Zero rotation and too much precipitation.

I am hoping when Lou Erickson said: “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration” he also meant in rain. Because it has been raining a lot, and it’s going to be raining for at least the next week.

This water lark will definitely test my patience to get onto the allotment and start planting. Sewing our little seeds in waterlogged beds is not an option so we have to wait until the weather improves. Sadly there are rumours that Easter weekend will be very very cold so we are thinking we shouldn’t sew anything until after then, just to be safe.

Fortunately I have managed to whet my appetite with our potatoes. Our early potatoes have been sat on the windowsill chitting. We have Rocket and Swift, both producing beautifully coloured green and purple chitsChitting potatoes. It’s been brilliant to watch them on their growing journey, even if we can’t get them in the ground just yet.

I’m already getting nervous about how the plants will survive and we haven’t even sewn them yet.

But luckily everything I read while I’m at work at Permaculture Magazine keeps me positive and inspired. At the moment I am reading a manuscript that will be published in November. It is about growing edible perennial vegetables. I finished reading the book today and put down the last page inspired and excited.

The pages had been filled with a very different approach to growing vegetables that I had only experienced since being at the magazine.

I have discovered over the last few weeks and in spatterings a few months before as I read through back issues of the magazine to prepare me for my internship, that there is a whole new method of growing, that uses a lot less human input, is more natural and produces higher yields.

We live in a society that tells us we need repellents, fertilisers and all the new tools and gadgets to grow fruit and vegetables. It fits into the consumer society that constantly tells us to buy buy buy.

In fact, it is possible to grow food without using any fertilisers, any chemical pesticides and without having to dig your soil with the newest, shiniest spade or fork.

There are two aspects of sustainable growing that I have noticed being used by all permaculturlists. They replicate nature, are organic and take into account care and love for the earth and the soil.

Firstly there is the no-dig method which from the various sources I have read have shown greater yields, less work and a more nutritious soil. Manure or compost is put on top of the soil and left to be worked by the worms, insects and organisms in the soil. To briefly explain the benefits of no-dig:

  • Digging soil to remove weeds can compromise the soil structure leading to erosion by wind and rain
  • Worms and organisms use the nutrients which are left in a state that plants can then use

The no-dig method can be used in both small and large scale growing. Farmers who have chosen to not plough their soil have noticed higher yields and beautifully nutrient rich soil.

A second method that goes against the norm is polycultures. Instead of having set beds for set crops and rotating these beds yearly, all crops are mixed together. Crop rotation is used to prevent diseases building up in soil specific to certain vegetables. But in polycultures, plants with strong odours can be used to keep pests away, or attract them to another area, away from what they would usually eat.  However, growing in polycultures is replicating nature. Polycultures can be seen to look messy as they do not fit with the typical gardeners vision, but they do look natural and can be surprisingly beautiful. They fit perfectly in a forest garden, adding to the wild atmosphere.

So my next step is to incorporate these methods into the allotment. The polycultures will be very exciting and hopefully will not bother our neighbours. It has been known for allotments to see these methods as messy and not caring properly for a plot. Hopefully we can show people that this method is natural and high yielding. The no-dig method will be hard to begin with as our plot still has a lot of couch grass we want to remove. It will be a slow progress but once we have our plot clear of weeds, the no-dig process will be much easier.

“Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart.”  ~Russell Page

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