Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

I have been making Apple Cider (even a semi Pear Cider) and Cider Vinegar using a very very very veeerrrry simple recipe now for 3 years running, so simple in fact that you Do Not Need a Fruit Press!

Young Organic Apple Jonagold on an urban Permaculture Farm

Organically Grown Jonagold Apples – Cider & Vinegar Making

What you need is: Apples, Water, Container/s (5ltr / 1 Gal), Sugar (1 Cup), Knife with Chopping board … and Time – That’s It!

What I recommend is to get hold of a few different varieties of apple (even some pears), try your best not to use only one apple variety.

Click the Link Here for the full recipe with explanation between Cider only and Cider Vinegar as the final result.

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This is something I have been meaning to write about for quite some time now, in my travels across the capital I am constantly reminded bout these great ideas including sometimes at properties I see during my working hours! Can you imagine how much nicer our cities and living areas would look if a large majority were covered in Living Green Roofs?

green-roof-large

I have, in the past written an article on Eco Friendly buildings, here I am concentrating on Green Roofing at our homes or existing buildings, some people even create smaller ones on top of their bin sheds which are merely a few feet across and wide!
Although this is not a top priority right now for me (With all of my current projects ongoing), I will hereby make a pact that I will create at least one in my small garden on my rented property as well as one larger one (probably on top of my shed) on my Allotment (What is an Allotment?)

Examples of Green Roofs in a Modern Building Setting:

According to the London Wildlife Trust, London itself loses around ”Two and a Half Hyde Park’s” Sized worth of Green Urban Habitat and Forage ground due mainly to Hard Surface Landscaping in front and back gardens across the capital – one small way to revert and give back even just a little is to Create a Green Roof on part or even the whole of a building on the specified property.

Structures such as Bin Sheds, Wood Pile Roofs, Garden Sheds, Garages, Outdoor Rooms, Office Blocks, Houses and even part of your Conservatory can be adapted to a Green Roof Structure!

Some Other Examples:

Things to Consider before starting a Green Roof, and further comstruction information:

green-roof-centre
All Information Below is obtained from The Green Roof Centre’s Website

green-roof-starting-out

green-roof-layers

green-roof-plants

Extensive green roofs which are designed not to be trafficked and are therefore relatively undisturbed, can offer a very
good habitat for plants, birds and insects. There is evidence throughout Europe, that with the right design, green roofs
can encourage ground nesting birds such as lapwings, skylarks, oystercatchers and plovers.
Green roofs are able to create a “green corridor” through an urban environment helping the movement and dispersal
of wildlife.
– greenroofcode.co.uk
Other Links and Resources / How To:
Permaculture.co.uk Article 1

Late Summer / Early Autumn is the best time to start gathering the materials you need for your planned Hugel Bed / Mound, many Herbaceous plants which can be used in conjunction with the wood logs, branches and sticks are now ready to be chopped down and composted or used in another way. Autumn / Winter is the preferred time her in the UK to create your Hugelkultur mounds mainly due to the need for the wet season to soak the beds, the buried logs will soak up the winter rains for months until the upcoming growing season.

Two pieces of advice I can definitely lecture on about in this article to ensure a successful Hugel Project are;
1: Ensure Air Spaces inside the mound and
2: Add lots of Nitrogen rich Biomass internally to offset the nitrogen locking that the logs will create during decomposition

Air Spaces:
Although there are guaranteed to be air spaces between the logs and branches / sticks, I have found that rain and the settling down of the materials can cause these spaces to fill in, often causing or risking an anaerobic result – go explore your garden or any other garden you have access to (You may even be able to make a deal with a local gardening company – they could leave a bag of said such materials for you outside one of their customers properties so as long as you collect the bag and not leave unwanted contents at the site!) remember, you can always bargain that most companies have to pay to dump their waste at commercial specialist dumps, remind them that you are helping them reduce the need to do so, in most cases they will still have charged their customers to ”remove” the waste even though you took if off of their hands, the customer will inevitably still be charged for it being dumped.

There are many herbaceous plant species which have a hollow stem and need cutting down in Autumn, cut these stems into pieces which you will spread around and in between your logs at different levels to ensure small air cavities will remain. Cedums, Ornamental Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Young Bamboo (and old), some Hydrangea varieties and many more have hollow cavity stems which harden enough when dry to be used in this case.

Then there is dry hard leaf ”garden waste” which takes ages to decompose, these are leaves from shrubs and trees which are more on a glossy and hard / stiff texture than a soft / decidious and most likely in all cases, evergreen. Three options I have from the top of my head as examples are the leaves of ‘Magnolia Grandeflora’, The climber ‘Clematis Armandii’ , the Loquat ‘Eribotrya japonica’ Fruit Tree, Some Rhododendrons (look for the large leaved varieties) and Laurels. We have found that most of these leaves can take up to two years in an unturned / undisturbed compost pile to break down, they maintain their structure even when pressed down so they are perfect for maintaining air spaces / gaps internally within the Hugel Bed / Mound! Practically any glossy leaved plant / shrub / tree will do but the larger and dryer – the better!
In fact, a couple of these Tree / Shrub leaves will actualy curl up to form a cilyndrical tube shape with an internal hollow gap, when pressed these are strong and bounce back right away once released.

Nitrogen Rich Biomass:
Probably one of the best options are fresh grass clippings from your lawn mowing or that of a neighbour / friend. You can even clip your grass at your home twice a week for the last 3 or so weeks of Summer, keep these clippings aside in a breathable bag until ready to add into the Hugel Bed – if you obtain clippings over several weeks, you Will need to add additional fresh greens into the mix to compenate lost nitrogen.
Horse Manure is also a great option but I would suggest it be used more as an addition to fresh green waste rather than 100% of the nitrogen source
The not-so-popular option amongst people new to Permaculture, is human Urine, which has a good nitrogen content and is often used diluted 1 part to 10 in early season liquid feed for plants
If you plan on lets say December being your target month for getting your Hugel project started, I would advise Growing a patch of Broad or Field bean green manure from Late August / Early September – these will be ready for chopping down and adding into your bed around and amongst the logs as the fresh greens instead of grass clippings which won’t be available during that month anyway

Further Reading: Click Here for an article on the step-by-step making of a Hugelkultur Mound / Bed

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

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

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! …

Only recently I came across this recipe as I usually use Comfrey as a chop ‘n drop fertilizer or thrown straight into my compost site.

This is Really Simple!!

All you need is some Comfrey leaves and Stinging Nettle, Water (Preferably Rainwater), a bucket or container and a stirring stick. There is no particular ratio of water to materials but as long as the plant material is all submerged then everything is good to go.
Cover the bucket after placing the chopped / shredded leaves inside with water, be sure to stir a little vigorously everyday if possible and wait until at least a month has passed or until the water becomes quite dark in colour. You will need to dilute this to about ten (10) parts water for every one (1) part liquid fertilizer. The Nettles provide the Nitrogen and the Comfrey provides the Potash, so use loads of Nettle in the beginning of crop growing, then switch to more Comfrey once fruit is set on your plant/s.

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Recipe

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Recipe

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Being Filtered

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Being Filtered

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Brewing

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea Brewing

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea - Final Product

Nettle & Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Tea – Final Product

The beauty of doing this at home is, the benefit of KNOWING Exactly what your fertilizer is made of! as well as eliminating some pollution (in the production of branded liquid feeds) further, you not having to travel to a garden centre to purchase products for this purpose is an advantage almost above the money you will save too …

After filtering, make sure to throw the waste back into your composting area and keep the fertilizer in a marked / dated container.

Other known nutrient rich materials can be added in as well such as Seaweed etc. I usually make sure to toss in a small handful of Soil / compost from my garden.