below the top layer of grass clippings. I had already noticed slowworms before in the garden, and it turns out the compost has been their hiding place. I now have to find away to get rid of the pile without harming the slowworm and potential companions. My original plan was to build a small hugelkultur bed on the site of the heap after it's been removed. But I guess I need to relocate the slowworm(s) first, so they have a place for hibernation. Any suggestions? I know that slowworms are not partcularly picky about choosing a hiding place, and the "wilderness" part of the garden might provide enough shelter, but maybe there is something I can do to help them anyway.
7 months ago
This is a question that I included in my first post but probably was overlooked. When using the "just put compost on cardboard" approach for a new no dig bed, is it possible to sow or plant deep rooted plants such as chard or beans? Will the young plants have trouble growing their roots or will the cardboeard be already sufficiently decayed so the roots can penetrate it easily?

Anne Pratt wrote: This is beautiful land, an in the city!  Amazing.

To clarify, this is a suburban setting, not inner city. Munich city centre is about 15 km away. But yes, this is pure luxury to have. This was part of a larger plot that was converted from grassland in the early 1950s. Back then they didn't focus solely on building as densely as possible. I do enjoy this immensely even though the ever growing wilderness also has an intimidating aspect. I think of it as my "green hell" ;)

The garden is not very rich in a floral sense. But it has some nice assets I'd like to keep. We have a few lilac trees for example, and apart from the hazelnuts there are a lot of wild cherry plum shrubs. The fruits are not really sensational, but I have made jam and even naturally fermented vingegar from them.

Then there are a few dog rose shrubs which are nice but sometimes they grow as weed and are better removed. And I haven't mentioned the blackberries yet that would probaby conquer the entire garden over time if I hadn't cut them back significantly. because they started to smother the apple and plum trees. Right now they are concentrated around the compost heap apart from popping up anywhere else in the garden where they generally are not welcome. You really have to find a way to arrange yourself with them because in the long run they will always win.

The nicest time is early spring when all the the fruit trees and the lilac are blooming. there are also some tulips, crocuses and some other small flowers in the front garden that make the lawn look nice in that period. I also planted a buddleia two years ago and a baby magnolia tree in last autumn which will prpbably flower next spring for the first time. But after May the entire garden is predominantly green. A few years a go I planted a hydrangea in a shady corner inside the cat fence. Unfortunately we had to remove a wonderful wisteria from the garage wall because one of our cats used it to escape. There was no other way of solving this problem because it's a tricky situation where the wall has to replace the fence. I had first tried to put the fence directly inf front of the wisteria stem but it was not safe.

There is a half dead yellow plum tree next to the compost tree and another plum tree now conquered by the wilderness that suffered storm damage last year. I would like to keep them partially and use them as pillar for vines.

So yes, I see a lot of potential here as well, but it won't come easy. I should mention that we are not in a position to throw large sums of money at the garden. Current investment priority is  to replace the front fence that has become quite unsightly and flimsy, but something proper will not be cheap.
8 months ago
I am really just beginning to switch to the permie mindest. The hazelnuts are a good example. We have lots of them to the level of them being a nuisance. This is also why I had chopped down two massive ones in the front garden because everything was just too shadowy. But more often than not I just shredded the branches into our compost bin that is collected weekly. It's been only recently that I suddenly thought "This is all biomass you give away and makes your garden poorer." I consider not caring about compost my biggest mistake of the past years.

And furthermore I haven't really appreciated the nuts as such until recently. I still don't enjoy eating them as they are. But I've been doing some baking and patisserie lately, and for this they are very valuable ingredients.

Coming back to the raspberries: They have spread quite a bit but only manage to grow very tiny fruits, if at all. I'd be more than happy to revive them if it's just the exhausted soil that keeps them from producing fruit.

The same could be the case for the strawberries that have grown as weed in some places for many years. If there is a chance to revive some runners with fresh soil it sure will be worth a try.
8 months ago
Zugroaster apprentice permie from just outside Munich, born in Mannheim. Still soaking up. I won't be of much help for months to come.
8 months ago
This evolved from a question in the "gardening for beginners" forum, but I think this place is better suited for it.

To recap: in 2007 I bought a house on a leased plot close to Munich in Bavaria together with my wife. A major factor for the decision to buy it was that the annual lease is very low and the plot is very large, over 1500 square metres. In this region, you'd have to pay at least a million euros for such a plot.

Over the years it has become more and more clear that the garden is much too large for gardening in the traditional way. I have to do most of the work because my wife's schedule doesn't leave much time, on the other hand I am working from home, so I am more flexible. The garden was altready quite necglected when we bought it, and it hasn't got much better. There are a couple of "wilderness" areas slowly but surely eating away the useable space. The vegetable section was completely overgrown with brambles and all kinds of other weeds. I managed to clear about a third of it to grow some vegetables, but I had to do it over and over again. I consider myself a gardening underachiever because I never really had the enthusiasm to take on the herculean task of taming nature on this scale.

In hindsight I could have done a lot better because I never questioned the "dig, dig, and dig again" approach. So with every year I had less enthusiam for gardening. But I still didn't want to give up completely, so I began looking around for alternative ways of gardening. It was almost an epiphany when I recently learned about no dig gardening and subsequently got to know the philosophy of permaculture. This has sparked my enthusiasm again because I see a real perspective to overcome the constant blood, sweat and tears (and the avoidance thereof) of the past.

I would like to ask you for advice how to tackle this. Here is the plot on Google Earth. The picture is a few years old but it's early spring here, so everything is visible.

It's a narrow plot stretching from East to West, about 70 x 25 metres. It's completely flat. The soil is fertile but riddled with pebbles because this used to be the end zone of an ice age glacier. There is no sand, clay or silt. The good thing about this is that there are now drainage issues. The bad thing is that the soil is still not a lot of fun to work with.  Main wind direction is from West to East (left to right on the picture), average annual rainfall is 900+ mm but there can be longer dry spells in the summer.

The blue area is a fenced-in outdoor area for our cats. We decided to build the fence because we lost a cat to car traffic a few years ago. This is mainly lawn with a nice old apple tree, a yew tree and a few shrubs. This area has the lowest priority and I don't think there is a lot of permaculture that can or should be done here. It's really just about giving the cats a bit of nature to enjoy. They also use a small part of the lawn as a toilet. Any eventual terraforming should have the needs of the cats as a priority. Of course this is clashing with classic permaculture, as this would be Zone 1 in a standard setting. But there's not much you can do about this here.

This is the pathway towards the back garden. The yew tree is on the left. The cats love to hide under it.

The orange areas are "mini orchards", fruit trees surrounded by a very mossy "lawn".

The tree stump in the first picture is from a cherry tree I chopped down on February.

On the right of the picture is the remnant of a huge juniper tree we chopped down shortly after moving in because it overshadowed everything. Sad in a way, but there was very little sunlight in the evenings.

The green area is the vegetable section. The central part of it is sunny, the eastern part is overshadowed by a huge hazelnut and a buxus tree.  

There is also a combination of a large oak and two smaller maple trees on the neighbor's plot right next to the border. It's to the North, but part of the branches are above our ground. The house was inhabited by an old lady who died last year. It's been empty since. There might be a redevelopment in the not so distant future. The stems of the maple trees are actually bending into our plot. I am tempted to chop them down. They have not been deliberately planted but grown from random seeds.

On the eastern end there are branches of a magnificent walnut tree growing over from the neighbour's plot. I hesitate to cut it because I have already made some winderful nocino liqueur from the gren nuts I picked from this.

The brown square is the compost heap wich is massive. It looks steep on the picture but it's actually a rather gentle slope. You can see that hedgehogs have foraged for the gold beetle grubs that are sleeping in there.... There hasn't been any compost management so far. It's esentially just years worth of grass clippings and shredded branches. It will be my first task to reorganise this, collect the mature compost and start a new heap with this year's waste.

There is an ash growing right next tothe garden shed. This needs to go before it can damage the structure. Ashes grow like weeds here. It's almost impossible to eradicate them all.

The pink area is essentially an extension of the vegetable section but it is separated from it by an apple tree. It's covered with raspberries that don't bear fruit anymore and baby ashes. This needs to go soon. sorry, no picture of this.

The purple areas are wilderness. Trees and shrubs trying to choke the rest of the garden, floor cover is mainly ivy that also creeps into the "lawn". There is a plum tree crashed from a storm that I didn't have the time to remove yet.

At the western end of the plot there are massive thuja trees that we decided need to be cut down. Any plants right next to plot limit are not allowed to be higher than 2 metres, and my wife is a bit anxious about possible consequences. But they really are very dominating and make the area very shadowy. So it might actually be better to replace them with something smaller.

It will be a lot of work, but I am sure it will be worth it in the end. I have joked to my wife that I will give myself 10 years to accomplish this. I am 52 now. So with a bit of luck I still might have 20 years left to enjoy the revamped garden.

I haven't mentioned the front garden yet. I don't have pictures here, but I have already been tackling the wilderness here by cutting down a few smaller yew trees and two giant hazelnuts The hazelnuts are not dead yet. They keep growing new branches. I have labeled two small areas with H1 and H2. I think this might be a good place for H├╝gelkultur over the stumps. I have a lot of wood lying around, and there will be more, so to me this looks like a good idea to try out this concept. Especially the east-west mound wouldn't get much sun, so the choice of plants will be tricky. Maybe you can help here too. But remember this is Europe, so I might not be able to source "exotic" American flora here. ;)

For the vegetable garden I am considering Charles Dowding style no dig beds. The question is just if I sould treat my soil to a lucerne green manure phase before because of the many years it has been neglected. I have managed to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes and zucchini to some success, but I also had many disappointing crops. Then again I haven't done it properly in the past, so maybe the green manure phase might not be necessary at all if I go 100% compost.

The lawn outside the cat fence is not sacred. There are nice wild primroses in spring which might be a loss if the lawn is sacrificed, but I honestly don't need to have it because I don't want to fight the moss that is taking it over. As I understand it, this would also be against the ethics of permaculture. Maybe some kind of forest garden approach might work here.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
8 months ago

Jay Angler wrote:
If you want to keep everything together on this thread, we can always change the subject line of the thread to something more suitable. (I can help with that if need be - just PM me.)

Thanks for the offer, but I think it's better to start a new thread in the permaculture subforum, not the least because it not just about "gardening".

Anne Pratt wrote:
But, sounds like you have a bigger plot than you need.  A great opportunity to plant flowers from seed!  Marigolds and chrysanthemums repel many pest insects.  Most others (especially natives to your area) attract beneficial insects.  

It is much bigger than I need. But the sheer luxury of having a huge garden just outside one of the most expensive German towns to live in is priceless. The ground is leased but I am free to do what I want as long as I repect the local restrictions which are not very tough.

We already have quite a bit of wildlife in the garden. Currently there are almost no planted flowers but there is plenty of wild stuff that attracts bees and bumblebees. The compost heap is harbouring gold beetle grubs which are a treat for the hedgehogs.

The more I think about it, the more I see the need for a complete overhaul of the garden. They way it is now is chaotic in a way, but permaculture seems to be just what it needs. I want a largely self-sufficient system that I can enjoy without feeling the need to do gardening work in every spare minute.

I may take a few pictures and draw up a plan. Maybe I will start another thread for it because this ventures far beyond the original topic.
Hi Jay,

thank you for your extensive reply. I will address a few things you mentioned to give you more details about the garden.

Let's start with the "messy" mindset. I have always disliked the typical manicured gardens which are the norm in here Germany. I much prefer more natural or even "wild" gardens. The problem here is that it has become too messy because I don't have enough time to do the chores that traditional gardening comes with. So I am looking for a "low maintenance" approach, at least in the long run, that will save me time while giving me a nicer garden.

The plot is completely flat, so there are no potential slope issues. Annual rainfall is ~900 mm, but there can be longer dry spells during summer. The soil is draing very well. I have never seen a single puddle on the soil even after vigourous thunderstorms. There are a LOT of shrubs and undergrowth that I would like to get rid of. And the prospect of turning this into much needed compost gives me hope.

A lot of the garden is rather shady which might improve after a proper purge. The result is a lawn that is very mossy. I have never been a fan of lawn anyway so I'd be happy to convert at least some of it. The lawn is orchard like with quite a few fruit trees, but many of them are already old.  Earlier this year I chopped down a large cherry tree because it was almost dead. There are some more trees growing, so something like a forest garden also looks like an interesting idea. The vegetable section is partly sunny and partly shady.

Regarding vegetebables, my goal is variety over yield. I don't have a lot of people to feed, and I am not even such a huge vegetable fan, so I won't need an awful lot of produce. So I'd be more than happy if much of the garden in its final stage will be simply "tamed nature". The vegteable section is just where I see the dearest need to start with.

Unfortunately I can't turn the garden into my office because my job requires more than just handling a laptop computer.