Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Visit to a permaculture garden

On Sunday I cycled out to Hethersett, a few miles out of Norwich, to vist an open garden - i think I found out about it through a Garden Organic e-newsletter. You had to click through to see a list of events and I was surprised to see one in my area (most of their events aren't around here though they do have a very successful network of Norfolk Master Composters and Master Gardeners, run in conjunction with Norfolk County Council).

Anyway! The cycle ride out there was ok, mainly on dedicated cycle paths, though still next to heavy traffic. On the main cycle path heading into Hethersett there were lots of wild plum trees that we're dropping fruit on the path and I was tempted to stop and collect some...but the thought of fumes from the traffic plus already having a load of my own plums on the way made me cycle on.

The garden was up a little loke, in a small row of houses. It was the first one, with a corner plot (and 1/4 acre garden). There were no signs up saying Open Garden and the house looked a bit ramshackle...I wondered if I was in the right place or right weekend? The neighbours dogs started barking at me and the neighbour came to check on her dogs....she hadn't heard of the event but said the owner generally kept himself to himself. To cut a long story short, after knocking on the door several times with no reply, the neighbour said to just go round the back and blame her if I got told off! So off I trotted, calling 'hallooo' as I went....I heard a muffled voice and realised it was coming from inside the house...peering through the window I saw Erik (40s?) sitting inside and he beckoned me in. He explained he'd been ill for several weeks and had trouble walking so couldn't show me round the garden but was happy to have a chat and let me wander round. I was his first visitor (and I presume, last!). The previous year no one had turned up. So, I felt very privileged as Erik took the time and effort to speak with me, he was obviously still quite ill.

We had a good chat, I learned some of his tricks and maybe some of my anecdotes were useful to him too? He had the house and plot for about 6 years. Looking on old maps he found out it used to be an orchard. Sadly, only one original apple tree survives, in the hedgerow, about 100 years old! But it's massive and dripping with fruit. He doesn't ever prune it. He has young sweet chestnut and walnut trees (something I'd like to have at some point but need a bigger plot) just getting to the age to produce. He has a veggie area, which isn't formal plots, things just kind of mingle in with each other. Single poles of dead wood are stuck in the ground for beans to climb up. He has a couple of bee hives in a more open area. He lost a hive a while back and to get a new lot of bees he just put his hive up in a high place (on his huge rainwater tank) and a swarm found it! He grows a lot of broad beans for carbohydrate and has lots of fruit bushes too. There were squashes rambling about. He eats a lot of apples. There are lots of wildlfowers and loads of bees and butterflies. I saw a painted lady, my first this year. (Didn't get the camera out quick enough). I took some pics on our iPad so I could add them here (it's difficult for me to gets pics off my actual camera which is why most of my pics are from home)...I did apologise for whipping the iPad out, I hate it when you see people taking photos with them....he didn't mind of course. I said I was trying 'chop and drop' where you cut the weeds off and just leave the cut vegetation on the soil...for me this is working well as it protects our dry sandy soil and breaks down eventually adding nutrients etc to the soil. He has a very clay soil and said he did previously use this method but found it encouraged slugs....he found it better to keep the soil clear so the pheasants and other birds could scratch around eating nasties.

Well this has turned into an essay, so here are some pics:

Amaranth and spinach seeding themselves around
Parsnip, beans and parsley
Beehives and young sweet chestnut

Mahoosive apple tree

Bee hives with hazel and the apple tree on the right background

Cool dead tree



Huge parsnips, I wasn't sure if these had been sown or self seeded

So I had a good wander round. Erik said he was embarrassed it was so overgrown, as he'd been wasn't that bad really! Ironically he'd dropped a day a week of work to focus on the garden more but had then been ill. He still had lots of produce growing though. I picked some of his berries for him as a thank you (he can't really get around at the moment). I would've gladly helped more but he didn't want anything else picked....

So I hope Erik starts to get better soon, he was a really nice guy and tries to live as low impact as possible (heating only one room in winter.... Jan would never let me get away with that. He had loads of firewood piled up under cover in his front garden). He said his 1/4 acre plot is the same size as 4 allotments, so it helped me to picture how much I could get out of that size plot too. Oh he's also in a seed swap group with other people in Norwich and is going to send me some details.

I took a much more scenic (and longer) bike ride home...the scenery was lovely, I should've stopped to take pics....some lovely rolling Norfolk countryside. I hadn't really explored that area before despite it being so close to the city, we normally head out in the other direction...must get out more.
I'm also pleased I didn't just chicken out and leave after no reply at the front would've been so easy to do that and miss out. Probably the fact I'd had to cycle quite a way was a bit of an incentive!

(Am just getting used to this new blog app so bear with me)

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