We went to the farm today to go through the tree measuring protocols so they can carry on measuring after we leave. Imagine our surprise when we walked out of the back door of the centre.
Something is missing.
The day that Permaculture died…
Do you recognise this blasted heath? Looks a bit like as mass grave of all our ambitions, concealed under a carpet of woodchip.
As a clue, it used to look like this.
Raised beds at the Ecocentre, Screveton
It’s not the greatest comparison photograph but I never thought to take one. After five years of planting, experiment and soil improvement we hadn’t thought that the beds would be flattened without warning. Nor had we thought our plants would just be ripped out and discarded.
In plant terms we lost sorrel, wild strawberries, lavender, chives, marigolds, fennel, mint, nasturtiums (though they were in winter remission), rocket, radish leaves, leeks and fat hen.
I keep saying I’m going to look forward and not complain, so I’ll stop here.
I’ve been filling in the gaps today, with rows of spring onions, beetroot, radish and various salad greens appearing all over the raised beds. So that we have at least something green by the weekend I’ve also planted out the New Zealand spinach that was originally meant to be part of the container growing demonstration. I It was slightly disappointing in the container but having just read how to plant it whilst searching for the link, I’m amazed I managed to get anything at all. I also have a few things off the market (mainly lettuce).
It’s good to fill in the gaps, but I have a confession to make. I’m not that fond of salad. Spinach is OK but lettuce is tasteless, radish is pointless and beetroot is downright unpleasant. Thoughts like these are a disadvantage when it comes to growing your own.
Fortunately I love beans, peas, courgettes, nasturtiums and horseradish, which are the other things I’ve been planting.
My Good King Henry, comfrey, bamboo and pampas grass are all refusing to show but the rhubarb seedlings are looking good and I’ve just been re-potting Cape Gooseberry seedlings.
NZ spinach on the edge of a broad bean bed
Salads in an unused corner
I’m now starting to worry (after finding out about what I should have done with the NZ spinach) that there’s a lot more I need to learn and that I need to fill gaps in my knowledge as well as the physical gaps in the beds.
We added the last barrow loads of soil to the bed today and although the central compost basket isn’t quite finished as it should be we’re pretty happy with it.
Working on the basis of striking while the iron is hot we have started a second bed using recycled materials to form the boundary. This time it’s old tyres, because we have plenty of them (somebody just dumped another four in one of the fields recently.I’m hoping that the black tyres will heat up in spring and give us a slightly earlier start to the year, though we will have to wait until next spring to test the theory out.
We’ve also started a trial in one of the raised beds. They were made from conifers felled during the building of the centre and half filled with a mix of rubble and rubbish from a demolished barn. We used general purpose compost from the local garden supplier (bought by the ton so it wasn’t too expensive) but there isn’t a lot of body in the soil in the beds as you may imagine.
Digging holes today it was clear that the top foot of the bed we were working was very dry and though it had roots in it there wasn’t a lot of organic material in it. I spotted three worms, but that isn’t a lot for the soil we shifted.
Hopefully we’ve addressed this lack by sticking in a layer of wood chippings, a layer of paper towels, fruit peel, teabags, toast and eggshells. Mainly paper towels to be honest, but we generate a lot of waste on a school visit and we need to reuse them if at all possible. We followed this up with a layer of pig muck and then replaced the soil.
We harvested the leeks this afternoon so next week we’ll repeat the process with the second half of the bed and use the whole bed as a raised bean trench. It’s going to look decorative and hopefully be very productive. If it works we’ll start a proper rotation and do the same to another bed next year.