Growing stuff is tough
Have you noticed how growing stuff is hard? Life will most probably always meet you half way, if you’re aligning yourself with the nature you’re trying to guide, but keeping up you’re end of the bargain is the hard part. Plants and children, relationships and livelihoods. Tough trails.
Samson, our two month old son, keeps us up night and has been since before he was born. He was a long time coming and the gift of his presence is all the sweeter because of it. There is no final conclusion though, just the hard slog of nurture and attention. These things are their own reward but they are ever changing gifts not to be taken for granted.
The same goes for growing a garden to feed your family. For us, at the moment, the stakes aren’t that high; crops fail and we roll our eyes but can go to the grocer to cover our losses, but if we weren’t lucky enough to have that safety net how then would we fare? At the moment I’m experimenting with permaculture ideas because I have the space to be able to see what works. Samson most probably won’t have that luxury, there will most probably be all kinds of constraints, from erratic weather to see-sawing energy costs, so we aim to make growing your own as expected a skill as riding a bike or learning to swim. All of those things make life that much richer despite the effort needed to perfect.
Were always presented images about what all of these things should be but what about reality that we can all connect to? It’s boring to feel isolated by the projected perfection that somehow doesn’t seem to feather your bed like the beautiful folks in all those frames. Far better though to feel the cuts and get the grimy nails, the blistered toes and expanded minds that come from doing it for yourself and to discover what it’s really all about
I’m doing my best to keep the patch under control in zig zagging circumstances; we’re going to have courgettes, beetroot, peas, aubergines, kale, red cabbage, potatoes, sweet corn, runner beans, squash, broccoli and tomatoes – maybe. Growing stuff is tough so we’ll just keep doing the best we can. Samson, may end up loving his greens!
‘Back to Eden’ & Hugelkulture
Having decided to adopt a ‘no dig’ approach, and after clearing the site to a workable degree, I set about cajoling a couple of local tree surgeons to dump their wood chippings on the plot. Usually they have to pay for this so, if you get hold of an affable sort, they’ll be more than happy to oblige. Will, willingly obliged and even backed his truck to within striking distance…
…it still took me an hour and a half of spade labour to clear it from the footpath it was blocking though!
Whilst I’m going to cover much of this site with mulch, I’m also plan to do a plant guild commonly known as Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash – you can find out about the advantages of this here – in addition to this I’m putting in to Hugelkulture banks which I plan to plant with a polyculture of plants; kulture vulture or what!
There’s been a lot of left over twigs, logs and leaf little on the site following its clearance – perfect for building the Hugelkulture banks. I started with larger logs first, covering them with sticks and smaller branches.
I also mulched between these banks to create a weed resistant path way. Again, the earth was never lifted in any of this – I just chucked everything right on top.
I’ve also got hold of well-rotted manure, which I’ll add, along with compost and top soil over the next week or so…but in the meantime, on with the covering the site with mulch. I put down newspaper first and then cover with about 4 inches of the woodchip. What better use of the Torygraph (thanks for the donation Dad!)? – Sorry Alan, hope you don’t mind!
Next time you check back I should have built the hugelkulture beds and mulched the rest of the site, then all I have to decide about planting….
See you soon.
Preparing the patch
So we left a life of commuting and offices to move to the country to see if we could bite off more than we could chew – and it seems like we’re having a damn good go: new house, career change and a baby on the way. Part and parcel of this endeavour is to get a little bit more self-sufficient by growing our own as far as possible. I’ve held allotments before but I want to combine what I already know with a new permaculture approach (I’ve been lucky enough to recently complete a Permaculture Design Certificate with a great bunch of people on Dartmoor), and this land I’ve rented behind our house from the Leaconfield estate in our pretty village of Petworth, West Sussex is where this is all going to happen.
It’s a great south facing plot backing out onto fallow fields and it even has a spring running to the east at the bottom of its slope. At the same east end is an existent apple tree. Perfect.
Naturally, it’s been neglected for a while so is completely overgrown with brambles, in the best tradition of abandoned allotments – pioneer plant extraordinaire.
Thanks to a petrol strimmer lent my by mate Nick (whom lives around the corner and coincidentally met on the PDC course!), I had the site cleared and raked in no time.
I’m keeping some of the cuttings and already cut branches on the site as this will become the basis of a Hugelkulture raised bed I’m going to trail. Also, this site is going to be largely no dig. The only exception to that is a ‘Three Sisters’ guild I’m planning (squash, corn and beans) for the top of the slope in a very sunny little spot.
Anyway, next will be a ‘back to eden’ covering and woodchip mulch across most of the site. Luckily I know a tree surgeon willing to dump his chippings here.
I’ll be back to tell you how that goes.