Looking out through my bedroom window at my back garden this morning reminded me that it is time to do an update on this area of the garden.
The back, south-facing area comprises about a third of the whole garden and the whole place was a complete wilderness of tangled briar, thistle and scutch grass, old swings and bikes etc. The picture above was taken in 2012.
WHAT LIES BENEATH
The photographs above were taken in 2013 as we set about having my writer’s hut built. Once these tasks were complete I set about creating a garden using some of the principles of permaculture.
However, it was much more difficult that we expected because when we cleared away the briar and overgrowth we discovered that what lay beneath was simply rocks – tons and tons of rocks, some of them as big as tables with little or no soil.
MEN OF ARAN
The 1934 documentary ‘Men of Aran’ was a 1934 film about the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway. The film showed islanders trying to grow vegetables on land devoid of soil – we have similar landscape.
By the way if haven’t seen the film you really should, as it truly is a fascinating insight into life on the islands in the last century.
Man of Aran wasn’t a documentary in the strictest sense as much of it was ‘docufiction’, but still, it is well worth watching, if only to see the rugged beauty of the place – actually if you ever get the chance you should visit the island of Inismor – the island is beautiful and in my opinion the cliffs of Inismor rival the Cliffs of Moher for beauty particularly since they built that horrible visitor centre and surrounding concrete mess, but I digress, so back to gardening…
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SOIL
It would have taken 10-15 lorry loads of top soil to cover this area of our back garden so instead we decided to go the permaculture route and created our own compost, building it up directly in the areas where we wanted it.
First we lay down these materials one on top of the other in the following order:
1. Compostable kitchen waste.
2. Wet newspapers
3. Cardboard (soaked in water)
5. Chicken Manure
6. Small Amount of Manure
We repeated the above method – creating one bed at at a time. We then allowed our free ranging hens to do their little dance in and around the beds, which they did happily while adding their own valuable poo and further obliging us by mixing it into the beds as they danced. If you are interested in poultry you can read this article on keeping hens.
We left the beds over winter and by following spring the frost, wind, rains and hens had broken down the materials enough to plant – we just topped up the beds with a little soil.
We decided to split the back garden into four parts.
1. The writer’s hut flower garden.
2. The soft fruit garden.
3. The rose garden.
4. The vegetable garden (nearest the house)
THE WRITERS HUT GARDEN
The writer’s hut is where I write my fiction and it faces down on to the Burren hills. This garden has two wooden raised beds and we used rocks to make two other beds. We planted flowers and herbs and also some dogwood and various other shrubs in behind.
THE SOFT FRUIT GARDEN
Just below that and bordering the chicken enclosure is the soft fruit garden. This has raspberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb and tayberries.
THE ROSE GARDEN
Next is the rose garden and here we again used our ever-increasing supply of rocks to make some rocky circles ( I have a bit of thing for circles) and have been gradually planting this up with roses and other flowers.
The rose garden is near the chicken enclosure so it is very easy to get manure for the roses.
THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
The vegetable garden has proved to be a lovely manageable place for me to work in and has been very productive – providing nearly all our vegetables and salads in the summer. My dream is to one day grow enough not to have to buy vegetables at all.
SLEEPING WITH THE DISHES
There is already a wooden fence around the vegetable garden which was originally put there to stop me falling down the slope as I have had some mobility/balance issues. But recently I had to add chicken wire fencing to protect the vegetables from our cabbage/chard/broccoli loving hens.
I had tried to get the hens to observe the 80:20 rule and eat only 20% leaving 80% for us but there was no joy.
In fact, the greedy little cluckers wanted 100% as I found to my dismay when I returned home one day to find every single kale and chard plant reduced to stringy stalks while my happy hens lolled about giving themselves baths in the baby spinach plants they had just destroyed. It’s a good job their eggs are so good or I’d be introducing them to the roasting dish…
I hope to solve the greedy hen problem next year by marking off a large area where I grow food just for the hens. Still, that is a lot of work in itself as first I have to create the soil, then I have to build a fence around it to protect the young plants….
If I am organised enough I should start it after Christmas because the neighbours always have loads of cardboard for me after Father Christmas has been, and the frosty weather will help break it down. It’s on the to-do list so fingers crossed I get there.
In the meantime this is the progress so far…
P.S. To obtain and share a FREE 21 card set of the original permaculture ethics and principles click here.