Thursday, 6 January 2011

Permaculture Influenced

Hello everyone. I have finally managed to go on a Permaculture Design course and loved every minute of it. The course was held in Devon in the beautiful High Heathercombe. It was a two week residential course and as a result I have learnt a great deal about this very interesting subject. I am now attempting to apply some of the permaculture principles and techniques to develop the garden here at May gardens.
We have had some crazy weather lately however we still have potatoes, carrots, swedes, and leeks to harvest. I had some of the leeks and potatoes yesterday and had a very delicious chunky soup. We decided to leave the potatoes and leeks and swedes in the ground for storage one because of the limited amount of storage space we have available to us and two because we wanted to see how well they will do left in. It's going well, the leeks have just about started to go yellow so they are all coming out soon. We also have brussel sprouts and those did quite well in the polytunnel.
We have been working on a new plan for the space and created a base map, this is simply a scaled drawing of the garden space showing all the existing elements e.g: house, growing beds, fences, trees, etc.

Base Map

Once we had our base map and was happy with all the positions of elements we went about identifying all the plants growing on site (naturally) that bit of the process is still ongoing. We identified certain areas on the map where we thought would be good areas to test the soil so we collected some soil samples and tested them. We found out that our soil was a bit stressed and lacking vital minerals to sustain healthy growth.
Soil Samples

We managed to get two tonnes of organic soil improver and have started distributing it around the space, hard work especially in this weather, but totally worth it I think. On the course we were taught how to put a vast amount of information onto a drawing without making too messy, the technique of overlays. This is simply drawing on tracing paper placed over a main drawing. With this technique we could put in information such as wind and sun directions, terrain aspects, vegetation, zones, etc. This makes it easier and neater when presenting a design idea. At the moment we are identifying the plants present on site and working out the best place to put certain crops so we get the best out of the space.
The beds inside the polytunnel have been completed and are now left to settle before we start planting.

New beds in the Polytunnel

We started by lightly aerating the soil by simply forking the ground, avoid turning the soil if you are going to be doing this as turning will bring valuable micro-organisms to the surface and may kill them off killing your soil as a result. Once the site was 'fluffed' we laid out the floor plan then added the soil improver and little at first and raked it in then we toped it up with about three inches of the soil improver. We then saturated the soil with our home made comfrey fertilizer heavily diluted in water collected in our two water butts. In an attempt to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation we decided to mulch the beds. Mulching is simply covering the soil. We used old news papers. The next step is to repeat this process for most of the outside beds, we will also be attempting to make/upgrade the pathways in the garden.
I will try and put up posts more regularly this season as the development progresses. For now stay warm and keep gardening.

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