Tin Bath House has become a LAND centre, part of the Permaculture Association’s network of projects which are opening their doors to visitors. Here we are showcasing a design for a domestic garden plot, demonstrating food growing on a poor soil, and caring for wildlife. The LAND network covers the whole of the country and includes community gardens and farms along with home scale projects. In Gloucestershire we already have Ragmans Lane Farm in the Forest of Dean, and Foxfield House and Garden at Winchcombe.

I have always enjoyed opening my garden to the public and the LAND listing is an ongoing invitation for people to come and visit by appointment.

I went to Rodborough Open Gardens last week, and really enjoyed looking around them. Katie Fforde had written an article for one of the national papers on the challenges and rewards of being an open garden. She said of course some people do come to visit because they are nosey, but the majority reflect our British passion for enjoying gardens and relish the chance to see other people’s plots. And I did think Katie Fforde’s garden was absolutely lovely, and she was fully ‘up front’ that she has the talented Sarah Watts as her gardener.

Of course welcoming visitors makes me also feel some sense of personal exposure and requires some courage. What if people don’t like it, or think it isn’t Permacultury enough? What if there isn’t enough to see?

I have overheard people say that because I have some crops in straight lines it isn’t proper Permaculture gardening! But if I want to grow parsnips or carrots, the only manageable and efficient way for me is to grow them in rows. By contrast, looking around I have many other areas of intercropping and polyculture in action to see.

A Permaculture friend once said to me ‘ do you think you might have overweeded that herb bed? Actually that is me just keeping on top of things, but to him it was too neat!

Permaculture gardens are all different, and there is no prescriptive formula in my mind. Overarching all of them is the principle that the methods are organic and designed to use the minimum amount of outside inputs, in other words to be a self sustaining system.

My garden is a ‘real garden’, and it works for me, so I am confident about reaching out and welcoming people to engage with it. I don’t need to struggle with perfectionism, the garden is just good how it is. My garden is ‘good enough’. I practice gratitude in my garden and experience joy through it.

(And by the way, to get on the LAND listings, I had an in depth inspection from the Permaculture Association, which was challenging, a chance to learn and very supportive.)

And finally …I have been reading and can recommend ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown, about finding the courage to be authentic and show our real selves to the world without shame. It’s a good read, and an eye-opener.

In Larder Land

I have always kept a list called ‘eat now’ magnetically attached to my fridge door. It is a reminder list of what we need to eat that is available in the garden and what is in store and the freezer.

However, I didn’t realise until now that the ‘larder list’ is actually a real thing, known to chefs and foodies alike. (Heck – who has a larder these days)? The larder list is the opposite of a shopping list. It asks the question what have I got? And what could the menu be? This is a concept known to locavores and slow food people who approach eating with seasonal raw materials in mind.

And then I was listening to Dan Barber the American chef on the Food Programme, 27.3.17. ‘The Third Plate’, talking about ‘nose to tail’ cooking for plant foods. This means using everything that farmers produce, and eliminating crop wastes.

At my garden level I fine tune what I grow to suit our eating patterns and preferences. My cooking and eating are closely designed around the garden outputs and so the two are neatly in tune, and there is very little wastage. My ‘larder list’ reminds me on a daily basis what we need to be eating. In April, it still says one squash (although I actually have squash fatigue), and a lot of frozen berries, tomatoes and ratatouille. Along with things ready in the garden, chard, purple sprouting broccoli and perennial kale.

In my garden I have been seduced by the allure of new varieties, and have put in 12 strawberry plants ‘Elegance’ and 12 ‘Malling Centenary’, both billed as the best ever performers, with exceptional flavour. And they claim to crop in their first year, so I will not have to wait long to find out if these descriptions are true.

And who knew that Myrtus ugni had been renamed Ugni molinae,(I didn’t). The Chilean Guava was introduced to England in 1844 by William Lobb and apparently became Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit! I have never eaten one, but I have just put in two plants and am looking forward to the first tasting in 2018 maybe? James Wong has bred a variety called ‘Ka-Pow’. It is a shrubby evergreen, growing up to 3m with pink flowers and red fruits.