Action Learning: Design 2 – Vegetable plot based on Gaia’s Garden – Jajarkot’s Advanced Polyculture

An update to my  Design 2 – Vegetable plot based on Gaia’s Garden – Jajarkot’s Advanced Polyculture,  using the Action Learning questions.

These are the things I planted, as a recap:

Covered the ground fairly densely with mustard seeds, alfalfa (less of) fast growing radishes and some fast growing lettuce with a few clover seeds thrown in. (1)

Next the salad crops sown lightly, a mixture of; Radish, rocket, Swiss chard, Carrots (2 varieties, Chantenay and giant red). Mixed lettuce, Leaf beet, perpetual spinach, Red Orach, Purple Orach, (2)

Then the herb seeds were sown, more densely: Coriander, fennel, calendula, parsley (3)

I added some miscellaneous seeds to the mix.; Beetroot, parsnip, Hamburg parsley, borage, nasturtium

I then pushed in some beans one foot apart; Broad beans, Tao beans & Fava beans (4)

Adding some alliums to the mix, I added chives and some sturon onions within the body of the ‘bed’ but also planted some Garlic chives, Garlic cloves and winter leek around the borders of the bed (based on other Giai’s Garden tree guild where he recommends that these bulbs stop the growth of grass entering the area) (5)

What is going well?
Well, I have had an abundance of lettuce, every conceivable variety, colour and texture of lettuce. So lettuce definitely does well here (and it appears everywhere in the UK this year!!) I have also had lots of radishes, and ate the leaves and flowers. Lot’s of purple orach, which is lovely both raw in salads and steamed. A few plants of leaf beat but they are still very small. Fennel everywhere and looking beautiful. Quite a few plants of coriander which I love in cooking. Also the flat leaf parsley has done really well. The Calendula plants are huge and abundant, need to check out how to use them. Borage, again an amazing amount of this beautiful plant, the flowers are lovely and tasty. Nasturtiums are threatening to take over, the flowers are beautiful, the bees love them and hey look great in salads, have still to try the nasturtium pesto recipe. Broad beans, I planted six beans and had six very healthy and huge plants and now have 5 kilos of beans.  There is a plant which I think is the hamburg parsley which looks very healthy, there are several, but still not harvested any of them. Carrots galore, only harvested a few but they are springing up all over. Garlic bulbs coming along great. Have spotted one leek!!! And finally several very healthy celeraic plants.

The plot seems to have pockets of abundant growth and then bare ground, which is not so bare as it gets covered in weeds. But where plants are growing in little ‘guilds’ everything looks really healthy.

What am I finding difficult/challenging?

The weather most definitely. I am still ‘waiting’ on summer and yet it is obvious that we have already moved into Autumn. This year we have had what is being described as the “wettest summer in 100 years”  and some parts of Scotland have had a record low number in terms in the hours of sunshine, 48 hours!!! So, not much to add to add to that, apart from to say that it has been a huge challenge for me having lived in the South of Spain for the last nine years!!

With lack of sunshine and lots of rain I have not even been out in the garden much and not a much has flowered, apart from lettuce. I have listed above what has grown, and for my first attempt I can be grateful to have had any success’s but in terms of what I have actually eaten from my garden it has been limited.

So what has and is difficult for me is the frustration of having a very large and beautiful garden and not being able to spend much time out there enjoying it, and added to that I would say that it is something common here in the UK (every year we break records of the ‘dullest’, ‘coldest’, ‘wettest’, ‘least hours of sunshine’) People mourn the good old days, but I can’t remember them in terms of warm summers in the UK, maybe one in my lifetime when I was eleven years old. Yet, I understand that it is hard to actually accept that we live in a climate with hardly any sunshine!! Each year we wait and wait, and then it is autumn… And that is without even mentioning climate change!!

In terms of the yields I have had from my garden I can’t quite work out if it is that I have not done what is required, or if it is just nature doing the best she can with the lack of sunshine. It seems to be a common thing around the UK that people have had an abundance of lettuce, but some people have actually has pumpkins, berries, tomatoes and various other yields (I have three (!!!), still green tomatoes, from the eight plants I planted) . I am somewhat disappointed!! Although it has been a pleasure to just do some gardening and be part of the growing process, and it has given me lots of ‘food for thought’ and learning.

What are my long term goals?

I would love to be able to grow most of my own food, and this is my goal but I realize I have  a) A lot more learning to do b) I need to have some kind of poly tunnel and/or greenhouse to have any chance whatsoever to bring on some of the sun loving vegetables & fruit c) To accept that I live in a climate which is challenging in terms of growing many foods and be prepared to change my diet d) Or seriously consider the option of moving to a warmer climate and/or some kind of community efforts with gardening!!

Another long term and mid-term goal is to have a full design for all of my garden, which would mean also learning more, moving things around and generally making changes which I hadn’t even considered last year. I was going for small and slow solutions and also working with what was existing, that being a small vegetable/growing plot and my limited knowledge, which has not expanded so much if I am honest!!

As part of my grand design I would like to be also growing enough food that would ‘feed’ into my idea of catering and offering food at training events.

Long, long term I would like to have learned enough about food growing that I could confidently grow enough to maintain myself while also continue learning and experimenting. This seems like a long way off at the moment, although I am being unfair on myself as I have actually learned a lot since I started back in May this year..

What are my next achievable steps?

There are many achievable steps and some which are only achievable if I am prepared to invest more time, energy and possibly money into making my garden grow and flourish, although my aim is to also create the garden of ‘abundant growth’ using only recycled, up-cycled and re-usable materials and to spend the least possible amount of money.

I can extend the growing space a bit further without changing anything structurally.

I can bring more plants on in the house, making sure the seedlings are strong before planting them out.

Work with some others to bring in more energy and expertise in my garden. This is planned and about to happen in terms of some practical workshops planned and anticipated in my garden.

Start off some seedlings now so that I will have some crops/food earlier. This year I just started in May so had no planting from last autumn.

Look into finding materials or free-cycled green house and/or polytunnel.

Hopefully find that there are still some surprises that will come from my garden even at this late stage of the year.

Read more and ask for more support in terms of finding out about food systems and what would/could work here.