Beautiful edible perennials.

We have a lot of slugs in our garden. It is a problem as annual vegetables and flowers tend to be attacked when they are small. We still like to grow them, but we also decided early on to go down the perennial route as well. We do have a lot of Nettles, Dandelions and Chickweed growing wild in the garden and like to cook with all of them. Good King Henry, Turkish Rocket and Wild garlic have been added to our collection of perennial vegetables.

Perennial vegetables.

They are reliable and tasty and because they grow in abundance, very hard for the slugs to eradicate. We also like pretty flowers and sometimes they go hand in hand with food production. The Daylily, Hemerocallis is a popular perennial that grows in gardens everywhere. Many Daylilies are edible and have been used throughout China and other parts of Asia for a very long time. We love to eat them, both in salads and stir fries.

daylily

Another reliable salad plant is the Ice Plant, Sedum Spectabile, that has succulent leaves, very tasty in a mixed salad. This is a purple variety along with some Nasturtiums.

Iceplant and Nasturtiums.

Cardoons and Artichokes bring great beauty as well as taste to the vegetable garden.

Artichokes and cardoons.

Cardoon

We can not exclude the Sunflowers, Nasturtiums and Borage, although they are annuals, they like to seed themselves around the place and can all be eaten as well as provide floral beauty and food for beneficial insects.

nasturtiums and borage.

It is in fact easy to create a vegetable garden full of edible flowers. We like to incorporate as many flowers as possible in our annual vegetable patch as it confuses some pests and add a lot of joy as well as taste. It is a lot of fun but please make sure you know exactly what you are growing and eating to avoid any toxic plants.

For further reading we highly recommend:

James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution

and

Creating a Forest Garden: Working with nature to grow edible crops. By Martin Crawford.

Building a wild life pond.

FA pond adds beauty, biodiversity and a great feeling of tranquillity to any garden. We always knew we wanted one. Our work commenced in the spring of 2013, with digging. It is good to site a pond away from trees as the leaves will fall into it, fouling the water. We made the mistake and had to cut down an Ash tree. It was sad but we have planted a couple of hundred trees now so we have somewhat made up for the damage caused.Some shade is good at least for part of the day. It is also good to make the pond as large as possible as it will help in creating a clear healthy environment. For a wildlife pond you need at least one side of it to be a gentle slope, where wildlife can have easy access in and out of the water. It is also good to have some different shelves and levels under the water for plants and animals.

Digging the pond.

Digging the pond 2

The pond-liner we used is made from Polyex and comes from Bradshaws Direct in the UK. When used with an underlay it is guaranteed for 35 years. We also wanted a bog garden and you can see it here in this photo, as the lighter shallower part.

Pondliner in place

To prevent the soil in the bog garden part from entering the pond we built a small stone wall, separating the two. We filled the bog garden part with a mix of moss peat, manure, compost and garden soil and planted it up with water-loving marginal plants. We built up the edges under the liner all the way around the pond and bog garden with small stones and soil to give it an even edge. It is important to check your levels before you start digging as the ground needs to be relatively flat for the water to stay in. We then covered the edge of the liner with a small stone wall and in one part a pebbled beach, great for small creatures and larger ones too, like hedgehogs, coming for a drink.

Bog garden planted up.

We filled the pond in June 2013 partly with water from a stream in our garden and partly with rain water. It was to late for frogs, toads and newts to spawn that year but some of them moved in to the area surrounding the pond.

summer 2013

In 2014 we had hundreds of little frogs hatching as well as a good number of newts. We hope they will be a great help in keeping the number of snails and slugs in the garden under control. Water beetles, whirligig beetles and many other creatures now inhabit our pond and it is a very beautiful place to sit and observe all the wild life. The first picture below is from Winter 2014 and the following from Summer 2014. You can see how much these plants love having their roots in water. 

winter 2014

summer 2014

summer 2014 2

Building with tyres.

Before work commenced.
We have long been admiring Mike Reynolds and his Earthship designs, that started out in the 1970s in Taos, New Mexico, and has spread to many places across the world. The Earthship uses old car tyres as a major building component. When it was time to start the extension to our little cottage, we decided to build a semicircle tyre wall on the north and east side of the planned space. The purpose of the wall is to hold the earth-bank in place and protect the building from the worst of the elements. The first long, hard, but essential part of the construction was getting the drainage sorted out. We dug a ditch and added a perforated drainage pipe along with gravel and a permeable plastic sheet to protect it from clogging up. We then backfilled it with earth and levelled the whole area.

. Dranage

It is important to have a level and stable surface for your first layer of tyres. It takes about two whole wheel barrows of soil to fill one tyre. We had a lot of soil for this purpose as when we moved in, the area behind the house was sloping and had to be levelled out for the extension. Each layer consists of 25 tyres and we added 12 layers in total. Thankfully we had friends around for some of the backbreaking work of filling and emptying 600 wheelbarrows of soil for the wall and at least 800 more wheelbarrows of soil to fill the space behind the tyres, rebuilding the earth-bank. First few tyre layers.

The soil needs to be compacted into the tyre by pounding it with sledgehammers. You can use small lump hammers at first to get the soil into the rim and then fill it and pound in a circular motion across the top. We were not overly concerned about getting the tyres perfectly filled, as this is just a retaining wall that will be plastered over and not a part of the actual building. You do need to be careful though when choosing your tyres for each position and layer, as you are likely to have a selection of sizes. Think about your project as a giant jigsaw puzzle where you want each row to be as uniform as possible.

Getting there.

It is very rewarding to use a material that is a by-product of our modern society in a constructive way. Getting tyres is easy. If you go to ask at a tyre changing place, remember that you are in a position to bargain a bit. The place is likely to have to pay quite large amount of money to dispose of their tyres, so you asking for them is going to save them a lot of money. Ask politely if they can deliver them for free. They may even pay you a little bit to take them. We do not like to think about how much it would have cost us and the environment to build our wall out of a more commonly used material, like concrete blocks and cement.

Started roof construction.

The spaces in the wall are filled with old plastic flowerpots, drinking cans and plastic bottles etc. to save on the amount of render we are planning to use.

Wall with infill.