March 3

Permaculture Learning Activities 1 – Exmouth seafront

Part of the the online permaculture design course I am taking are the activities to embed learning. We have been asked to choose a piece of land, probably not the one that we will use for our final design, to explore and develop the skills that we need.  I have finally chosen my piece of land – a strip of sand on the seafront opposite a new development of cafes, shops and a watersports centre. I pass it two or three times a week depending on the route I take for my morning walk so can track it regularly throughout the seasons. It isn’t a place of peace and quiet but it is a place that looks a bit sad and unloved and I have often thought that it needs a design to improve it rather than just planting.

Observation and reading the land are key skills in permaculture design. They are what we use as the basis for our work and these activities are designed to start to develop those skills.

What follows are my answers to the questions about the place, firstly using Google Earth.

What about this place stands out or draws your attention?

Mostly what stands out is the fact that it looks so uncared for. It is a scruffy bit of land sandwiched between two pavements, one lower down and one level with the road. It appears at the end of the fencing for a carpark. Parts of it are walked on frequently enough to stop anything growing and where plants do grow, they are not very tall.  As they start to landscape the new water sports centre across the road, this forgotten scrap of land looks more and more unloved and yet has the potential to be quite exciting and a visual attraction for what is a key tourist spot for the town.

The land is quite steeply sloped down to the pavement and the pavement has a slight slope towards the land. What this means is that when it rains, a large puddle builds up because the one and only drain fills up with sand over time. I am also pretty sure that the drain leads straight through to the beach and the water is not spread throughout the patch of land ready to be used by the plants that are there.

What doesn’t stand out when you are there is the large tree that is so obvious in the Google Earth images. I need to go and look at it next time I walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there plants and animals in this place that you recognise?

There are plants although at the beginning of March, not a lot (apart from a great big tree I missed when I was there!).  One thing that has colonised the land where it is not walked on is grass which has probably stabilised the area due to the matting roots of the plant.  Where there is a fence at the end of the land, presumably to stop people walking on it, there are a cluster of plants around the posts. Soil/sand will have built up around the posts and so plants have found their way there and I suspect the posts also offer a modicum of protection from the wind. One of the things that I intend to do over time is look closely at the plants growing there, on the nearby car park and those that are being planted in the new development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What yields is this system generating already that most people walking by would never notice?

The yields are so invisible at the moment that I can’t see them! What I see in the land is a potential for yield but I am struggling with this one. At a stretch I could say:

  • Because the pavements aren’t wide enough, it provides extra space for people to walk side by side.
  • It is a water-collecting system even though that does get in the way of people.
  • I am not sure if you can have such a thing as a negative yield but one I think we have here is that it is a barrier to where people want to walk and there is nothing to stop them trampling all over it.

How is the system acting in ways today that will help it survive and thrive tomorrow?

This is really about succession, the idea that all land really wants to move towards a stable ecology, that is often a forest, and that there are steps to get there.

First of all there are the annual weeds that cover the land which when they die back, provide organic matter for the soil. This then encourages plants with net-like roots to establish, grass, to stabilise the soil and prevent erosion. This is the stage that we are at and is one that the patch of land may never really move away from because it is trodden on and because of the wind from the south and south west which blow through particularly in the autumn and spring. Other plants are colonising around the posts of the fence where there is more protection and build up of growing matter and this may prove to be one way in which we can support plants to survive and move out. They are creating their own windbreak which then allows other plants to succeed.

Design by map overlays

Design requires mapping as a way to share what you know about the land and what might have an effect on what you want to do. Below are a series of maps that show information about my chosen site.

First we have windy.com which shows the way the wind is blowing in real time. The plot being right on the seafront, wind is a real issue for the site.

This small chart shows that the wind we get is not just south westerly but can be from all directions, although the south and west make up the majority and October to the start of March is when it is the windiest.

Using Verge’s Contour map generator is not totally helpful because although it shows the contours, the slope of the land is against the contours.

The best mapping for the site is to draw it by hand because it is too small to map using apps.

February 19

Permaculture Design Course Modules 1 and 2

As a lockdown present to myself, I signed up for an online Permaculture Design Course (PDC) to keep the brain cells ticking over and to provide another activity whilst we are limited in where we can go and what we can do.  This is a 28 week course and there is a lot of content and so I needed somewhere to reflect my thoughts and learning that is more than just a notebook and that place is here.

There are lots of PDCs available online and I decided to go with the Geoff Lawton PDC because he trained with Bill Mollison, one of the co-founders of Permaculture. The course is not cheap – none of them are and it does make me wonder about how those who do not have the money access such training but that discussion is probably for another day.  The participants are from all over the world, mostly Canada and America although Geoff Lawton lives on Zaytuna Farm in Australia.

Module 1 – What is Permaculture?

The end assignment for the first module was to explain what permaculture is in about 30 seconds. Every time I have been asked this question, I give a long rambling reply as it is so difficult to sum up in a short space of time. However, I’ll give it a go and then come back to the definition at the end of the course to see how the intervening weeks have changed what I think.

Permaculture is a way of working ethically to design a space to develop and support stable planting, food abundance and communities of people. The systems are designed around the way nature works and are used to regenerate the soil and everything which flows from that.

Module 2 – Concepts and themes in design

One of the big ideas in permaculture is the idea of designing to store the energy that comes onto your land (no matter how big or small it may be) and keeping it there for as long as possible. The example always used is water and gravity. You always store water on the highest part of your land so that you can use gravity to run it down to where you want to use it. The idea of store it, spread it and slow it is very apt here because it is what you want to do.  So, digging extra ponds to store the water, collecting rainwater from roofs and then channeling it around the land all helps to produce an abundance of whatever you are growing and slows down the rate at which the water leaves your land.

Everything gardens. This concept raised one of the larger, more animated discussions. If you observe nature closely, and that is what we have to do on our own land, we are not the only things that prune, cut grass or dig. Sheep, cows, horses etc will mow the grass and other vegetation, goats will prune small trees and shrubs, chickens and ducks will find and dispatch pests and rabbits will dig. But what these all also do is provide manure which can be composted and returned to the land. If we recognise this, we can make the land more productive and integrate animals into the systems to work for us. Of course, the animals add more than just manure. They add food, company, hard work, pleasure if we design their natural behaviours so that it benefits all.  In fact, many permaculture farms include animals and I can see how this is of benefit. With three allotments, I struggle to create enough compost to mulch all of the beds because I have no animal manure to use. I have to buy it in.  If there were chickens, their bedding could be used which would increase the amount of material to compost and the composition of the compost.  There are many people farmers who understand that animals are a key part of soil regeneration such as Gabe Brown. The plant-based eaters and vegans were not all necessarily happy with this message.

Yields – these are the surpluses that are created after the system’s needs have been met. Forcing a system to produce yields results in over supply, pollution and depletion, e.g chicken farms with caged animals fed antibiotics and grown as quickly as possible. In Permaculture the yields can be much broader than just one crop and we should be designing so that the work reduces over time but the yields increase.

Cycles – niches in time. Cycles as recurring events are the way that permaculture looks at time and increasing cycles increases yields.  We are designing to increase and improve the cycles so for example, after cows have grazed the land, you can wait a few days and then introduce chickens to scratch over the manure, spread it and eat the fly maggots that are around before leaving the land to grow for a while. This introduction of the chicken cycle increases diversity and yields. Somewhere in there you could also probably introduce pigs. What you choose to do is dependent on the context, climate and landscape.

The food web – this is not a pyramid with a human at the top but a complex, web of relationships. If we remove any element, the whole web collapses. A good example of this is the re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone Park – or closer to home – the reintroduction of beavers to a local river.

We also design to ensure complexity and connections between elements. Industrial farming removes and simplifies connections leaving them unstable and reliant upon a lot of time, resources and energy. Our role is to replace the connections which know are missing and we can measure this by the yields, happiness of the system and its stability (the means of providing what it needs to be successful with as little input as possible).

Order and chaos – we are designing for order which is stability but there are a number of things that can create chaos: too many inputs, a natural event such as a flood, trying to keep things neat and tidy such as a lawn where the energy inputs are enormous. Nature’s systems may look ‘untidy’ but are in complete order according to nature. Take a rainforest. Every niche is filled and it may look untidy but it is a self-sustaining system that needs no inputs from us. That is what we are aiming for and we know it is working or not through observation of the system/s and what they tell us.

Diversity – we design for this but not for its own sake. We are not after diversity on its own but for diversity of functions (everything has more than one function) and here information gathering as a resource is crucial. The more information we have, the more we can adapt and develop what we are doing. The example used is polyculture where different species are grown together in guilds where the connections ensure that the sum is greater than the parts. The more information we have, the more likely we are to try different plants in the polyculture and to eventually create greater yields. As the guilds mature, more animals enter and cause disturbances which can again create greater diversity.

Stability is where a system self-regulates and where our intervention can increase yields where there is constant feedback and readjustment. We can intervene with a nutrient response, introduce fire (hmmm!) or prune to let more light in. Stability is also created through the connections between elements, e.g. growing corn, squash and beans together where all benefit from each other. This mind-map demonstrates stability well.

So, when I look at the land I have, these are all the things I need to think about to come up with the best place to have each element and why. It was quite a lot for the first week!

Bill Mollison from his book Introduction to Permaculture– “It is not the number of things, but the number of ways in which things work.”

January 10

Harvesting rainwater part 2 – observations

This is the second in a series of four posts about harvesting rainwater on my allotments using the permaculture phrase of sink it, slow it and spread it. You can read part 1 here with this post following on by sharing the observations and research I have done regarding my specific site and strategies that might be successful.

The first thing I looked at is the average rainfall for the area in the last row.

 

 

I recently started to use a rain gauge at home and our rainfall in October was exactly 80mm but December 20 had 145mm of rain which reminded me of the wet parts of my plot and garden. The chart shows that we get approx. half the rainfall of the winter in the summer. So, where are the wet parts on the plots? The first is behind my polytunnel.

Most of my paths are woodchips and some have black woven plastic underneath them to stop the weeds.  This path becomes very soggy in winter, it is now, and sometimes water can sit on it after a heavy rainfall. This is because the guttering is only on the ends of the tunnel and the middle has none so  rain slides down onto the path.  The rest of the allotment slopes gently down from this point to the fence at the end which separates the plots from the gardens of the houses behind us. In his book Harvesting Rainwater Vol 2 by Brad Lancaster, Lancaster mentions that soil beneath plastic becomes anaerobic and you don’t get the soil organisms you are after for good drainage so it probably does need to go.

As you can see, I have a water butt on each corner of the tunnel but two of the gutters need to be replaced. I would do it now but actually they stick better when it is warmer so that job will need to wait. The warmth also means that the guttering is easier to straighten. It comes in a coil and needs to be manipulated to ensure that it makes a good contact with the plastic sheeting and flows over the hoops smoothly.

There is capacity for more water storage by adding another water butt linked to each of these and this would capture more water in winter but I don’t know if they would fill during the summer.  A few calculations about surface area and rainfall would help me decide that.

The second damp place is behind my polytunnel on a bed which I don’t use much with a path into the tunnel. I only use this path if I have to get water from the tap. I recently decided to put these beds back into use. They are shaded for most of the day so I will need to plan carefully what to plant there. To get the beds ready, I covered the ground with cardboard, watered it and then put compost on top. When I watered the cardboard, I watched it run straight down, across the path into the tunnel and onto the next bed so there is definitely a slope there which could be used to slow the water down and sink it into the ground.

The wind can be quite strong on the plots because we are towards the top of a hill that comes straight up from the sea (both land and wind).  Wind maps show that we get wind from all directions with most coming from the west and certainly at home we have a large sheet of glass (window) at the end of our lean-to which stops the westerly winds hitting us.  I would say that most of our winds are southerly to westerly and I particularly like this little widget which shows what the wind is doing now – strength and direction.

As I write this post, the wind is southerly but has quietened down from earlier this morning.

The final thing I needed to do was to find out how steep the slope is on the allotment. I used an app on my phone and just put it on the ground at various points. Not  very accurate but it will do for my purposes – the slope averages about 5%, more in some places and less in others. This measurement is important because certain water management involving moving soil is not recommended for slopes that are more than 5% such as swales.

So, my plan of action:

  • Remove the plastic from the path alongside the tunnel, dig a small ditch towards the beds and then put in a mountain of shreddings. This will mean the water from the tunnel will drain into the ditch but I can still walk on it. The water can then work its way down the slope in the soil. Over time, I will remove the plastic on all the paths.
  • Add a second water butt to each one with a hose pipe to siphon the water between the two. This stored water will be used during the dry spells and will probably last me 4-6 weeks if I only water the tunnel, but far less if I have to water plants outside, which I do some years. The allotment shop is open again in February so I will get three more water butts.
  • To explore the best times to water fruit and vegetables so that if I do have to water them, I get maximum bang for my buck (or water)
  • Continue to mulch the beds each year to increase their water-holding capacity. The soil is sand on a bed of stones and so drains very quickly and retains little moisture or goodness.
  • To remove the black plastic under the plum tree, clear the weeds and plant a guild around it so that it can access more water. I don’t irrigate the tree but I know that other fruit trees on the plots perked up and grew more vigorously when I removed the black plastic underneath them.

I’m off to dig a ditch!

Are you able to store enough water so that you don’t have to use tap water?

January 5

Managing water on the allotment – part1

Winter is a quieter time on the allotment in terms of sowing and planting but not in terms of planning.  After a couple of hot summers I know that I  do not collect enough water when it does rain. I have 4 water butts on my polytunnel, one at each corner and one water butt behind my shed and can empty these in about two weeks if it is very hot.  Water butts are not the only way of saving water and I can’t have the plots covered in blue butts so need to think about other ways of too.

This is the first in a series of posts about  water management on my allotments.

I like the permaculture phrase about water of slow it, spread it and sink it as it rains with this being the number one way of managing water. The cheapest method of storing water is to store it in the ground.  The secondary aim is to capture as much water as is reasonable to use during dry periods. How you use these strategies completely depends on the site.

Things to think about are:

  • How and when does your water fall? Is it consistent throughout the year, during the winter or from large summer storms?
  • How does water move across your plot? Does it sit anywhere during rainfall? Do you have slopes on your site?
  • What type of soil do you have? This will affect how much soaks in and how much runs off. A sandy soil has a lot less run off than a water-logged clay soil.

We also need to consider all the ways in which we can sink, slow and spread water across the allotments. The following are a list of things we could do – some may not be appropriate but at this stage I don’t want to rule anything out.

  • Swales. These work best on a slope of 5% or less where a trench following the contour of the land is dug out and the soil piled up on the downhill side to make a raised edge or berm to hold water back.  They don’t work particularly well on small watersheds, sandy soil and forested areas as there won’t be much run off.  If you are still not sure about them, the video below explains them clearly.

  • Hugelkultur. This is a bed built out of waste woody material, and other things, that is drier on top and wetter lower down the slope.  I built one of these in my garden last spring and it definitely does not need as much watering as well-mulched beds built on the flat. I watered those at least once a week throughout the dry spring and summer but only watered the hugelkultur bed twice during the whole season.
  • Stones.  Sepp Holzer uses stones, probably more like rocks, to provide microclimates on his farm. They reflect the sun and enable him to grow crops that wouldn’t normally grow up in the mountains in Austria, such as lemons, but also keep the soil moist underneath and around them. It is true that if you turn over a stone/brick on the plot it is usually damper underneath. The downside is that you can also find slugs and snails there too.
  • Ollas. These are unglazed  pots sunk into the soil near the roots of plants that are filled with water. Because they are unglazed, they gradually release the water or actually, the plant pulls the water from the pot and grows around it. An olla has an opening at the top which is slightly proud of the soil where the water can be topped up. This short video shows a container being planted up with an olla or as we might know it, a terracotta plant pot. All it needs is a lid on top and the bottom hole sealed up.

How do you store water in your soil so that you can make the most of this resource?

Useful resources

  • Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway: Chp5 is an excellent overview of water and how it can be managed.
November 8

18 day compost – really?

I love a trial and so my big trial for the next 12 months is about making compost in 18 days and whether it can be done here in the UK. It is called the Berkeley Method, developed in California and explained here by Geoff Lawton in Australia.

Now, both of these places are warmer in general than here in November so I am not sure that it will only be 18 days before I have compost. I think it will take longer but I would like to give it a go so I am going to make a heap each month to see what happens. I will also make a cold heap and turn it out in March to use just to compare the two because the 18 day, hot compost is a lot more work.

I don’t really have the space to make more compost heaps so I have decided to make them on the beds and then turn them out and use them where they have been made. That way I cut down on the amount of barrowing around that I need to do.

The materials I have used are cow manure, carbon to nitrogen ration 20:1, grass clippings 25:1, shredded raspberry and blackberry canes 400:1, chopped up leaves 150:1 and weeds 25:1.  These are approximate ratios and I wouldn’t normally bother with this but it just shows that I need to add more of the green stuff to try and get nearer to a 30:1 ration. I have layered them and guessed that I have about the right volume. In the middle I have put an activator of comfrey leaves, about 2 litres because it is November and may be slower to get going.  I am interested in the idea that we are not aiming for a drop in size of the heap but really to get the carbon to lock up the nitrogen to be released for organisms in the soil when it is finally spread.

I will be back in 18 days with the results.

An update on the heap 20 days later can be seen here.  See the results from December.

October 29

Planning a plant guild

The use of guilds in permaculture is about many things. Firstly, it is a group of plants that work together to provide the conditions that they all need to survive. This is more than being companion planting because the sum of the group is greater than the individual parts. Secondly, they are an ideal bridge between a vegetable garden and a wildlife garden, perfect for my aim which is to demonstrate that wildlife and vegetable growing can go hand in hand.

Perhaps the most famous guild is the Native American of corn, squash and climbing beans. Besides providing food, corn provides a stalk for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the corn and help to provide a complete dietary protein when eaten with the corn. The squash sprawls along the ground providing a living mulch and food rich in calories, beta carotene and zinc.  I have tried to grow these ‘Three Sisters’ together a couple of times and whilst the corn and squash seem to do OK, I could never manage the beans – I suspect it is a matter of timing of  the bean transplants.

Several articles and books I have read recently say that there is a fourth plant included in this guild – cleome – a rather lovely annual flower that acts as a squash beetle trap, amongst other things, in America. To my knowledge, we don’t have that beetle here in the UK. Other cultures have used Amaranth as the fourth plant in this guild.

The cherry tree guild I will plant in autumn and spring.

Click here cherry tree guild if the image is not clear.

Guilds usually start with something you want – a cherry tree – and gradually connections are added consisting of other plants to provide protection, nurse it through its young life, cover and build the soil, provide shelter and repel pests.  Once the tree has established itself, climbing plants can also be used to add to the vertical growth. Plants that flower throughout the year will be needed but particularly those that attract pollinators when the tree flowers. Pest predators can be encouraged through the use of log or stone piles – stones are something we have a lot of!  Our role once planted is to observe and take note of what works.

Toby Hemenway in his book Gaia’s Garden offers several questions which can help us decide what works and what doesn’t.

  1. What is the dominant species of the community? Is it useful for humans – food, beauty, animal feed or other benefit?  Is a related plant even more useful?
  2. Which plants are offering food to wildlife? What wildlife uses them? Are these animals desirable in the garden?
  3. Are any plants capable of providing food for humans? Do any of these plants have domesticated relatives that can provide fruits, tubers, seeds, nuts, herbs or greens?
  4. Which species are common to more than one community? These may be able to connect a guild to another part of the garden.
  5. Does any species show exceptional pest damage or have harmful numbers of insects living on it? This might not be a desirable variety?
  6. What species generates most of the leaf litter? Have you got enough? Does it make a good mulch plant?
  7. How well does the community withstand drought or a lot of rain?
  8. Do any of the plants have bare ground around them or stunted growth? This may be due to deep shade but might also be an allelopathic plant (inhibition of one plant by another).
  9. Are any plant families heavily represented?  If so, domesticated varieties could be substituted.
  10. Does the community contain any nitrogen fixers?  These are probably critical members. Are there enough?

If you would like to read more about guilds, here are some articles to try:

Permaculture Research Institute: Guilds for the small scale home garden by Jonathon Engels including a guild for growing tomatoes.

Permaculture Design: Vegetable and Herb Guilds by Paul Alfrey with another guild for tomatoes!

The cherry tree guild and natural pest control from Tenth Acre Farm just in case you think I am obsessed with tomatoes!

How to build a permaculture fruit tree guild from Tenth Acre Farm with an apple tree as an example.

What do you plant around your fruit trees?

October 19

The invasion marches on

I have lived in my present house for 20 years now. When we first moved in there was a pretty white flower that was tucked around the edges of the garden in shady parts. I left it for about three years until one day I realised that it was all over garden and had spread incredibly. In fact, it was taking over.

The plant was Allium triquetrum, also known as Snowbell, three-cornered leek or onion weed. I came to call it something much ruder!  It has taken me 15 years to get rid of it and I am now at the point where I might find one or two in planting that I haven’t changed since I moved into the house.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that at the bottom end of the wildlife garden (see how I got this here) the two beds are overrun with it. I know it is because the first leaves start to come through in October and continue to about April/May when the plant flowers.  I started to dig it up but realised once I had filled three compost bags with the blighters from one small corner that I needed to think about this problem.

I recently read Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture  Approach to Ecosystem Regeneration by Tao Orion. It is not a ‘light’ read but the basis of the book is that using multiple applications of weedkiller at regular intervals is surely not the way to remove invasive species and regenerate land.  Permaculture offers a different way based on its ethics and principles and we should be taking a slightly longer and more considered view. I don’t know if I would agree if Japanese Knotweed were damaging my  house but in this instance, I can afford to take a different view. Tao Orion offers 4 phases to dealing with an invasive species: Turn on the macroscope, complete a site assessment, make a plan and then implement it.

What follows is my plan for dealing with the plant over the next 5 or more years.

Phase 1 – Turn on the macroscope

Here we need to stop looking at the plant and consider the ecosystem it finds its self in and try to develop a deeper understanding of why the plant is there. Orion suggests doing this over the course of a year.

The allium is growing in a couple of beds that contain trees – mostly cherry and hazel but some euonymus, holly, an apple tree and a hawthorn. The cherry trees have suckered because the original ones have been pruned and on a quick count I found 12 suckers in a bed that is probably not much more than 2m by 3m. They are all more than 3m tall.

The bed is in deep shade because of all the trees plus an overgrown hedge about 4m away that has not been cut for 3 or 4 years and is now blocking out the evening sun.  Hazels have been planted or suckered around the outside of the bed and clipped to keep them under control. This has caused them to grow like a hedge so the whole area is very enclosed with very little light coming in.  When I weeded the bed on a windy day, very little wind came through the bed due to the proliferation of trees so it is not only dark but has very little air movement.

The soil is sandy and very, very dry. There is little humus on the top of the soil – even the ivy is struggling to grow there.

I have now cut the hedge but need to observe the beds over the course of the next year and look at the light and how much rain enters the beds.  I have on old rain gauge so I will stick that in the bed in the middle and see how much falls in there. I have another rain gauge which I can put in a different part of the garden that is more open to see how much falls on the plot to compare it with.

Phase 2 – Site assessment

This phase demands that we find out about the site in more detail, its geology and history, how the watershed works and take photos of it during different seasons.  It is time to study the species and find out more about it and what its function is.

Exmouth is the start of the Jurassic Coast and has the earliest geology of the coast. The cliffs which are about a mile away are from the Triassic Period – 250-200 million years ago. The soil is very stony – often round water-shaped pebbles. During the triassic period the climate was like that of the Sahara Desert today. Seasonal flash floods swept large quantities of sediment into the valleys and the plains fringing the deserts and both the red mudstone and the pebble beds found in east Devon are classic examples of  deposition.  We don’t have the mudstone but we do have the pebbles.

Jumping forward a lot, the allotment site has been a set of allotments since the first world war and although there is little written about it, prior to that it was part of the land that was agricultural in its use.

Allium triquetrum it a native in the Mediterranean basin – south-west Europe, North western Africa, Madeira and the Canary Islands where it grows in meadows, woodland clearings, riversides and roadside verges.  It appears in disturbed forest and shrubland and is an early incomer where land has been sprayed or cleared. It is tolerant of many conditions, including some salt, making it common in coastal areas.

The plant has both male and female parts and so you only need one!  The bulbs produced are deposited on the soil where the roots pull them underground, deeper and deeper. The seed can be dispersed by wind and sometimes by ants.  I must admit to not having noticed seeds so will look for those next year.

Every part of the plant is edible. The leaves, flowers and bulbs and can be eaten raw or cooked and it is particularly useful because it is just starting to come out (in October) when things like chives and spring onions are finishing.

Phase 3 – Make a plan Year 1

  1. The edges (of beds) are very important in permaculture. They are the space where two elements come together – the very shady, dry bed of trees and the lighter, damper path. It is often here where invasive species settle and there are certainly more of the allium around the edges of the bed.  So, first thing I will do is create a buffer all around the beds by hand weeding these edges about 50 cm into the bed. Later in the year, I will cut all the flowers off the rest of the plants that are left.
  2. Plant other things around the edge of the bed that will tolerate the conditions. I need to investigate plants that will do well here but those that I have some experience of growing in dry shade are Libertia Grandiflora, Liriope muscari, hellebores, cyclamen, ferns and epimediums.  These would also increase the diversity of plants on the site.
  3. The rest  of the alliums I will leave and observe closely across the year to see what they do, how much there is and where they appear most. I will photograph these and make notes at least once a month to build up a knowledge bank about the plant.
  4. If I were inclined, I would start to eat the things but I am not!  However, for those who like to forage for their foods, this is a real possibility. I also saw some for sale for 4 euros so if I were an entrepreneur, I would dig them up and start to sell them.  Again, I am not.
  5.  Thin out the cherries, removing the suckering ones to let in more light and prune the cherries that are left. This should let in more light and possibly rain.
  6. Investigate why there appears to be no humus on the bed. Find out what happens when leaves fall. Where do they end up? Why does there appear to be no humus on a bed under trees?
  7. With knowledge gained from 2021 observations, plan the next year’s work with the plant.

Have you ever had to deal with this plant or another invasive species? How did you do it?