Archive for the ‘Low Maintenance’ Category

I will (hopefully weekly) be posting part by part, all of the episodes of Living With The Land which is a series shot by the good people involved with the Permaculture scene (mainly Permaculture Media) in the UK.

forest gardening

Just one example of how inside / part of a Forest Garden looks like

In this episode they discuss the concept behind Forest Gardening and how it is done, it includes some interview time with Martin Crawford who is known famously in the UK scene as he owns and has been maintaining a 20+ year old forest garden.

 

Follow my blog for updates when I post the following videos in the series, for the imaptient, you can view the series on their youtube channel from the above video.

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If you are in the Northern Hemisphere then some of you may still either be waiting for Dandelions to flower or may be seeing the last flowers become seed heads, for those lucky enough, you still have time to collect the flowers for the following Recipes.

dandelions

Once you start to see the flowers appearing, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep in mind that on average, you only have a 3 week window to pick and use for your recipes, so that means multiple trips if you want to follow more than one recipe.

This was the first time I have used Dandelion for culinary purposes and started first with the Jam Recipe:

What’s Needed:

  1. A grocery store shopping bag Half Full of Dandelion flowers,
  2. 3 x cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped,
  3. 3x squeezed lemons,
  4. 600ml boiling water,
  5. 725gm jam sugar.

Method:

  1. Put the Chopped apples and around 3/4ths of the flower heads into a pan with the hot water and simmer for 10 minutes,
  2. After 10 minutes, strain the remaining results through a sieve or similar and push as much pulp through as possible using a spoon,
  3. Add the strained liquid back into your pan together with the lemon juice and sugar,
  4. Dissolve the sugar by cooking on low heat and stirring regularly, add the rest of the dandelion heads (petals only, cut off the green parts with scissors),
  5. Boil on high heat until you reach the setting point (Click here to find out how to find your setting point in jam making),
  6. Ladle into your prepared jars, this recipe made me 3 standard honey jars and 2 smaller speciality hex jars I bought online.

I really, really like the end product! This jam is delish and makes the harvesting well worth it in my opinion, this is a plant that should not be killed off and considered a weed, every part of this plant is edible and it is a perennial!
– Jeff Permie

In the coming days, I will post a Dandelion Wine Recipe, I am currently fermenting my first ever batch of this wine and so cannot give you full information right through to the taste of the end product, I am halfway through the fermenting period and will be bottling the product up in another two weeks. I feel like sharing this recipe because of the fact that some readers may still be able to harvest the flower heads, this is a proven and common recipe and I feel that it will definitely be worth it …

Some of you may have heard a few people making the statement: ”I am a no dig / no till gardener” what they meant about that is that they do not follow the standard of turning or rotavating their soil every year especially in the Winter.

serveimage

Woodchip Soil Amending – year 1 and 2 onwards

No Dig gardeners do a little bit of digging, but only what is necessary such as digging a hole to place a plant in it’s final outdoor location. They Do Not however, systematically dig / till the soil every year.
One of the arguments used to justify this ficticious practice is that they are bringing up nutrients which are / have leeched deep down.
Gardeners the country over, including very experienced people on Allotments have no actual clue about the sub surface bacteria and how they are exposing these beneficial organisms to the elements and also burying them too deep which kills them off!
In permaculture we call it the Soil Food Web and it comprises the entire system from soil microbes, to fungi mycelium, the plants, moisture, decomposing matter etc…

Nature does the work for us, we just need to learn to observe and only intervene by taking advantage of the observed clues, one good example is with the Austrian Farmer Sepp Holzer, he noticed as a boy that Strawberries grow much better and produce larger / jucier fruit when stones were placed beside the plants, he also noticed how White Clover also helped (Nitrogen Fixer).

The below image describes a better understanding of exactly how the different organisms in the ‘Soil Food Web’ play their roles which interact with other organisms in the system:

soil food web

If for example, you buy a house or start a garden somewhere and you find that the soil is heavy clay, you will of course need to dig and place soil amendments (preferrably natural) in the first year on a once off occasion, thereafter only an annual surface layer of mulch is needed to feed the system with fresh compostable material, nature literlaly does the rest and after a longer period of time you will have a very healthy soil system on that particular patch of land.

So, a few bags of clean sharp sand to help break up the clay, perhaps a few bags of compost and I would say as much woodchip as can be obtained, these materials should be worked into the soil up to the depth of perhaps of one spade blade. If your woodchip is fresh, you should not grow anything in this soil for at least a year, so this year you could at least use the space to host a row of pots which will hold plants for this one season, next year you will grow directly in the ground.

Rotovating or working the soil every year destroys the food web and basically resets it everytime, in the case of using a rotovator on heavy clay, the blades actually compact the ground under the bed being prepared and pretty much can cause this layer to become a water barrier, this I have seen first hand and the plot in question was always flooded at certain times of the year … In my whole opinion, using a rotovator is only necessary in the first year of soil amandment.

If you have a perennial weed problem (weeds which die down in winter and re-sprout from sub surface root networks in spring) you can use sheet mulch (aka lasagna mulch) after your soil amendment is added and then your final layer of the woodchip or mulch layer of your choice.

I challenge any skeptics to do a control experiment where they dedicate half of their beds to a no dig with mulch method and see the difference year after year …

This is a good video tour of a Four year old food forest, I would say this is a definite watch for anyone who needs a better understanding of a food forest system and what it entails. The video owner has many such like videos showcasing his project’s entire history (journey).

Video: (4Year Old Food Forest, Bay Area California USA) [19 Min’s]

https://youtu.be/L5RfruUjL1w

Further Reading / Articles about Food Forests:

Previous Post / Article on a 20 Year old Mature medicinal Food Forest

Previous Post -Video Tour of a Front Garden Food Forest in Denver USA

 

With basic problem solving in building a pond system in your garden, just take a look at photo’s online after establishing your goal/s. My own goals are three to four things, namely:

  1. Wildlife promotion
  2. Pest Control
  3. Microclimate
  4. Additional Edible Plants

With these points in mind and with Wildlife Promotion and Pest Control being the main two objectives, the pond will have to be habitat friendly and provide food source / forage opportunity and shelter.

Previously I posted an article (Click Here) titled ‘Wildlife and Frog Friendly Ponds’ where at the very end, I posted one picture and challenged my viewers to ”spot the mistakes”, below in the same image, I have circled the problems which wildlife (mainly frogs and newts) would experience in that particular design …

perma ponds - wrong doings complete

here’s the list of issues that would need fixing to bring this pond to be very beneficial for wildlife:

  1. Do not create a ring of stones without gaps between, these stones will heat up during the day and may become too hot for organisms to access the ”emergence zone”. I would completely remove smaller stones creating a gully and I would plant soft ground cover such as Mind Your Own Business ‘Soleirolia soleirolii‘ which will grow between the rocks and give the pond a rustic feel eventually
  2. This clump of plant is too large and should be reduced soon, the best is to have different species of plants with different functions rather than only one
  3. There is a lack of plant diversity Especially that I cannot see an oxygenating plant (this pond size is ideal for at least 5-7 plant types including at least two oxygenators) This will provide much needed in-habitat shelter and cover from predation as well as housing for the future generations of tadpoles etc.
  4. Looks like there is no gradual slope making it easy for frogs and newts to exit easily, this includes that there is not enough cover planted outside the pond which would provide much needed shelter for emerging / entering wildlife (there are a few but not ideal)

If you remember above I mentioned four goals I have for my pond requirements, the remaining two were Microclimate and Edible Plants, with microclimate I have placed my small pond at the base of my squash / pumpkin trellis, the pond will reflect sunlight underneath the leaves of the sprawling / climbing plants and assist in the microclimate by storing heat and slowly releasing it at night.

In terms of edible plants, since my pond is quite small I am only going to have water mint at this time as my regular mint (in a pot) is not doing so well, so at this early stage I’m going to only experiment and see how it goes, water mint is also very beneficial to bees and pollinators so it definitely ticks a box in terms of Permaculture.

I will be posting a series of articles on Wildlife Ponds, although these ponds may be slightly more relevant to the UK, you can still use the same concepts and tips no matter where you are!

pond frog

Frogs in a Pond, make excellent Slug Terminators in a Permaculture System

This is article #1, further below I will update with links to future articles in the series so please keep an eye out and follow the blog, out of all of my mini projects in my mini garden over the last year or two, this has been the first which really excited me and is keeping me very interested and motivated, I guess it is the multiple benefits which a pond can provide which make it such a worthwhile project, that I am already figuring out little ways to extend the size of the pond and plants which I will place into¬† the system, all of this will be shared in the future once complete …

Quick Update on my own mini pond and it’s progress, the pond is in place, filled with water, pebbles and some duck weed as an interim substitute for the pond plants I intend to obtain in the coming weeks. I am specifically concentrating on only British Native species for the reason that they are more friendly to local wildlife and the ecosystem in general. A net was made from chicken wire just in case any herons or blackbirds decide to fish for frogs, today I got hold of what I hope is ‘Iris pseudacorus’ which is a native Water Iris, I should be able to give a true identification once it flowers in June. Now I await for my trusted ‘Pond Plant Nursery’ to sell me their winter recovering Oxygenating plants and others which I am adding into the design, Oxygenators are important especially if the pond is ”still” meaning without a water feature such as a fountain or waterfall. Never hesitate to find a specialist like I have, they should normally be more than happy to help out with advice depending on your pond size, mine is almost a micro pond if there is such a category?

Below are a few pictures I have obtained from other online sources, The last image is one I would like you all to look at and decide for yourselves, why that particular pond has a few issues with it which may be inhibiting frogs rather than promoting or helping them, just use your common sense and in the coming days I will post what I know is wrong with it based on the picture.

Click on each picture above and it will open in a larger viewing window

perma ponds - wrong doings

In the last picture above, take a look and see if you can find at least 3-4 issues with this pond which are inhibiting the frog / wildlife ecosystem, I will post the exact same photo in a few days highlighting the issues and discussing further!

Click HERE for a previous post with a nice video explaining 6 great benefits to having a pond system

Last Summer I added Oca and Ulloco Tuberous crops to my vegetable grow list in my garden, having harvested them recently, I can only advise that personally they are not worth the effort due to the small yield. This opinion is mainly helpful to those in countries with a similar climate to the UK, these plants are really from the Andean areas in South America where they are guaranteed to have more abundant sunshine.

Perennial tuber Kit: Incredible Vegetables

Various Perennial Tubers: Oca, Ulloco, Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) & Crosney (Chinese Artichoke).

Whilst I did get a few tubers per plant that were of a decent size, the rest were usually really tiny and even too small to be able to clean properly for culinary use.
I will be keeping a small amount of stock growing in one pot just for the sake of having some aside and re-seeding every year, this will prevent the need to buy more in the event of trying again.

On another note, the same goes for Chinese Artichokes AKA Crosneys, although the yield was quite big, the actual tubers were tiny and most broke whilst harvesting! Oca have a far more worthwhile yield compared with these so for any new gardeners interested to try unusual tubers out, the Oca are probably best after Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes).

Simply put, if I had a larger piece of land (I have a very small typical UK garden), and some more time on my hands, I would probably have a dedicated area to grow these crops and experiment with soil types (my soil is quite heavy). So, I am not entirely giving up, just putting these tubers on a backburner list whilst I find other crops to dedicate my limited space to.

To order any Unusual tuber vegetables in the UK / Europe, take a look at Incredible Vegetables, they supply full info on planting etc.