It may be small, but our little garden is vibrant with the rich colors of flowers, noisy with the buzz of pollinators, and crammed full of yummy vegetables.
It’s only been five months since we started designing and planting, but the garden is already showing the potential of Permaculture design even in the smallest of areas.
Although it requires time and effort – and if you live in a wet, mild country, a lot of willpower to leave your nice warm house – the outcome has been worth it.
Neither Niall or myself are experienced permaculturists. Niall is a journalist and, although I have a Permaculture Design Certificate, I still have a lot to learn.
Yet, even though we don’t have degrees in Ecology, Horticulture or Natural Sciences and have never grown anything before, we used the limited knowledge we have, some advice from my parents in law about companion planting, and a good dose of YouTube videos to get us started. There are also great documentaries out there like The Symphony of the Soil that have been an amazing contribution to our knowledge and inspired us to do a lot with little.
We started by designing our little garden on a piece of paper, trying to incorporate as many Permaculture techniques as possible, and taking into account aspects such as high winds, being on the side of a hill, a lack of tree cover, and mild, wet weather.
We also had to plan for slugs as last year they destroyed most of the greens on my mini-test patch. However, as you will learn in a later post, they still did some damage.
One of our major challenges is the fact that our garden is in the countryside, about half an hour from where we live and we both have to go to work during the week, so can only dedicate time for the garden during the weekends and sometimes not even that.
For example, we didn’t find the time to mulch this year, so there was a lot of grass and weeds which grew during the week which required hours of work on the weekends. Over the space of a few weeks, however, our little seedlings started to stand tall and take over.
It is a learning process, from understanding the right way of making compost to improving the quality of the soil, to the identification of vegetables and distinguishing them from the weeds (a tip here is always mark your seedlings even after transplanting… a definite lesson for next year!).
It is great to learn about all the simple things you can do to help your veggies grow, such as making nettle and comfrey tea, and to see the bees and other pollinators flock to our comfrey, green manures, and nasturtiums is a delight.
For the past six weeks now we have had large harvests of spinach, chard, and lettuce, while our beets, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas and leeks have started coming to maturity in the past weeks. The squash are almost there too, and we are really tempted to just tear one off now to try!
All in all, starting our Permaculture Garden has been a fantastic experience, observing our small patch, learning from nature and figuring out how to make it better for next year.