Archive for the ‘Ponds & Water Systems’ Category

I must apologise for my regular followers for not being active on this blog over the last few months, I was granted an Allotment by my council and as I received it quite late (March/ April), being close to planting season, I had a lot of work to do to get the plot into a reasonable state and hence, most of my free time has been there. I will in the future, share the design on what I did and am doing on the plot.

It’s been unfortunately, an awful summer in regards to sunshine / warm days and temperatures here in the UK, after going outside today for a mini harvest and finally harvesting my First courgette for the season! plus some runner beans, I have made a couple observations which may be something to keep in mind with these weak summers we seem to be experiencing lately these last few years…

1: Since we had a very wet start, slugs were a huge problem this year, I realised a little too late that ideally, the plant that should probably be germinated first (if you have the space to bring them on until planting out) should be your marigolds (Tagetes) as well as any other ‘Slug Magnets’ such as perhaps Pansies and Violas (both related) – give your slugs and snails a multi buffet and there is a higher chance they will leave your seedlings alone.
Ideally, and I do stress this as I have now experienced and can confirm the huge benefit of having a Pond in your garden for the purpose of Frog habitat. This is my first year with a pond both in my Allotment (Did I mention yet that I now have an allotment?) as well as at home, I noticed a huge difference in slug / snail damage due to this.
Perhaps plan to germinate a few more plants of each of the species you noticed were devastated by slugs and snails this year during next years germinating season

2: Looking at the site today, I can recommend to anyone in the UK if you haven’t done so yet, cut off any new flowers on your tomatoes and as well as the growing tips now, I cannot see any chance of new flowers producing any sizeable fruit which would ripen in time, honestly this is even a little too late to say this but I had some hopes the weather would improve, unless of course you have a good site which gets 10 or more hours of sunshine a day then you could take a risk …

3: Start preparing early for winter crops, I highly recommend growing salads, kales etc..for winter harvest or early Spring harvest – I have built my second Polytunnel with experience through trial and error from my first polytunnel (partially from scavenged poles/ bits from first tunnel and nice large planks from raiding a construction skip) I will at some point post the design for you to follow, you can now start scavenging from skips (Construction Dumpsters) for free timber, plastic PVC conduit pipes etc. if you want to build a polytunnel as a DIY project.
I do recommend building them as DIY projects as in permaculture, we try our best to reuse and repurpose / recycle whatever we can, also, most polytunnels although great in size, have a zip roll up door and these are very unreliable!! rather make a door with hinges on a design like mine.

4: This is the second year of making Comfrey Compost Tea from my one Comfrey (Bocking 14) plant, these plants get really – really huge in the second year and are a very important addition to the vegetable garden, one plant should suffice but if you have the space, go for a second if needed! My plant completely smothered my fruit bush bed (Raspberries, Loganberries, Red Currants, Strawberries and Gooseberry) I ended up having to chop the whole plant again after making the compost tea twice already, the plant practically filled my 300 ltr compost bin.
I left the plant to expand as it did because due to the weak summer, this was the only plant supplying the bees with a good reliable source of nectar – proving how invaluable perennials are in any system, not just a permaculture system…
If you are going to obtain the Bocking 14 variety (bred / selected for the traits of non self seeding and great for being a biomass source which can be chopped several times a year), be aware you will need to control the root crowns by chopping (dividing with a spade) once every year after the first summer (if in an urban garden etc)
Note: In the near future, I may include an online shop section on this site, I will most likely sell Comfrey bocking 14 Crowns so keep an eye out if you are in the UK or Europe

5: This is the first year that I started collecting leaves in summer … sound a bit weird? well, Evergreen trees actually do shed leaves, in spring / early summer, evergreens shed their older leaves once newer growth has already pre-placed it, after emptying one of my compost bins prematurely, I needed to start filling it again ASAP, every week or so I took the time to visit the same places near my workplace as well as home to fill some smaller bags with these brown leaves to counter all of the fresh greens (including all veg and fruit scraps) that goes into the average compost bin weekly during summer.
Both of my compost bins (one at home and one on the allotment) started freshly emptied in the early summer, but with collecting browns as much as possible weekly from evergreen shedding, both bins are practically half full and I do not collect grass cuttings to fill them with as most home owners do! …

6: Now is a great time to make a deal with your local tree surgeons to dump a load of woodchip for you – woodchip at this time has leaves included in the mix and this helps decomposition, have an area in your garden / site where you can bag up all of the chips and let sit for next year, be sure to moisten it and mix in a little bit of soil  / compost or manure. Newly cut woodchip will cause ‘Nitrogen Lock’ which depletes the nitrogen from your soil, hence why it’s best to bag it up and let sit for 6 months or a year before applying. If your intention is for creating /covering walkways then this will not be needed and you can practically lay it down immediately.

7: Please Please learn new things, don’t be scared to go against the norm! Don’t feel embarrassed if someone gives you advice if they haven’t been into gardening or growing food as long as you have!
With the advent of the internet, many young motivated individuals (also older ones) are amassing much knowledge from the countless hours they are and have been spending online researching. I am referring to the old guys who have had plots on my allotment site for well over 10 years now (think of how many more thousands of people there are countrywide just like them?) , although they are quite nice people and often listen to what I advise, they simply cannot follow any of it! We have one guy who’s plot gets flooded basically every year and still refuses to build raised beds despite other plot holders just a few plots away demonstrating the benefits of raised beds – he perpetually loses crops and has developed a regime of multiple seed sowing in the greenhouse at home to counter the problem …
Then there’s the guy who practically Carpet Bombs his plot every day with slug pellets (would you like some beans with that formaldehyde sir?) despite knowing about frogs, beer trapping and laying plastic sheeting down as a habitat to catch them under. He also still went out and bought a few bottles of Tamorite Fertiliser Liquid after I pointed out that there are many comfrey Bocking 14 plants on some old derelict plots where there are no tenants – And explained how to make comfrey tea to him in detail, which he showed a huge interest in. Consumerism is a cancer on these people I feel

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Hello everyone, new and old followers alike …

Todays post will be purely focusing on the recent London Permaculture Festival (Annual Event) held last Sunday the 31st of July 2016.

This is the second year running I have attended the festival, it is also the Seventh year that the festival has been going, where it is always based in the Cecil Sharp House in Camden, home to the English Folk and Dance Society.

A great example of how we can bring back power to our communities is shown in the agreement between the Permaculture Association in London and the English Folk and Dance Society. The Festival organisers and the Society made an agreement that the festival can be held for free, so as long as the outside gardens are designed, installed and maintained free of charge.

 

Click on each photo image above for a larger image and caption

Upon arrival and after paying entrance (£ 6 normal rate and £4 Concessions for Pensioners, Students, Low Income Earners etc.) you are greeted on the left by the award winning Permablitz created, Food Forest concept which utilizes many of the classic Permaculture methods and designs including a herb spiral, pond, poly culture planting scheme, various multi use, edible plants and self supporting systems.

Itinery

Workshop Time Table – London Permaculture Festival 2016

 

Inside, as soon as you arrive, check around for the Time Table (although this is also viewable online before the event day) so that you can start planning what you are interested in attending, these time tables are posted all around the building, mainly near door exits etc.

The market comprises of everything from the large Permanent Publications book store, to crafts, a bakery with cakes etc (including vegan / allergen free produce), protest stalls educating visitors about harmful chemicals used in Agriculture such as Glyphosate as well as info on corporate / political deals such as TTIP etc, the Nursery with it’s rare plants, people selling honeys, jams, other preserves and many more!

The information shared in the Workshops is valuable to anyone, you do not at all even need to understand the concept of Permaculture to be able to make use of these systems, designs  and ideas, any allotment holder or average joe with a small back garden or even just a Balcony (Click here for an excellent video of an Edible Balcony Garden).
The garden area was full of family / children’s activities ensuring the event was for the whole family and not just the Perma. Nutter!

As in previous years, the books at the Permanent Publications stand are mostly discounted, they also had back issues of the Permaculture Magazine going for £1 per copy which was also a great bargain!

Taking a walk around the garden, you can find plants that are supplied by the same ‘rare plant nursery’, their info. tags are normally still attached and as I checked, you can find some of the species at their stand inside the main building which was great!

The garden was very interesting, I can see why it has won an award – it is likely that all stages of the design have been implemented already, but they do still require volunteers to regularly maintain the garden, there is no set days / dates so you will have to contact them at their Main Site Here to be added to a mailing list.

Overall, I think it was a very great and productive day! Myself and company had great fun and I did learn a lot, this is an event I can see myself making sure I never miss!

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