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)
I did an Action Learning review on 15/10/2012
As I am just about to start planning and re-designing my vegetable growing for this year I thought I should round up my thoughts and findings on last years attempts (my first ever vegetable plot, and the rainiest summer in UK for many years!!)
Above you can see what I planted, and I have to admit I never weighed any of the produce that came from the garden, it hardly seemed worth it, but maybe I should have.
In short, there was an abundance of lettuce, some great runner beans, a few garlic bulbs, beet leaves – a few, spinach-enough for one person, marigolds galore- lovely, borage- beautiful & everywhere, coriander, parsley, two parsnips and a handful of carrots (my neighbours told me carrots didn’t grow around here) but I had a few tasty ones.
So what are my observations?
There were moments when my garden looked so lush, green, vibrant, abundant and rich that I was in awe of the whole process of nature
There was also an abundance of weeds, continually in the spots where there was less growth, I think this happened because the cover crops never got off to a good start and so the weeds took hold.
Where there were clumps of growth and diversity, everything looked lusher. The lushness was mostly lettuce, but it was amazingly alive, and the poly-culture seemed to keep the weeds at bay in those spots.
I had no real signs of slugs, which was amazing given that most of the UK seemed to be being attacked by slugs. I have seen at least one hedgehog in my garden, but I reckon there are more. I think they must have kept down the slug population (?) I left lettuce in the ground for several weeks, mostly because I just couldn’t eat the amount that I’d grown, and still no slugs.
The south and south-westerly part of the plot got much more sun and seemed more abundant. I did just randomly sprinkle seeds, so wasn’t sure if the spread was to do with where the seeds landed or the sunlight.
In terms of where this existing vegetable plot is situated then it is great for sun, also shelter, and seemed to do fairly well given my lack of knowledge & experience. However, where it is situated in terms of a permcaulture design then it is not in a good place, ‘zone’ wise for me. I used an existing plot (from previous tenants) as I hadn’t decided on a full design and so didn’t want to make any changes, but it is at the very far end of my garden, so I was less inclined to go down there, especially in the rain.
But this takes me to another point, an observation about myself and my behavior, which I need to remedy if I wish to interact and learn more about the garden and nature; to get to my garden I have to go out to the front street, enter into my neighbours garden via a gate, walk down a path past the neighbours garden and then arrive at my garden, that is to say, I cannot see my garden from my windows (although I can see the neighbours garden and it is always full of beautiful flowers) So, if the weather was not to my liking i.e. if it was raining, or windy or cold then I was much less inclined to make the ‘effort’ to go down to the garden (and I realise this is pathetic) . Now, living in the UK and in Scotland I need to get over this barrier, as it rains a lot here and is quite often windy. In response to this I am aware that I need to put in much more effort, apart from the permaculture aspect, I also need to feel more ‘at-one’ with the garden space and to be there more often.
I really struggled with the ‘summer’ as it is called, here in the UK. The constant rain, lack of sunshine and general un-summer-ish feeling left me deflated, and yet what was interesting was that every time I did make the effort down to the garden I just loved being there, and was so amazed at what was growing, despite the un-summer like weather. Nature is amazing, and I am fairly lazy (that is a summary, but it’s true) This is something worth highlighting, and a lesson for me to learn, again, about how I don’t often do the very things that make me truly happy or make me feel alive. This is a classic example, I loved being in the garden the times I did go down, but found many reasons for putting it off, I procrastinated, and found other ‘better’ things to do, and I avoided facing the weather challenges that are part of living here.
So, what now?
What is very strange, for me, is that even although last year was my first real attempt at growing anything, and the amount of food wasn’t that much to talk of, I feel very excited to be ‘starting again’. It has been very cold and rainy here the last few days, but my body, intuition and feelings are telling me that it is time to get out there and do something, anything, whatever I can do. I have (maybe purposefully) not been reading books and taking advice, as last year I over saturated my brain with information and listening to everyone’s stories. I got to the stage of actually be scared of doing anything, even although my adventurous side kept coming to the fore and taking over.
So, in some unconscious way I have been trying to avoid what the books say, and tuning more into my sub-conscious, my intuition and what my body is telling me, and I want to get out there and get moving. Not in the same way as last year, which was to start to see growth and get food, but this time I feel I have to give back and be more in touch with what they garden is telling me. And the lovely thing is (and this must be something to do with time, and maybe what I have read or heard) this year I feel so much more relaxed and confident, not about being able to grow all of my own food (that would be wonderful) but just about ‘Being’ out there and letting the garden guide me.
My inner clock tells me me it is time to get moving, make some adjustments, draw up a new design, look at the soil and take the next step on the journey.
As an aside to all of the above, I had a really amazing experience with a good friend of mine who is very intuitive and in touch with the spirit world. She came to me with a wonderful message from my grandparents, who are no longer with me in the physical form, the message was;
That I needed to get out in that garden every day, no matter the weather, that I had to be there until the garden became part of me, until I could feel it breathing under my skin and as an extension of me. That I should plant herbs and start to make my own tinctures. That I would ‘know’ what herbs needed to be planted to heal me and others. That if i did just a little bit, even the tiniest amount, then that garden was waiting for me, and whatever I did, the garden would do ten-fold. I was reminded that all the elements were in place and I just needed to offer some light support and human touch, but that the garden would work for me (us) and that it was easy to see with what I had already done that the worms were working the garden over, and supporting me.
This was a powerful message for me to receive, and I would like to apologise to my wonderful grandmother, and say sorry that I haven’t gone out every day to the garden, but I hear her voice urging me and guiding me to do just that. She was a wonderful women, they were wonderful grandparents, and the only people I knew when I was growing up who grew their own fruit and vegetables, and my grandmother was a keen advocate for natural medicine. My friend knew none of this when she gave me the message, so it was even more powerful and poignant for me to hear. It is lovely to know that I am being guided and watched over as I tentatively learn about gardening and growing food.