Posted by Gordon Landsburgh over 9 years ago
Urban Permaculture home garden design
I live in Hinckley, Leicestershire in the UK and am pretty much as far from the coast as you can be in England. My garden is long and thin being 51metres long and just six wide. The orientation is east west along the length and lies on a very gentle north facing slope. We moved here in May 2010 and the whole space was laid to lawn with a Cherry tree towards the bottom and a conifer at the far left corner. I am beginning to change it into a place where lots of food can be grown. At the moment there is a large amount of shading via a line of 45 foot Leyland Cypress and a big Rhododendron along with a few other Conifers and a Maple. This change has started in earnest with my talking to the neighbors about what I can do. They have given me free reign to do whatever I wish in the back half of their garden.
The Rhododendron is the first thing to come out, mainly because it shades out the bottom of the garden and also I can do it myself. As much as I want to open up the bottom of the garden I do not want the Rhododendron to go to waste. The wood will be stacked up and dried through the summer and used for the Pizza oven I intend to build in the garden. The brash will be put through a shredder and go towards making a pathway. After a few years this will break down and can then be used as mulching. I don’t like to cut down trees but this one and the Leylandii serve no useful purpose and inhibit the opportunities to grow lots of food in the space. They will be replaced by fruit trees placed in sensible positions on the north and east of the space.
It is now the 21st of February 2011 and the weather has been holding up well for doing improvements outside. I have now managed to clear out most of the brambles, at least above ground and have cut down the large Rhododendron and three conifers at the eastern end of my neighbor’s garden which were shading out a large part of that end of my garden. This has made such a difference to the space, with both gardens looking so much larger and lighter. The soil looks really good too, though when I grab some and look closely at it, it is full of Rhododendron seeds and quite a few are germinating! I can see I will be pulling lots of seedlings up over the next few months. There is still a maple tree in situ which will provide shade but not a wall of it and will also dump its leaves to help build more soil and let light in through the winter months. The wood from the Rhodie had been stacked up along the fence line to season and can also serve as a bit of hedge wildlife habitat for six months or so till it becomes useful. The three conifers have nice straight trunks and may well turn out to be useful though I have no plans for them as yet. The brash from these and the Rhodie have been piles up at the far east end of the neighbors land(It is their brash!) and will accommodate all sorts of wild things as it slowly breaks down.
My plans are slowly coming together with regards to what I want to do with our garden.More detailed descriptions to follow in my next post. Our next door neighbors are happy to let me do whatever I like as they do not use their outdoor space and cannot physically do the work or afford to have work done. More space for me to play with! Of course I will furnish them with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a few barbeques when it warms up a bit. People care and fair share.
As we are still going through the process of selling our flat in London and buying this house, it was not wise to start planting trees this past Autumn in case of the deal falling through. So with a bit of luck I’ll be installing the beginnings of our mini forest garden in about seven months time. I am also still limited to using the end of the garden to grow vegetables but as I am opening up the light down there it should not make too much difference. I intend to grow lots of peas and beans, corgettes, pumpkins, squashes, strawberries, and potatoes in tires in the neighbor’s space this year as this frees up space for other stuff to be grown such as brassica’s, onions, spinach and some root veggies in the beds i have dug in my section. I’ll need to get the covers over the brassica’s this year as the caterpillars had away with the lot last year. I am hoping that the vigorous growth and ground covering skills of the large leaved plants will help to keep the brambles and ground elder down a bit! I don’t fancy digging them out and I am probably too impatient to sheet mulch them for a year. I will live to regret it probably.
The other big job in the autumn will be the removal of the Leyland Cypress at the west end of the neigbours garden which shade out a huge portion of both our gardens. I will be going in halves on the costs with next door to get them down and then we will have a number of poles and fire wood to use. This should be seasoned due to the high sap content in the wood. This job will really transform both gardens, making my planned position for the veggie beds become realistic.
Just as during the second world war, it is going to be more than necessary to change how we use our gardens in the coming years as food becomes more and more expensive. Perhaps my garden can be a place where I can demonstrate what can be done with a bit of thought and sensible design. I know that there is a serious shortage of allotment space in Hinckley and looking at Google earth, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of backyard growing going on, though the images are five years out of date i doubt much has changed.
Due to the rather large waiting list for a very few allotment spaces in our town I am trying to start a Community supported Agriculture project. So far I am not having a great deal of luck getting through to the people I need to talk to. The council can not give me access to their list to write to these people and let them know about the options. I am also finding it tough to source land for the project. Our local farmers are rather skeptical because I have no one signed up to the plan. I can not blame them but it would be nice if even one of them allowed me to explain the options to them so they understand what it is that I am trying to offer to them! I do have several pieces of council land proposed but these will take at least a year to re designate the use of the land and the most likely space they have offered is by the looks of it, a bit of a frost pocket! Not sure I want to use it as “A pilot scheme”. If it were successful then there is the possibility of a much larger and far better positioned area. I have to point this issue out at my next meeting with them but elements of the council are wanting to sell land off to developers to increase their diminishing budgets, such a short term way of dealing with problems.
One other thing to mention is that we have a new Transition town group in the form of “Nuneaton Transition” which is about three months old now. We hope to become fully certified by the summer and get busy making Nuneaton, Hinckley and Bedworth better places to live and work.
You must be logged in to comment.