Saturday, 4 June 2016

Permaculture, potatoes and pumpkins

The more I learn about permaculture the more it makes sense for what we are hoping to achieve here at home. Over the last couple of days I have made use of the excellent scratching job that the chickens have done near their houses.
In early winter, not long after we moved in, I piled a large amount of wood shavings, hay and manure in what became the chicken field. They have spent the last few months scratching through the heap, leaving their droppings on it and turning the heap over and over. The vast majority of the light and fluffy compost has now been used in the raised beds, which left us with an area that we know has been well composted and should be full of nutrients. So, it doesn't seem to make sense to leave it to grow back as grass or worse still, super-charged weeds and to that end, yesterday I sectioned it off from the chickens using four feet bamboo canes and some chicken wire.
I've planted it with Maris Piper seed potatoes, I have no idea if it's too late to plant them as I've never grown potatoes before, but it will be interesting to find out later in the year how they have done. Having watered them in well, I then covered the area with straw as a mulch to help reduce weed growth and in the next few days I will plant a few squash plants through the straw into the soil beneath. This should make this nutrient rich area a highly productive one.
 Back in the kitchen garden proper, I've been working on the next raised bed. Earlier in the week I part filled some more cardboard boxes with top soil and homemade compost and yesterday I divided the soil mixture even further so that there was just a small amount in each of the 16 boxes that make up a raised bed.
We then went to my sister's home to collect some more composted bark that she has had in a field for a couple of years and doesn't need. I topped up each of the cardboard boxes with this composted bark and mixed it in well with the topsoil and our homemade compost.
This morning I have planted one seed potato in the corner of each box and a squash plant in centre of each box. So in this bed there is a mixture of Maris Piper potatoes, both green and yellow courgettes, yellow and white patty pans, butternut squash and pumpkins. The latter two I have planted at the ends of the beds so that they have room to run riot along pathways.

Yet again, I have no idea how the plants will do in this growing medium, it certainly isn't soil as I'd normally think of it, but as long as there are enough nutrients in it and as long as I can add to the soil mix to increase the nutrient levels if I need to for this year, then that will do me.

These boxes will be watered well and then mulched with straw to keep the moisture in and suppress weed growth. At the end of the growing season, all the plants will be cut down and either left in place to rot down or added to the compost heap and the soil will be given a good layer of compost from the oldest heaps to improve the soil and build up the level of soil in each bed.

Building a new vegetable garden is an interesting process. Almost all of the ideas that I had when we put in the offer on the house (but before we moved in) have been laid aside because the soil is so poor and having lived here for a while, I am more aware of the local weather conditions, which areas are more shady and which just get baked by sun and dried by the wind coming up from the estuary. What is being created is actually so much nicer and more fun to work in than the kitchen garden space I had imagined.

I'm learning all the time, I spend a while each morning reading and watching informative videos and just as importantly, I spend some time thinking about how the information that I'm gathering can be applied to our garden and still have it look as attractive as I'd like it to be.

I am delighted that the seed potatoes I planted in old tractor tyres last month are now growing. I've started to top up the soil level in the tyres and as we collect more well rotted compost from my sister's home and our next compost heap is ready, I will add more.

This evening we were supposed to be going to see the Stereophonics in Cardiff, I have been looking forward to it for months. I had tickets for their last tour but wasn't well enough to go, actually at that time I couldn't get out of bed, let alone be up and about or dancing. So I was delighted to have tickets for tonight's gig and sensibly I had bought seated tickets so that I didn't overdo it and have to leave early. Well it seems my body is conspiring against me because shortly after planting a few seed potatoes and squash plants this morning, I started feeling unwell and have spent most of the day on sofa, either asleep or feeling very weak. Hey-ho, that's the way it goes sometimes. And, so the tickets weren't wasted, we have given them to our neighbours who are delighted to have an unexpected evening out. Because I don't feel up to venturing out, I intend to spend the evening watching more videos and reading about organic gardening and about permaculture.

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  1. Maris Piper are a maincrop variety which need about 20 weeks before they're ready to harvest so they're usually planted in April. If we have a good autumn you should be okay, if not you'll get fewer smaller ones. It'll be interesting to see how they do. Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty, thank you for the info. I bought the seed potatoes online & they weren't delivered until the end of April! I put them in greenhouse to chit but next year I'll buy locally and get them in earlier. It's all about trying new stuff and learning as we go! Hope you've managed to get some plotting done today. It's too hot here to be in the garden for long, so we'll head outside around 6pm to do a few jobs. There's a compost heap to turn but not in 23 degrees heat with no shade!
      Liz x


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