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.


Dancingfarmer said...

REALLY looks good. Nice job. Just think how nice it will look in a couple of years. The plants will be so much more mature then. Your guests must really like it.

mandarine said...

What, pray, might a van tyre potato tower be? Was it something invented by a Monsieur Van Tijr, or is it really made of tyre, and then what for?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi Mandarine!

The potato tyre tower consists of a tyre, full of compost and planted with seed potatoes. As the shoots appear, you earth up the potatoes by adding another tyre and more compost, until you have a tower, say four tyres high. You then dismantle the tower and harvest all the potatoes.

It's a useful thing if you're limited for space but want to grow potatoes. In the fuss / cost analysis, potatoes are probably one of the less interesting things to grow but we had one to demonstrate the technique to people staying in our gite.