Milkwood basecamp with *new* no-dig herb garden, mulched path and puppydog
Vegetable gardens are the ultimate in complex, layered systems which have implications that flow through every corner of your daily life. And, no, I’m not being dramatic – I really believe this to be so… even more now that we’ve had to take a couple of major backward steps in order to move forwards with one of the basics of life… growing food to eat.
In Nick + my usual style, we appoached the Milkwood kitchen garden (Mark I) with much gusto. We chose a large area close to the studio site, sculpted beds, re-sculpted beds, planned the ultimate vegetable manifesto and then set about bringing it to life… and, also in our usual style, bit off more than we could chew.
This winter past saw the defining of what you could say as my ‘comfort threshold’. And living in a teeny pop-top caravan with no insulation on a windswept hillside when it’s -10ºC turned out, curiously, to be below that threshold. So we decamped to the current ‘Basecamp’ – a slightly insulated caravan behind the family shearing shed, over the hill from Milkwood proper. It’s quite comfy – far from luxurious, true, but by the end of this summer we’ll be in strawbale studio heaven (fingers crossed), over on Milkwood proper.
Which means that, amoung other things, that the Kitchen Garden is nowhere near our kitchen, until further notice. Which means in its turn that we needed to re-think our food supply for this coming summer. A Kitchen Garden that is nowhere near one’s kitchen ceases to be an immediate growing area, and becomes a far-flung field… which is great news for the wood-ducks and the rabbits, who can munch happily without immediate fear of repraisal, but not so good for our tummies. So we’re starting again on a vege garden over at Basecamp, and this time we’re actualy going to follow that very profound, basic tenant of Permaculture – Start at your front step and work your way out from there – a simple idea, but hard to hear and even harder to stick to… which is crazy, cause it’s the most energy efficient way of building a sustainable system.
So! No-dig garden bed time… and might as well get the herb garden in gear. Herb gardens are something that are essential to life. Herbs = flavour. Herbs = medicine. Herbs = diversity and lots of insects. Hooray for herbs!
At the moment, our gardens being what you could call itinerant, we definitely need FOOD but it is probably not the best idea to be building the most spectacularly intricate and permanent gardens that the human race has ever seen. After all, this time next year, we won’t be living here at Basecamp. And henceforth, we only need gardens here that will see us through this summer.
So – this info could also be useful to you if you’re: renting, squatting, long-term camping or otherwise in some situation where you will not be there forever, but still need to grow food.
No-dig garden beds are the answer! The no-dig method is, in short, a method of creating a garden where you make a lasagne of good stuff which will coalesce to form soil quick-sticks. In our case, we created the herb garden via the following method – and it took me about 4 hours:
- loosen soil with a garden fork (or I tried to, anyways)
- water ground
- put down layer of cardboard (plonk it down on the grass that’s there) + water well
- slop on 20cm of wetted sheep poo or other well-rotted manure (wet down)
- cover with 20cm layer of lucerne straw (this stuff has an awsome Carbon to Nitrogen ratio, and will break down into yummy compost all by itself, with a bit of watering) + water well (until stuff runs out the bottom of the bed)
Ta da! It’s an itinerant No-Dig garden bed… then to planting:
make holes in mulch and slop in some compost / potting mix / growing medium of choice…
sprinkle on a mix of herb seeds (I used a bunch of different ones that are frost tolerant, plus some flowery type things)…
cover with square of WET hessian – this will keep seeds moist, prevent them getting blasted away when you water them, and generally protect them till they’re germinated and off and running… then remove hessian and yr off to a flying start
And lo, for it was a herb bed, and that was that.
This planting method was assuredly more lo-fi than our usual methodical approach to all things green and growing, but I am wanting to make sure that lots of things get planted a.s.a.p. around here, so that we can start eating homegrown tucker… think of it as ‘quickie gardening in transient housing’… and I’m sure that’s a familiar concept to many.
In a way, I’m enjoying this interim time – I’ve always thought of gardening and growing food as a long slow plodding towards the promised land of abundance and fecundity, to be reached in many years time… but, as usual, I’ve been seeing it in an over romanticized fashion. Nature, on the other hand, doesn’t give a hoot. Give her something to grow in, and she’ll grow – so I might as well make sure she’s growing what I can eat, rather than something i can’t (or, in the case of grass, I could eat, but I’d prefer not to if there’s an option)… I want to be overwhelmed in a surplus of organic greens by this time next month… fingers crossed…