Sunday, May 06, 2007

I last wrote about the permaculture design proposal for the small garden in our holiday cottage back in February and, as we have just finished the hard landscaping and fencing and there is just some more planting to be done, it’s now time to show you what we’ve done.

To recap: having followed most of the permaculture design process, but skipped a couple of important points in our impatience to get started, we discovered a large concrete slab under just a thin covering of topsoil which interfered with what we wanted to do. It didn’t seem very “permaculture” to bring in large machinery to remove and cart away this “problem” and so we adapted the then current plan. Large though it was, the slab didn’t cover everywhere and it seemed sensible to relocate the paths where the concrete was and the flower / vegetable beds and lawn to where it wasn’t. We did remove some concrete to make this compromise work but not much.

An important lesson we have learnt from our experience is that, no matter how thoroughly the plan on paper has been prepared, it changes dramatically when applied to the site. Once marked out with string, sticks and lines of sand, the proportions didn’t seem nearly as pleasing as they’d looked on paper. All was not lost, and the plans provided a good starting point from which we adjusted sizes and shapes actually in the garden. The photos show the progression from the neat site map—a to-scale representation of its original state—through various incarnations of (mainly) Gabrielle's creativity, to the garden as it is now.

The design brief was to create an edible garden, a private quiet place of relaxation for our paying guests and, at the same time for anyone who’s interested, a living example of small-scale permaculture in action. It will be low-maintenance, look beautiful, smell wonderful, and provide herbs, salad, soft and top fruit, nuts and a range of vegetables so that guests can help themselves to anything that’s ripe. It's got a camomile lawn, will also have a creeping thyme ground cover, has a living willow arbour and fence and a path covered in woodchip we've made onsite. We’ve reused and recycled lots of materials in its construction and incorporated rainwater catchment and bird boxes and bug houses. We want to put in a van tyre potato tower but we can’t yet work out where to put this relatively unsightly edifice.