Tin Bath House starts 2016 as a project that is taking shape in a very satisfying way. The initial phase of creating the garden structure is complete and we are settling into a more relaxed way of enjoying and sharing the garden. The work on the project is more of a pleasure than anything arduous and both of us always enjoy being outdoors. To me light gardening work is fun and enjoyable – (The garden is a place where grown ups go to play!).
So we started with a blank canvas and now it looks like a busy field with things happening all around, feeling a bit mature and productive, definitely with the feel of a Permaculture project.
Vegetable and salad output is high – getting this yield was my main objective when we started in 2011. We are almost self sufficient in vegetables and this is achieved with no external inputs – all the grass we cut from the wildflower area is composted and used to provide the fertility. This is along with having got comfrey well established for making liquid feed. I have been surprised by how productive I have found this soil already – it is not as bad as I had feared. I am adding heaps of organic matter and soil building practice is at the forefront of everything I do in Zone 1. Mulching with compost, cardboard and grass clippings is order of the day everywhere, also green manures – I like broad beans and winter tares best for this .
Currant bushes are well established. So are cherry trees and plums, although all their lovely fruit was taken by pesky birds and squirrels last year.
In the meadow we have established yellow rattle and cowslips – insect numbers seem to be as high as ever, and hunting for Great Green Bush crickets is a visitor entertainment pastime in late summer and we find whoppers. Nigel has honed his scything skills and got the field cut in record time.
Tree establishment in the field is tricky and disappointingly slow. I have never had a plot where it is so difficult to get trees and shrubs going. The poor, dry soil is one factor, but the other principle difficulty is deer grazing damage. Now we realise that to be sure of any tree establishing it needs a wire netting guard. Alders turn out to be the fastest establishers and I wish I had planted more. Our hedgerow at the bottom is just about starting to look hedgy – it is struggling to bulk up, but it will get there eventually I hope.
Our side boundary hedge where we thinned trees out for fuel is regrowing well in the gaps. It looks lovely with standards of holly, beech, birch and hawthorn growing out at the top. Birds, mistletoe, wild honeysuckle and bats are features of it.
We have had constant visitors, and this is important because I like people to share the pleasure of this land. We have had retreaters, campers, parties, Stroud Permaculture group, the Permaculture Design Course students, HelpXers and a hundred visitors came for Edible Open Gardens last July.
NEW FOR 2016 –
We need to look at how we can get the garden off mains water. The vegetable garden dries out quickly and needs a lot of water in summer. I want to see how we can make a plan to harvest winter rainwater off the house and store it for this purpose.
I am continuing to develop the forest garden types of plantings, although they are linear rather than clumps. I want to increase our food resilience beyond abundant vegetables and make our diet as potentially varied as possible. I had my first few home grown gogi berries this year.
I had a small surplus of salad last year and I experimented with selling some through Stroud Food Hub – I hope this is something I can develop further. They welcome small suppliers and for a miniholding like ours it is an easy way to enter the local food market.
I have applied Biochar to one of my vegetable beds. I have read mixed reports about it, so I will be interested to see what effect it has on plant growth.
So far this is the warmest and wettest first three days of a January we ever remember. I am thinking about climate change and how ours lives will be affected here in the coming years – the hot dry summers and warm wet winters seem to be the trend.