Well, 2020 has certainly thrown us a couple of curveballs and radical challenges. Many of us are still at home, unable to work, suddenly having to be teachers to our own kids (Holy Moly!!) and facing all sorts of unanticipated challenges.
Having uninterrupted time with my husband and teenager has been an unexpected gift. It admittedly took us all a bit of time to reconnect, but family time has become so very precious. No one is rushing off anywhere and family discussions, and even projects, are becoming a thing.
I am spending so much time in my garden, which we are transforming into a Permaculture Food Forest. It’s a long-term project, but every piece of lawn I transform into planting space takes us one step closer to being as self-sustaining as possible in our semi-urban environment. With so many families living without income at present, food insecurity is completely real and horrific, right here, now. And I fear it will get more critical as time goes by.
This brought me to thinking about the Future Gardens, and how, even though we are not at school in a physical sense to get the planting done, there’s no reason why I can’t share the work I’m doing at home in the garden, to inspire a few of you to get planting at home, using Permaculture techniques.
A lot of you may be wondering what on earth Permaculture is, and why I garden like I do. I’m not going to tell you too much about Permaculture, as you can find stacks of info on the principles etc online. But I can happily share with you why I garden this way. Permaculture gardening is the most rewarding form of gardening I have ever experienced, the most productive in terms of daily harvest, the least labour intensive, and the cheapest! It can literally cost you nothing but time.
Over the next while, I will be sharing the process of building a new “growing mound” veggie bed in the garden, using exactly the techniques we are teaching in the Future Garden at school. The site I have chosen has full sun, is grassed, and is situated alongside a bare cement wall and next to a large granadilla vine that covers the chicken coop. Mark and I cut down an invasive tree that was sheltering the chickens’ laying box, and wanted to make better use of the space getting such lovely sun.
The soil in our yard is pure sand, and has very little body or plant matter in it. It doesn’t keep water, and dries out very fast. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And it totally doesn’t matter!
The stump of the tree (in the top left) is staying in place as it is covered in amazing mushroom action, which will only add beneficial spores and fungal activity to our soil. Yay, no stump removal or digging! And I have used the logs to outline the boundaries of the bed. We have quite a few big rocks in the garden which I have also stored at the back fence, so some of them will come out to make a border. We have to keep all our growing areas fenced off in various ways because we have pet chickens. Some of you at home may need to do the same for dogs or cats, or if your yard isn’t fenced off.
The next step is to start dragging any decaying or dead branches or logs onto the bed. They are laid straight onto the grass; there is no need to dig it up. If your bed is quite wide, like this one is, try making a walk way through the bed and divide it up into planting mounds. This is what we did at the School Future Garden. Starting creating your planting area, you will be building up the healthiest, ”mulch-iest”, mycelium-packed, nutritious soil to grow the best, yummiest, goodness-packed vegetables and herbs at home.
Like I explain to our Enviro Club children, soil is a living thing. Hold a handful soil from outside and have a close look. It is alive with microscopic goggas, fungal spores, insects, worms, and made up of all kinds of matter, like sand, clay, stones, sticks, bits of bark, decaying leaves and more. Like any living thing, soil needs air to breathe, water, and warmth. Under these conditions, soil can thrive and support amazing abundance.
A great feature of Permaculture is, the building of your growing bed is the system that supplies all the goodies needed to create your gorgeous, rich delicious soil.
Using fallen sticks and decaying branches from your yard and surroundings:
There is never any need to pay anyone to remove garden trimmings and garden “waste” of any kind from your yard. In Permaculture, as in Nature, any dead garden matter, like leaves, twigs, branches etc, is kept in the natural cycle in the garden, and returned to the soil to feed and nourish it.
Any time you have trees or bushes cut back, or broken branches fall in a strong wind, don’t get rid of them. They are Nature’s best building blocks for beautiful soil. I stack mine along my back wire fence and leave them to begin decaying and breaking down. I don’t recommend doing this along a wooden fence, for obvious reasons. The decaying logs will attract many different beneficial insects to your garden. The same applies to grass cuttings and dead leaves. Keep them in a pile to use in your garden. (We’ll get to them later!)
The decaying logs and branches will serve another purpose in your garden. They will provide a microcosm for the creatures busy at work. Have a good look in the pile after a while, and you’ll start seeing spiders, lizards and ghecko’s, skinks, and many, many more. All of these are your absolute best friends in the garden as they are part of the natural web of creatures maintaining balance in the garden.
This is the start of creating a natural ecosystem to provide for you and your family. When the weather clears, I will carry on building the growing mound. In the mean time, collect any brown waste you can. This includes brown paper bags, brown cardboard like toilet roll tubes and boxes, egg boxes, and dead leaves and twigs.
And start collecting your kitchen green waste. I give the Enviro kids an ice cream box to collect their green waste, and if you have a bucket with a lid you can use, so much the better.
Green waste includes any of the following from the kitchen:
Fruit peels and cores
Trimmed off veggie or fruit bits that are bad or squishy
Green waste from the garden:
Fresh plant matter.
Do NOT put in Cooked food, Bones or Meat
I hope to see you in your gardens, enjoying these last days of Summer.