In the past four years, I have moved at least four times which has made creating a garden difficult. I am just about to move again. This will hopefully be a more permanent move, as Will and I are buying a house together and we don’t intend to leave it for at least seven years.
My original idea for this project was to design a roof garden for the roof here at the flat, but I didn’t live here at the time and that made observation difficult, so instead I did a design for the house where I was living with my friend Ben. Some of it was implemented, some of it was not, as you would expect from a design for a place you are renting. I have yet to see whether the random seed experiment has had lasting effects or whether the green alkanet has got the better of the self-seeded nasturtiums.
On moving into the flat, I reconsidered the roof again as a growing space but concluded that while it had an amazing south facing aspect, it was high on limiting factors – the main one being the wind. Being realistic (which is what I am all about now, don’t you know…), I knew it would take a lot of infrastructure in the form of wind-breaks and barriers around the outside to make it into a useable growing space. As I predicted that we would move again, I decided that putting all of that work in wasn’t worth it at the moment.
Instead what I did was knuckle down to learning more about gardening. I did a composting course and a course about growing food in small spaces (actually, I am still doing that one really, as I didn’t keep up with it while it was on). I have read quite a few inspirational books (but need to read more). What is still outstanding is doing a course in garden design. Not permaculture design, but ‘where to put plants so they look pretty type design.’ I also want to learn more about perennial plants and guilds and also get some experience of ducks and chickens within a permaculture system. I am leaning towards ducks, I have to say…
But ducks come later. When we move in, I am going to spend a year growing in pots and observing the plot before making any significant changes (as I am a good little permaculturalist), so I have a whole year to fill in the knowledge that I think I am lacking. Apart from those few areas, I am feeling really really ready to take on a plot of my own again. I haven’t really had that since I gave up the allotment, and I feel like I have learned a lot from that experience. The biggest lesson? Start with a small piece of land that is right outside your door, and when you have done everything you can to that, get somewhere bigger and further away.
The design I do for my new house is going to be the one that I submit, so I consider all of the designs I have done for gardens up to this point to be practice for that. I am glad that I have done it this way. I really have a chance to properly implement the design I do for my own garden, and I am at a place where I think I know enough about all of the things and systems involved to really do it well.
Action: Start observing garden when we move house
THE LARDER PROJECT
I absolutely love this design. It progresses slowly but surely. I started with grand designs and then realised that my goals were both ill defined and very difficult to achieve, so I here’s where I got a bit more real. In terms of my plan of action, I have more or less done all of the things that I put on my ‘can do now’ list. Making jam in bulk and bulk buying cheese are as yet undone, but I plan to do at least the first one this summer.
I got really good at making chutney to take to work with oatcakes and cheese for my lunch, but then I observed that I was essentially eating a jar a week of what is really, vinegary jam (I don’t like low sugar chutney) and that it probably wasn’t very good for me. Instead of doing that, I decided to experiment with fermented pickles and made the kimchi recipe from Sandor Katz’s wild fermentation. That was a big success, though it honks of garlic and is mildly embarrassing taking out in the canteen at work. I also started making fermented soda this year too. Lactofermentation is part of my arsenal now!
So, I guess we are on the ‘soon’ and ‘later’ tasks of my plan of action. They were:
10) Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate
11) Build cutting garden and develop conceptual plans for real garden (this is part of the garden project)
12) Investigate sources of apples and berries for fruit snacks
13) Build solar dehydrator
14) Buy electric dehydrator
15) Get a pressure canner
16) Learn to can
Getting a freezer can happen as soon as we move house, but the other projects might take a little bit longer. I am most excited about learning to use a pressure canner so that I can ‘put up’ food that is not soused in sugar or vinegar. This is a really American way of preserving and hardly anyone does it in the UK, but I have found someone! Her name is Gloria Nicol and she recently ran a workshop with the Secret Garden Club which I sadly missed because I was doing something or other (probably related to scything). Gloria, if you are reading, please teach me to can!
Dehydrating, whether electrically or solar powered, may have to wait until next year, but the larder project is coming on, it really is. I have my three month stock of food, and now I need to work on growing and preserving as much of it at home as possible! I don’t mind if this switch over takes a while as small and slow solutions are the best, as we all know…
Action: Learn to can
It has been such a long winter that I forgot the natural world was out there… Last year I was out on the downs, foraging (actually botanising) with my iphone in mid April. Now it’s the end of May and the new, brilliant greenness of the world is still burning itself into my shocked retina.
This design hasn’t formed itself properly in my mind yet. I know what it’s probably going to be, but that relies on other projects coming together first, so I am happy to let this one slide for a while. This one is going to be a small design that can go from start to finish in a few months and the key aims of it will be to both learn and teach.
Action: None at the moment