raised beds

Tiddles presumed that we created a new raised fireside bed for her, rather than believe we were actually drying off the lambswool blanket.

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Hügelkultur

Hügelkultur, meaning “hill culture” in German, is a method of raised bed gardening that uses decaying wood as a basis for building up a berm. Berms are useful in directing the flow of water, and protecting more delicate plants from prevailing wind damage.

For this simple hugelkultur garden, Ihave piled sticks and wood, covered them in compost, planted my shrubs, and mulched the resulting berm first with a layer of newspapers, and second with a layer of wood chips. 

As the wood breaks down, it will create a rich soil with plenty of air pockets, allowing for excellent drainage and root penetration for the plants planted in the mound.

Hugelkultur raised beds are a form of “no-dig” garden (like the straw bale gardens) making them a good choice for those with impaired mobility or strength. They also sequester carbon, and provide a handy use for all of the trimmings from pruning and hedge maintenance.

My yard has poor drainage, so building up the soil is the only sustainable way to utilise the space without creating a pond. Hugelkultur beds provide exceptional drainage for plants that don’t like “wet feet” (ie. waterlogged root systems).

Diagram: Permaculture UK - The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur

#hügelkultur #garden hacks #DIY #permaculture #hugelkultur #compost #mulch

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These gardens are a great solution if you are lacking in good soil: especially if you live in an urban area with soil that is contaminated by things like glass, run-off or other waste.

Straw Bale Gardens teaches gardening in a way that isn’t only new but is thoroughly innovative and revolutionary to home gardening. It solves every impediment today’s home gardeners face: bad soil, weeds, a short growing season, watering problems, limited garden space, and even physical difficulty working at ground level. Developed and pioneered by author and garden expert Joel Karsten, straw bale gardens create their own growing medium and heat source so you can get an earlier start. It couldn’t be simpler or more effective: all you need is a few bales of straw, some fertilizer, and some seeds or plants, and you can create a weedless vegetable garden anywhere—even in your driveway.

Find it: USA / Canada / UK & Europe

#straw bale gardening #DIY #books #raised beds #garden hacks

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The Terraced Strawberry Garden

I have strawberries planted in every nook and cranny of the forest garden, but predictably, the first strawberry blossom of the year has emerged on the warm terraced strawberry garden.

This somewhat-vertical garden is built around an old piece of concrete drain piping, and terraced with pear wood: both of which ambiently radiate heat, creating a warmer microclimate.

The wood also feeds fungi, decomposes into soil nutrition, and stores water. The strawberries have some fibrous roots that have begun to directly penetrate the bark.

The strawberry fruits will droop off of the structure, preventing too much soil contact; they are actually called strawberries because traditionally, they were grown on straw to prevent the fruit from rotting on the soil. Growing vertically increases the physical surface area for crops, so building in a terraced form also allows more plants to be grown in a smaller square-metreage.

In addition to providing a home for fruit and fungi, this is also an insect habitat. I drilled a number of holes in the logs to provide homes for wood-dwelling bees, and soil-dwelling bees can nest undisturbed in the till-free areas between the terraces.

Since bees sip from mushroom mycelium to up-regulate their immune systems, I have no doubt they will find this fungi-ridden structure to be a suitable home!

This little garden ticks all of my permacultural boxes:

  • it’s built from free, local, and salvaged materials
  • it’s built to maximise yields
  • it’s low-maintenance and perennial
  • it’s biodiverse: hosting a fruiting crop, fungi, a rich soil life web, and beneficial insects

Far from being a “type” of garden, it’s more like a “formation” that derives inspiration from raised beds, vertical gardening, hügelkultur, and the herb spiral.  

If I had built it with fresher wood, I could have also innoculated the logs with wood-dwelling edible mushroom plugs: like shiitakes. This would further maximise the efficiency of the space by cropping an edible mushroom in between the berries. Maybe next time!

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July garden update:

After more than enough rain, followed by a few days’ worth of hot, intense sun, followed by more rain, everything has exploded.  It’s dreary out there today which doesn’t make for the best photo-taking conditions, but it’ll do.

From left-right:

Potatoes are huge and beginning to flower, onion greens are starting to flop over and flower (almost time for harvest!), herbs are all sorts of productive.  Eggplants are starting to do their thing after a massive aphid attack almost took them all out.  Cherry tomatoes are abundant.

Borage flowers are almost ready to bloom, foxglove just popped, and the zucchini plants have exploded overnight.  I planted all of my cucurbits on the late side this year, trying to ward off the dreaded cucumber beetle.  Hope that works.  The garlic will be ready to harvest within the next week, I think.  Kale is now waist-high.  Peppers are leaning over with fruit and badly need support.  And those snap peas…we have been blessed with a bumper crop.  I keep picking them and they just keep on going.  My goal was to have enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and maybe one or two more servings for the winter months.  We’ll have way more than enough.

Overall everything is doing well as long as I can keep the squirrels from digging it all up.  I could use a good solid day to get out there and weed/deadhead.  Maybe Sunday.  I did not take photos of the tomato plants because they’re on the other side of the house, and the neighbor is having a huge party.  I didn’t want to look like an asshole crawling around with my camera while they’re trying to have a good time.  I’ll get some photos this weekend.  We have some massive tomato plants this year, and every one is bearing fruit.  Hooray!  Also not shown: carrots, horseradish, lettuces, chards, strawberries, pineberries.  They’re all doing quite well.

Here’s the post of last month’s garden update if you want to compare where we were versus where we are now.

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#Edible Forest Gardening 101

An “herb spiral” garden accommodates for the unique needs of most culinary herbs. Made of stone, cement, brick–or another material with a high heat capacity–the spiral-shaped structure functions to create a series of different microclimates and drainage conditions.

  • Herbs that prefer dry conditions are planted near the top, where drainage is the best (ie. Thyme).
  • Herbs and other plants that prefer hot conditions are planted near the walls, where they take advantage of radiating heat at night (ie. Rosemary).
  • Herbs that prefer sheltered conditions are planted lower on the structure, where they are sheltered from prevailing winds (ie. Dill).
  • Herbs that prefer cool conditions are planted low on the side of the structure that receives less sunlight (ie. Chervil)
  • Herbs that prefer wet conditions are planted near the base of the spiral, to where the water drains (ie. Mint).

Right now, my herb spiral contains this baffling array or plants:

Mint (Moroccan, Spearmint, Chocolate, Garden, Water), Thyme (Lemon, Lemon Variegated, Lavender, English), Sage/Salvia (Italian, Purple), Chives (Garden, Chinese, Garlic, and Round-Headed Leek) Curry Plant, Lavender, Rosemary, Tarragon, Oregano, Parsley, Dill, Chervil, Sorrel, Black Cumin, and Coriander.

DIY herb spiral (steps):

#herb spiral #DIY #permaculture #edible landscaping #raised beds #herbs