Friday, June 26, 2020

In The Garden

Everything is new and very odd and I've been doing two things to keep myself grounded: 1) Going out on my bike at 5am for a long ride around the canals or the city (500km in total last month) and; 2) Gardening.

The cycling has kept me fit - to the point that I'm not clear how I'll maintain this after I go back to work at the School - apart from the unfortunate injuries sustained on riding into a bus-stop (caused by going too fast with my head down in the early days of cycling on empty roads, deep bruising, cuts and a possible broken rib) and hitting a rock in a tunnel on the Harbourne Walkway, ending up, "Beano"-like in a pond (grazes, bruising and dignity dented)! The moment of impact was captured on my bike camera:

You can't see what I hit, or the pond but you get a lovely shot of the nettles around the pond. Also, for some reason my light switches to flashing mode.

Ages ago, I posted before/after pictures of my front garden. The transformation is even more marked now.


Front Garden

The tree in the middle is a rather lovely medlar. Ever since my landscaping days, I've been fascinated by the fruits which fell out of favour: mulberries, medlars and quinces. I now have all three growing! The flowers of the medlar are quite wonderful:

Mespilus germanica - Flowers

What I didn't post last time was the similar transformation on the back garden. When I moved in, the back garden was overgrown with numbers of self-seeded mature and semi-mature trees which were getting on for posing a risk to the houses. I had those cleared out and started from scratch.

Garden Carnage

As you can see from this shot, it is a surprisingly large garden, narrow but very long and although the front garden has been looking tidy for several years now, the back has only really started to look cultivated this year, in large part because of the time I've been able to spend here due to lockdown: I wasn't able to spend my spring break in Brighton as usual.

Back Garden - 1

It is planted from the foreground right to the wall at the back. I've managed to incorporate a lot of manure and have been composting everything from the kitchen in both a traditional and a 'hot' bin. The hot bin is rather amazing in that it is SO rapid - useable compost in a few weeks rather than months. The blue bag at the front of the picture above is full of material from the hot bin.

About half way up the same picture, on the right, are a couple of duck-boards as I'm aiming to create a no-dig system and in order to prevent compaction, I need duck-boards to walk between the plants. These boards were made from an old pallet and "pallet craft" has been a feature of my lockdown. I have never really liked woodwork - wood is such an unforgiving material and is so unlike metal - but because the pallet-wood is free and is already usually in ropey condition, I've been experimenting and am actually rather pleased with my bird-box, using an old bike tyre for the roof:

Pallet-Craft - Bird Nesting Box

We'll see if anything nests. I've already seen a robin on the roof but I don't think that it is the sort of place robins prefer.
I've also made some "pot-holder" troughs for the tops of a couple of walls which are needing attention, a temporary fix to allow me to grow salads and herbs until I get round to getting the walls properly fixed:

Pallet Craft - Planter

All of this came on the back of some YouTube videos by Huw Richards: definitely worth watching, whether new to gardening or someone like me who already knows a fair bit. (I am not sure how many people know about my background in horticulture: I was very nearly not ever a jeweller!) 

When I was studying at Wye College - a rather miserable experience - "permaculture" and "biodynamics" were seen as the lunatic fringe, marginal interests considered only by the sneered-at Rural Environmental Studies students while those of us in horticulture and agriculture got on with learning about pesticides and artificial fertilisers and the like. How wrong we were. I was fortunate enough to have been able to count as friends a number of the environmentalists and it was through them that I had loads of brilliant experiences (hunt-sabbing, visiting the Greenham Common camp at it's peak...) although somehow the disconnect between what I was learning in University and what they were teaching me - almost osmotically - was never quite apparent.
Now, of course, I realise that they were right, that the future needs their kind of thinking. I've joined the Permaculture Society.

Everything is growing really well now and I've been enjoying fresh salads, carrots, radishes, strawberries and raspberries for the whole of the month. Some snapshots...

Finally, amongst all the bad news, I was delighted to see the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol. This is fresh and new and must be terrifying for the government. It is time for more direct action of this sort.

You can't cover up history
Image by Big-Z on Flickr.