I realised recently that I have taken a completely different approach with my garden design than all of the other designs and I am not sure why. When I am starting a design I usually start by writing down what my vision for the project is. Then I write down where I am now. Then I know the scope for my observation and analysis. With the garden, I went straight into observation, possibly because it’s easy to see what needs to be observed. I have done work on listing our needs and wants for the garden, doing client interviews and the like, but I haven’t recorded all of these as formally as I would like to.
Hey, brainwave! Let’s list the functions of the garden here:
1) to grow all of the high value (or high attention) fruit and veg that we eat. Things like soft fruit, salad leaves, beans etc
2) to grow flowers (some of which can be cut and brought inside)
3) to provide a place to entertain
4) to provide a place for future kids to play
5) to be a place to dry the washing
6) to be a place where nature can find a home (especially pollinating insects)
7) to provide spaces for reading and contemplation
8) to provide somewhere outside to do cooking, preserving and brewing
9) to provide our household with eggs
10) to showcase permaculture design
11) to be beautiful, even in the winter
12) to provide a place for a root cellar
13) to be a cat toilet (hey, I wish that wasn’t a function, but it is)
14) to help us connect with our neighbours
Phew, ok, there we go. You might notice that there aren’t very many Will-specific ones here. I did ask him, I really did but the garden for him is something that he walks through on the way to the shed. He’ll benefit from most of the functions above, but he couldn’t think of anything that he wanted to do in the garden. Oh yes, there’s one thing. He wants to put a weather station in it (only a little one).
So that I guess is my vision. And where are we now? The detail of what’s actually in the garden will come when I have finished my base map, but I thought I would see how many functions it’s already fulfilling
2) I have a vase with daffodils and forsythia from the garden on the table in the living room. It brings me no end of pleasure. Neither were cut to be put in a vase. The forsythia was pruned by my mum while she was here and the daffodils were collateral damage in the cat wars.
3) Yep, we can already entertain in the garden. It’ll get even easier when the garden furniture I recently ordered arrives, but we can do it now. Looking forward to a summer of garden parties of various varieties.
5) Will loves hanging the washing out and we have some out their every sunny day
6) Last summer we had hundreds of bumble bees all over the lavender in the garden. Since then we’ve left piles of crap around which, although untidy, really do provide a good home for creatures of lots of types.
7) At the moment, reading is mostly what I do in the garden. That and brush soil off the path where the cats have kicked it when they crap in the veg bed… 😦
11) (to an extent), It’s pretty at the moment, but nothing like it’s going to be.
13) Extensive use is made of the garden as cat toilet (sadly).
14) Being out in the garden has really helped us connect with our neighbours in recent weeks. Everyone has come out with the sunny weather and suddenly we’re starting to meet people.
Right, now I have got that out of the way, I can begin to update you… I am just about half way through my year of observation. I know where the light falls, where the wind blows and I have seen what happens when you add new elements (like cats) to the system (total chaos). I have planted a few perennial things which might need to be moved because they’d have died otherwise. What I haven’t been doing – which is stupid – is writing many of my observations down. I tried, but I just couldn’t get in the habit. My plot is pretty small though, so I think I can probably remember what’s going on. And yes, I have started making decisions in my head. I know I shouldn’t, but I have.
What has become obvious is that I won’t be able to grow everything I want to in the garden. My aim is to replace the veg box, but I won’t be able to – grow enough potatoes say – without giving most of the garden over to them. So, I have applied for an allotment. This makes me nervous as I/we failed so spectacularly with the last one, but I am in a ‘different place’ now (actually, I am). I would keep it simple and low input. I am number four on the list, which sounds hopeful, but Will pointed out that it could be ages if we have to wait for people to die ;-). I don’t want to start allotmenting until next year anyway, so hopefully it will all fall into place.
ACTION: Formally write up analysis and observation of garden design