Archive for the ‘Stacking’ Category

In Permaculture practice often ‘Stacking Functions’ is something one hears from time-to-time, here is a very brief example of Stacking something to form more than one function or purpose …

Today I got hold of dried Cordyline Leaves and I can tell from past experience that once composted, you should get a very nice textured compost that has good structure (with the only downside being time of composting). The plan was only to chop them up and add them into my 4 compost bins but I also decided to place some in heavy duty bags such as re-used compost bags and let them to sit out of sight (perhaps behind a shed?) and compost down on their own, out of the way until needed.

Organic Compost from Cordyline Leaves

Organic Compost from Cordyline Leaves

The solution to try get them a bit of a kick start was to throw them into a bucket of water that has a handfull or so of Chicken Manure Pellets pre-mixed in and let to soak up for 24-48 hours.

Step two is merely throwing the amount of chopped and soaked leaves required to fill Half of the bag and further pack the other half of the bag with a dry bunch of the leaves to help soak up any excess moisture, then puncture some holes in the bag (so that worms can get in) and pack the bag away until needed.

Second Function =

now instead of just pouring out the leftover liquid from the bucket randomly into a bed somewhere or into a drain, you will make the effort to use it diluted as a plant feed in your garden as Chicken Manure is high in Nitrogen…

Another quick example is with plants, the Elaeagnus umbellata’ (Autumn Olive) is a shrub which is common in Permaculture Food Forest design guilds, the plant is deciduous (leaves fall in winter so can be used to provide shade in summer and allow light to penetrate in winter), it is a Nitrogen fixer, which means it is able to provide extra nitrogen naturally to any neighbouring plants thereby helping to support them in a symbiotic system, the final benefit is that it also provides a useful delicious berry in Summer  / Autumn.


I have written some previous posts about growing Shiitake mushrooms on logs and this year I am making it a personal goal / mission to get more than one species of mushroom as well as more than one type of wood species. I realised that the best approach is to have a few options and different wood types so that you get fruit harvest in different stages as well as the possibility of quicker colonisation.

Below is a wood type to mushroom species reference chart so you can decide what to grow depending on available wood type.

Wood Mushrrom Chart.png

As you can see, Oak is the preferred log due to the amount of species that it can be inoculated with however, here in the UK Oak are a preferred species and are often protected with TPO’s (Tree Protection Orders) mainly due to their benefit to wildlife and as habitat. Another consideration is also what ‘Plug Spawn’ you can get your hands on, it’s all nice to see what can be grown using the above chart but you may not be able to locate a seller who has all of these varieties and you may even have to purchase from a number of different suppliers.


Growing Mushrooms on Logs – In A Nutshell

As short as possible, you get hold of recently cut / felled logs (tree surgeons are the obvious choice to contact as they are happy to get rid of logs for free – they usually have to pay to dump woodchip). Try find out how long it has been since the logs were felled, try to have your spawn arrive or be available for use no longer than 5-6 seeks after they were cut. (Mushroom Dowels or Spores can be stored in the fridge for a period of time depending on your appliance temperatures etc, generally most suppliers recommend no more than 2 weeks)

You drill holes in a diamond formation around your logs and hammer in pre-inoculated sterilised wooden dowels into these holes and seal with how wax (there are special waxes for this). The best method for keeping logs moist came to me from one of Sepp Holzers’ books (either ‘Holzer’s Permaculture’ or ‘Desert or Paradise’) – you merely pay attention to where the top of the wood is and what was / is the bottom, so before chopping make markings pointing up representing the top. You will plant the inoculated logs into the soil (up end up) to a certain depth and the log itself should naturally draw up moisture from the soil, otherwise if you forget for a short time to moisten the logs, you could kill the mycelium inside the log and everything would be a waste of time and effort.

More detailed information on the process will always be provided by the Dowel / Spore supplier, all you will need is a drill, hammer, place to wash the logs, place to do the drilling / innoculation and something to melt wax in and a brush, (some paintbrush bristles are actually made from plastic and will likely melt in the hot wax, get real horse hair brushes).

Within 1 year to 18 months, you should have full colonisation and the starting of regular fruiting, depending on log size, you could get fruit from each log for up to 8 or so years!!

The time to cut logs is before Spring so right now would not be the best time but if the logs are already cut (by a tree surgeon for instance) then you may as well use them (it’s best to avoid cutting trees in Spring due to the rising sap which causes excessive bleeding on Trees and Shrubs).


This past Summer (Yup it’s Autumn already) I finally got around to growing some plants which I failed in previous years to cultivate properly, namely Okra and Aubergine (Eggplant / Brinjal).

I will however, have to stop experimenting too much with germinating times! While I have had good success starting sun loving annual veg’s and fruits as early indoors as Late January, this last Spring with the very last minute April shock frost took out more than half of my pre-germinated seedling stock and severely damaged at least 30% of the remaining half! From now on, I think it’s safe to commit perhaps 20% of all planned varieties / species to early sowings which can be sacrificial in the case of more late frosts.

Lettuce and Okra (2).jpg

The Beatuiful Okra Flowers in Mid Spring

Out of 4-5 Okra plants, I managed about the same amount of fingers! I attribute this to worrying too much about cold as well as pest damage and got around to planting them far too late, But the flowers are awesome!

On another note, I promised myself that this is ‘The Year Of The Salads’ and in the below photo, you can see how easy it is to find random suitable spaces to squeeze them in around your garden or plot, please stop regimentalising yourself thinking everything has to be monocultured in rows … NATURE DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!        Rant over 🙂

Lettuce and Okra (1).jpg

‘Jack ice – Crisphead” Lettuce at the base of Pepper Plants

Lettuce are shallow rooted and short seasoned from germination to harvest, hence why greens (cooking, salads etc.) do outweigh heavier crops such as maize, tomatoes etc. in yield due to the amount of plants you can successionally grow in one space during the full season (There are winter Lettuces and other greens like Kale which overwinter – but no Maize, Pumpkins, Tomatoes etc etc.). Being shallow rooted, they need less nutrients compared to the heavier croppers so can be grown at the base of other plants as well (Pay attention though to Companion Planting Guides).

Soon I will post about Aubergine success and tips I got from side-shooting which seemed to increase yield! I got these tips from the awesome Charles Dowding, I do recommend to get a book or two of his if you are interested in growing your own vegetables! From a person who has around 34 years growing organically in no dig systems, you would not be making a bad move in following his tips and advice in my opinion …


These photo’s were mostly taken a few month’s back so it’s great to share them now with you all, enjoy:

Base of a Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) bed

Note: Failed Experiment!!
I grew garlic after planting the Jerusalem Artichoke tubers hoping that the garlic would be able to cope fine under the Artichokes but as you can see in the above photo, there are Zero garlic plants visible! I had this planned as a time stacking experiment but the Garlic was not happy at all, it may be because Jerusalem Artichokes are part of the Sunflower family which excretes substances which other plants don’t like, this is to ensure they get their own space free from other nutrient thieving plants!

First Blueberry Harvest for Summer 2015

First Blueberry Harvest for Summer 2015 (only 1 plant)

Blueberry Plant with Lots of Berries 2015

Blueberry Plant with Lots of Berries 2015

This season's First Courgette (Zucchini)

This season’s First Courgette (Zucchini)

First Italian Vine Tomatoes forming

First Italian Vine Tomatoes forming

The prolific Flowering of the Lldi Tomato, this is one flower stem

The most productive part of the plot, L to R: Various Tomatoes Bush Legend, Italian Vine, Beefsteak, Gardeners Delight, Oca Andean Tuberous plants at bottom ( ones with clover like leaves ), Galeuse d’Eysines Pumpkin on trellis at back, Courgettes (Zucchini) with Nasturtiums growing between to attract the pollinators in,Some leaves of my potatoes at bottom, tips of my Perovskia flowers (Russian Sage) right side and my polytunnel to the left. There is even a nettle poking out and a volunteer Jerusalem Artichoke behind the Courgette!

Violas keeping the plot looking pretty - these were being thrown out due to annual bedding change by a gardening company, they recovered very well after a week or so! ...

Violas keeping the plot looking pretty – these were being thrown out due to annual bedding change by a gardening company, they recovered very well after a week or so! …

My goal for next year is to go 100% Heriloom / Heritage seed and get rid of all my Hybrid junk, I am 100% sure I do not have / own any GM seeds so safe there! So far this is my second year growing Heirloom / Heritage seed plants and I find the success is great! these plants have been Naturally adapting to our climate and therefore are better suited to times of drought, wet, local pests, fungus etc. When placed in a Polyculture system it creates even better conditions for them to thrive in! I can;t wait to order more species / varieties to experiment with for next season.

Don’t forget though, there are still many edible plants you will need to be sowing soon for winter food or overwintering for early Spring cropping! …

Good evening everyone! As promised and well overdue, here is the package of Shiitake Mushroom Mycelium (Spores) and subsequent additional kit / supplies to successfully grow my own Shiitake mushrooms at home on Logs.

Originally, when I first heard about growing mushrooms on logs it honestly didn’t sound attractive! (I’m a renter, what if I had to move?, where do I put the logs?, what if they rot? etc.) That was before I discovered permaculture and how we do encourage growing perennial, continually fruiting vegetables and fruits etc.

After doing some research I placed my order from Mushroom Box (They supply UK and Europe) and received the following a few days later:

  • 2x Packs of Sealing Wax
  • 6x Packs (50pcs each totaling 300) Shiitake Dowels
  • 2x Depth Collared Drill Bits

(If you are not sure how much / many Dowels or Wax is needed per how many logs you have, just email them as I did before ordering and tell them how many logs and estimated length and width. their estimate was extremely accurate and I only had leftover dowels because of my own miscalculations when measuring distance between drilled holes!)

Shiitake Mushroom Kit ordered from Shiitake Mycelium, Sealing Wax and Depth Collared Drill Bit

For an idea on how to go about growing mushrooms on logs, Click Here for my previous post (Includes informative video)

In the case of cultivating mushrooms on logs, you are pretty much guaranteed a bi-monthly harvest of mushrooms per log for between 3 to 5/7 years Depending on log size / width etc. This fits very well in the Permaculture Paradigm of using less energy (cultivating using a growing kit would mean quicker harvest but also the mushroom bedding / feed would run out quicker, thereby needing the re-purchase of new kit/s or refilling regularly) Logs take far longer to decompose / feed the mushroom mycelium hence their popularity! Once you have a reasonable batch size, you won’t be doing anything else for several years except harvesting and watering the logs

If you have a garden full of perennial crops that come up by themselves then you have less need to expend energy there, so meaning less calories (within Permaculture teachings you discover the truth behind the current form of Monoculture farming whereby more calories are Spent per calorie earned from harvested crops)

Quick description of the process and equipment:

The Drill Bit and Depth Collar are the right size for the Mycelium Dowels, you just need to measure the length of the dowels and add 5mm to 1cm onto the end. and fit the depth collar tightening with an Allen Key (Hex Key).
The Mycelium Dowels are the same as the little wooden Dowels that you use to piece together furniture from Ikea for example, they just have been sterilized and have been inoculated professionally with Mycelium.
Once you have drilled your holes in the pattern suggested on the Mushroom Box Growing Instructions page, you hammer them in flush to the surface of the logs (or slightly deeper) and Seal with the melted Sealing Wax using a good brush etc. (the sealing wax is supplied in wax chips and you need to melt them yourself, they seal the dowels and kill off any unwanted organisms by sterilizing the immediate area around the drilled cavity. It must also be used to seal any damaged parts of the log/s)

That’s it for now, keep an eye out for the final post where I will have a step-by-step guide on preparing, drilling, installing dowels, sealing and log placement outside …

Using up the vertical space in your garden is highly important if the size of the property is limited or if you intend on growing a garden full of fruits, nuts and vegetables. It is also highly beneficial due to the fruit / produce being Off the ground and away from rot or pest attacks.

We also tend to use our gardens a lot more in summer so it can be used to hide an ugly part of a wall or garden fence on a temporary basis.

Click here for previous post on growing Pumpkins and Squashes vertically, there is some very good info. on that post, it is a recommended read!

Cucumber on Trellis: Vertical Growing and Permaculture Methods

Watermelon on Trellis: Vertical Growing and Permaculture Methods

Whilst growing Butternut Squash and pumpkin next to each other on an extended trellis is alright, you need to be careful if you are thinking of joining the latter two with melons, watermelon or cucumbers. This is due to the highly vigorous growth of the pumpkin plant when compared with the others.

Watermelon on Trellis 2: Vertical Growing and Permaculture Methods

Cucumber on Trellis: Vertical Growing and Permaculture Methods

Watermelon at the base of the Trellis: Vertical Growing and Permaculture Methods


It’s not too late!! These plants can all still be germinated as seedlings to go into your garden as of now …

In small spaces it is highly recommended to rather vertically grow as much as possible as part of your stacking plan, here in this post I will advise especially on pumpkins, squashes and even melons!

Vertically Growing Pumpkins, Squash, Melons, Gourds and Cucumbers ( Permaculture Stacking )

The main reason being that the plants can be quite prolific in foliage growth, although this makes a great ground cover (preventing evaporation and suppressing weeds) it also takes up loads of space!
However, we have other benefits too, by growing them vertically, the fruits sit off the ground and therefore have less chance of rotting or being chewed on by animals / critters or mutant GMO franken slugs! 😉

Vertically Growing Pumpkins on an A Frame (Permaculture Stacking) - shade Tolerant plants and be put beneath

Vertically Growing Pumpkins on an A Frame (Permaculture Stacking) – shade Tolerant plants and be put beneath

Finally, if your posts / supports are good enough to support many pumpkins, melons or other squashes, then you can merely let them hang until the plant is pretty much completely dead before harvesting!

In the following video, John Kohler from the superbly popular ”Growing Your Greens” Youtube channel shows his large setup which yielded a huge amount of pumpkins.
Now the great news for anyone who hasn’t grown pumpkins or hard squashes before is that if cured in the sun directly after cutting from the plant and also a cool temperature store – you can still be eating pumpkins into May the next year! This is due to the long storage life of these edibles ….

216 pounds of pumpkin harvested from 15sq feet of growing space: