Saturday, 6 July 2013

Back on the Trail of the Frugal Microholding (Part 2)

Getting to Grips with Permaculture

Part 2 of 3
Part one dealt with the bottom half of the Frugaldom garden, where there may one day be a productive little orchard and from where we are provided with our eggs from the hens and ducks. Part two is about how things are progressing and how well we can utilise the space we have that is both productive and in keeping with the principles of permaculture. This is my blackcurrant patch and the rhubarb is along the wall behind this.
For some reason, blackcurrants absolutely LOVE this garden and
are producing so much fruit that I may need to develop this into something a little more lucrative and self-sustaining than jam making. These bushes just haven't stopped growing, so I took hardwood cuttings (seen right of photo)and now these, too, are laden with ripening fruit. By the looks of things, there should be both blackcurrants and blackcurrant bushes available for sale later this year. To give you an idea of how productive these bushes are, I have sufficient jam to last me the next two years plus several kilos still in the freezer from last autumn's crop. Orders can be taken now if anyone would like any. With luck, I may even still have a record of what types they are - I know these earlier cropping ones all originate from my Ben Connans.

I have a shed where I house a few quail for eggs - a delicacy that we afford ourselves owing to the fact that the birds are relatively inexpensive to keep and that I, one day, would really like to develop that aspect of the microholding further, but other things have taken priority. Alongside the shed I have this 'spare' patch of ground, bordered by more raspberries and gooseberries. This is the patch that will feature in my next blog post, as a final decision has been made about what to do here to make it as productive as possible. There's no soil, as such, and last year's attempts to grow anything in it failed miserably. All we succeeded in doing was feeding the slugs, snails and sawflies, which have completely stripped my gooseberry bushes this year, again!

You all know how much I love my herb spirals and my circular gardens - they are all just so productive, easy to build and easy to maintain, so I now have four of them! I have two spirals and two circular beds of varying sizes and each is as productive as the next. Obviously, the first one built a year ago is ahead of the others, but they will soon catch up and become self-sustaining.

On the right, you can see the first one we built last May/June. The sage has been left to flower and last year's strawberry runners are filling up the gaps nicely!

Next I have the circular beds - one large one next to the first spiral and one smaller one linked to the patio area. Both are thriving in very different ways and both have been integrated with bird feeding stations.

This is the larger of the two, planted with assorted herbs, including one of my personal favourites, lemon balm - a type of mint. I also planted a cutting of lemon thyme in this bed, a gift from a fellow frugaler, so it's a place that the midges don't tend to frequent.

The lemon balm is great for its citrus scent and as the basis for a cup of lemon tea. Even daughter appreciates fresh lemon balm mint tea. Many cuttings will be propagated from this spiral bed so I have them available for trading at a later date. Indeed, all of the herbs growing in it at present have come from cuttings elsewhere. In the background, you can see my 'bug hotel' alongside two small square raised beds. The above photo shows the newest addition - the second spiral bed is now showing signs of coming to life with mint, basil and rosemary.

This is the bug hotel as it looks now. The main frame of the structure is built from an old wrought iron clothes rail, which has been built up with bits of concrete blocks, bricks, logs, pieces of pipe, plastic drinking straws, mesh and all manner of things found lying about the garden. An old piece of felt was used to cover a bit of board as a roof for it all and this now doubles as a shelf, where I can sit the pots of cuttings.

The honeysuckle has now wound its way around the top of the frame and is beginning to bloom. The little wooden box at top left is a butterfly box, a cheap bargain discounted item bought from an Aldi store. I don't think we have managed to attract any butterflies in there yet, though.

The two raised beds were purchased new while reduced in an online sale - bought via Topcashback to give me just that - cash back that converted into Amazon vouchers to give me a further 5% value. These were used in last year's Biochar experiment but I failed to see any difference between using the biochar and not. It's still in the box at the left, where you can see that my cabbages and sprouts are needing moved. The largest patch of greenery is a rogue Nasturtium and a sunflower that must have been dropped by a passing bird. The bracken fern behind it should really get pulled out but it seems to keep the slugs off the seedlings. I really need to get these seedlings thinned out as there are carrots in there, too. On the right, are my spring onions and a row of all year round cauliflowers that will also need transplanting very soon!

Despite me saying these were only going to be temporary, my plan being to improve the beds and get back to square foot gardening this year! Now look at it - two full beds of spuds that now need banking up with even more soil and compost, mixed with whatever else I can get my hands on, as soil isn't something we have much of about here. I am already regretting having potatoes in here taking up all this space. There are more potatoes sprouting in the micro-orchard among the edible hedging after we must have missed some of the potatoes there last year!

This is the polythene greenhouse that I was built last year. It's made from 2" x 2" and whatever bits and pieces of wood and board were left over from having the out-building renovated. I can easily walk in and out of it but anyone taller than me (most are) needs to duck down to get inside. Suits me just fine for pottering about, although it doesn't allow much growing space by the time the potting table is in it. The tomato seeds went straight into the ground but I don't know if they will grow quickly enough to produce fruit.

The green box alongside is my posh wormer, bought with my £2

coin savings pot last year. The worms have multiplied and I have hundreds of babies in there now, plus it is producing plenty of that wonderful worm juice fertiliser. My grand children think their granny is crazy for keeping pet worms, but that doesn't stop them from feeding said worms while here visiting!

Finally, to round off part 2 of this three-part post, this is the old aviary cage we got around 10 years ago. We no longer use it for finches, so it has been lying in pieces out in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Looking at it, I thought to myself, what better way to support the beans and peas than to get them to grow up the cage while waiting for it to become an integral part of the permaculture garden? I have several plants to train up and over this, which will also house bird nest boxes inside it to protect any little visitors from the cat! At the moment, I have beans in troughs on two sides and will have peas on the other two sides, but I am sure the Russian Vine, ivy and honeysuckle cuttings will be well established by next year, turning this into a piece of environmental art as part of our eco-arts project!

Now that we have reached the end of part 2 of these 3 significant posts, I hope you wont mind my ploughing on with the third. I think it's the most exciting part!



  1. Thank you for the tour of your garden, Blackcurrants make good wine or cordial and lemon balm is a good addition to salads and in homemade lemonade!

    1. Thanks, Aril, I never thought of adding lemon balm to marmalade before and guess what? I have a bag of oranges in the freezer waiting to me made into marmalade!

      A friend has just mad ash key pickle - it's not on the frugal list owing to the cost of ingredients, but have you ever tried it?


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