Friday, June 6, 2014

Planting the kitchen garden

When I returned from London, the kitchen garden had been completely cleared of ivy and other invasive plants, although there were still wild geranium and rhubarb surviving on the outer edges.  I began to plan out the planting, but it is rather a puzzle - like trying to match up classes, classrooms and teachers in a complicated timetabling exercise.

Alistair placed some paving slabs to make paths, as one of the permaculture rules is to try not to walk on the earth you are planting.  He made a cross in the kitchen garden, thus dividing it into four unequal quarters, one of which has the laburnum tree in it, which I am treating as a pea.

An added problem is that permaculture lists tend to assume you will be starting from scratch and eradicating anything which doesn't either provide food, attract the right insects or provide fertilization.  They don't seem to realize that most people in England will have an existing garden and may feel sentimental about plants which aren't in the permaculture lists.  The garden had been opened up quite a bit by the loss of one trunk of the laburnum tree, but I didn't want to take down the other side unless it was absolutely necessary.

Different permaculture sites have different lists for companion or antagonistic plants, which doesn't help.  I had to do quite a lot of searching before I decided to divide up the kitchen garden and put leeks, carrots and lettuce in one quarter; marrow, corn, tomatoes and nasturtiums in a second quarter; lavender, rosemary, strawberries and spinach in the third quarter; and a spillover corn, tomatoes and carrots in the fourth.

I have pots with strawberry, lavender and spinach, closer to the house, hanging baskets with strawberries, a couple of large planters with herbs in, and a couple of redcurrant bushes I planted in the middle of the first quarter.

I've now removed the ivy from the walls, and made sure to dispose of the material in the green bin for proper recycling, rather than putting it in the compost bin - not a good idea with anything invasive the Royal Horticultural Society says.

The planting is not as sparse as it was in this picture - I've added more tomatoes, strawberries and corn, lettuce and beetroot to the planting shown here.  The weather has been rather bad since I planted - which has had the advantage that I have only had to water a couple of times.

Beating the ivy

I'd been away in the south for a visit to see my Dad in hospital and so hadn't spent much time in the garden.  I decided that I needed to clear away the ivy in the kitchen garden to have any hope of growing anything there.  It seemed to centre on the laburnum tree, which was covered in ivy and seemed to be struggling.

I'm not sure what permaculturists have to say about ivy.  It's a very invasive and destructive plant, but I assume it must have some role to play in nature, adding something to the environment - or maybe breaking it down to allow for other plants to follow on.  In my garden the ivy had been left to run riot, and was climbing up the new back wall, up the old side wall, all over the poor laburnum and spreading across the ground in the kitchen garden.

I think ivy on a new wall is not such a worry, because there shouldn't be many footholds for it to work itself in.  Ivy on an old wall is much more of a concern, as it may exploit any cracks or weaknesses in the wall.  The tree seemed to be suffering badly, with some branches having died altogether.

Having bought a climbing rose on impulse at the local garden centre in Mill Lane in Middle Rasen, I needed to clear some of the wild geranium, which is spreading everywhere, too, and is particularly thickly spread over that corner of the kitchen garden.

I discovered that it pulled up quite easily, but the rhizome that it grows from would generally stay in the ground, so I started to loosen up the soil with a fork and pull up the rhizomes.  I had a second problem that the soil level in the kitchen garden is extremely variable and needs fixing, but I didn't have time before I needed to go south again, and so I simply cleared and area, took it down in height, and planted the rose, which looks very healthy.

Meanwhile, Kim had carried on the job of removing the ivy on the laburnum tree.  Ali began to help and soom managed to get most of the ivy off the trunk we had been working on. 

The following day, they carried on, and managed to get some of the very thick vines off the main trunk.  It seemed that the ivy had worked itself into the trunk though.  About thirty minutes later, the trunk split all the way down and the left trunk began to collapse.

The following day, I started to cut out the ivy in an attempt to save that part of the tree, but soon realized it wasn't feasible.  John helped me to cut it down, and Kim did a sterling job of lopping off branches and cutting them down to fit in our green refuse bags.  I am giving the trunks to a friend for seasoning, as he makes things with wood.

While I was away in the south, John and Kim cleared the Kitchen garden of ivy completely.  They managed to save one trunk of the tree, and remove all the ivy from it.