Posts tagged ‘landspirit gardening’

rewarding gardening

DSC_0073 Solstice garlic is one of my favourite traditions – sow the cloves on the winter solstice, harvest the heads on the summer solstice. Biodynamic gardening suggests this to have a harvest of extra-potent garlic to boost your immune system. A sceptic friend was brought to tears when he cheerfully popped a clove in raw. Being used to chewing shop-bought garlic every day, he thought there would be no difference…mwhahaha! His eyes streamed for at least 1o minutes! I gave him half a dozen bulbs and advised him to use them in cooking (!) and after a month he said he could really feel a difference, as well as taste it. Organic crops may look bumpy and irregular, but their potency is not to be doubted!




Scrummy tea today – homemade super seedy bread, egg mayonnaise, homegrown lettuce and fresh from the pod peas! I’d treated myself to nearly a kilo of cherries at Lidl yesterday – to share, of course…not my fault people haven’t all come for their visits so they need to be eaten before they turn πŸ˜‰ I recently realised how much I enjoy food I can eat almost as picked, and peas and cherries in one meal was just right.



The garden is thriving, and most days David, Ben or I pop out for some celery ( I cut and come again for a month, then wrap a loo roll inner around to blanch the heads), a lettuce, peas or herbs…and the potatoes are flowering and the first courgette is as big as my little finger! Good crops from the potatoes I hope, they self set from some organic ones that got lost in the shuffle and started to sprout – I was cross at the time, but am all smiles now πŸ˜‰ There are some randoms from the compost too, pinky/lilacΒ  flowers, so they just might be pink fir apples…one row of cabbages is doing well, the others were planted as sacrificials to keep the slugs(grrr) off my peas and are very sad lacey skeletons…I’ve discovered it’s worth leaving them though, as they will come back later, when the others are long gone into cabbage with herby yoghurt dressing…





May to July – so much growth!




and lots of lovely flowers, and lots of juicy pods –

and the other bed is even lusher!












no dig gardening tips for spoonies

Spoonies are people with energy level issues, eg ME/ CFS/ MS/ fibromyalgia/ adrenal gland issues, parathyroid and thyroid issues, but the tips here might help anyone enjoy a garden – less effort, more enjoyment is the goal!


I love my garden andSTA42981 positively droop when weather or illness keep me out, so it has been lovely to spend a few hours over the last week pottering around. I had a false alarm for flu, just a fibro thing I think, though I have tried to be extra vigilant on pacing since, and luckily it is now warm enough to sit in my rollator for longer breaks and gloat over how different the garden is… I found photos from when I moved in, when Ben had cleared a jungle to make a badminton lawn…incredible to look back on πŸ™‚



Ben and now David enjoSTA45160y bbqs and the occasional big project in the garden, and Ben is keen on container gardening. The badminton lawn is his major commitment and he mows and waters it and the other 3 flats all play whenever the weather and mood agree. I am the only one who really likes flowers and making a feast for eyes and nose and ears (if you count the many more birds and bees we have πŸ˜‰ )


With my horrible fall soon after I moved in, gardening tasks are even more difficult than when I gave up the allotment, so I have had to get very serious about no-dig and low maintenance gardening within the permaculture/ landspirit productive woodland glade I am aiming for.


I like planting containers to go by the front door and then spreading the love πŸ˜‰ yes, this does mean two sets of planting, but I get twice the enjoyment, so personally it’s worth it πŸ˜‰



The easiest way to guarantee success with bulbs I’ve found, is to transfer them ‘in the green’. This means I know the bulbs I may have bought up in end-of-season sales etc are actually viable, and I automatically space better. If possible, get someone to do the heavy work and collect your tubs and some spent compost eg containers that held things that have gone over now, to top up what you have. Fresh compost is very rich and nearly all bulbs like a poorer soil to flourish. Best of all is if you can collect some leaves each autumn and leave a bin bag full to mulch down πŸ™‚


I have a workbench that helps a lot as I can only just kneel again, so David lifted the well watered tub (previously by the door with violets, daffs and hyacinths, mmm) up onto the bench, next to a bucket of compost. If you’re doing this alone, water AFTERWARDS, to keep the weight manageable, yes? I carefully cut the withered flowerheads off (if the flower sets seed, the bulb will die off) and ease the trowel under the roots loosened by watering. Trying to make sure no roots get snapped, gently lay the plants one by one into a seedtray or pot. Now take a break! Coming back, carry your tray to where you want to plant out. Tete-a-tete daffodils manage the superdry shade on the ivy bank well, so using the point of the trowel I scraped a very shallow drill between two ivy trailers, just enough to make a flat edge on the sloping bank. Arrange the bulbs with their roots on the drill and leaves all laying flat on the uphill slope. Break time?


Fetch a bucket of runny mulch/compost and water, and scoop/pour over the roots.


Press the mulch in gently, enough to be sure it won’t all roll down hill, but not hard enough to squash the bulbs. In two weeks time, water really well and then leave them to settle.



This technique works for grape hyacinths, narcissi, crocus, snowdrops. Tulips are a bit more fussy, but the next technique works with them πŸ˜‰

Meanwhile, make your tubs, do double duty – spring is springing faster than we can keep up, so if you are planting into cleared grounded, lay some cardboard down and stand the tubs on top to keep it from blowing away – giving the tubs a water AFTER you move them πŸ˜‰

DSC_0120DSC_0124Personally, I don’t find cardboard mulch ugly, because it is so useful to me, keeping the weeds at bay until I can get to that task, and with some soils, it even improves the texture (sticky clays) but I do understand beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

I will go back and snip the heads off the muscari/ grape hyacinth later. Only cut the flower heads off, most propagation strips the foliage right back, but as the leaves on bulb plants die back, all the necessary nutrients go back into the bulb. If you want it to grow again but hate the sight of the dying back, a good tip is to put it next to a plant that will fill out fast now that we are heading towards warmer nights, maybe a sedum or foxglove.


Early colour is very cheering and one of my new favourites are bellis perennis, perennial ornamental daisies, I love that deep cranberry pink edging when so much is pastel in the spring.

DSC_0013DSC_0016This technique is more like planting out a squash/pumpkin plant. Make a mound, flat and shallow, or more heaped for something like tulips, with a dent where you are putting your seedling/ bulb/ in the green/ cutting. The dent for tulips has to be a lot deeper, they like to be a hand span down. Again the mulch should be moist on a wet day through to really wet on a dry day – and it helps if you do it on a drier day, as the idea is to make the worms till/turn your soil for you. On a dry day when the worms have gone further underground, pouring soggy mulch on drier soil will bring them up and the action of turning the soil helps integrate the two. All without use of a spade/ shovel/ fork/ implement of agony for your back/ wrists/elbows or drain on your energy – yay!

Lots more planting will be happening in this area, now the laurels and brambles have been cleared, I want to put in more bee friendly plants, hyssops, sedums, agastache, foxgloves…last year a huge forest of feverfew came up from the dormant seeds, so I’m hoping they will have survived the necessary trampling.


Something I can’t get a great photo of is the violet lawn, it is utterly beautiful and something I’d never seen before moving here, my favourite granny was Violet, named by her brother because they had just come out the day she was born – 110 years ago, amazing…I love the connection πŸ˜‰

And final gift from the garden,Β  a very violet/lilac rather than purple/ blue Peacock butterfly was sunning itself on Thursday…





landspirit gardening: raised bed, raised awarenesses

Exciting times in the garden!


and now:


– which made my day yesterday and will be such a joy over the summer!

There were a lot of stages – Spade and Sparrow did the heavy clearing

STA46094and left it to overwinter and settle. All I’ve managed to organise since has been replacing the cardboard mulch and a little pruning back. I had a couple of ‘seeing’ sessions where I took time to sit and think about what I wanted, but also what the land wants – this is why I call my approach landspirit rather than permaculture, though I use permaculture techniques. Being still and seeing what happens in a space is really important if you want

STA45688to work with the existing patterns and bring out the best in a situation.

The new bed is very central, at a crossroads between different kinds of leisure, growing food, growing flowers, badminton, with paths on two sides used by us and the posties, a slabbed area for the bbq and container garden, access to the carpark, access to the drying yard…

Something I feel the whole garden lacks is a good place to sit and chat. This is a lot to do with being in a city, people stealing garden furniture and not wanting to encourage the sex workers already using our garden and yard…Lots of houses on our street have electronic gates and I get why, but the truth is the more we use the garden, the less others will.

STA45091The constant difficulties and obstacles to getting the raised bed in motion had made me question if it should happen at all (the phrase ‘pushing the river’ came to mind πŸ™‚ ) but every time I am in theΒ Β  garden and feel the joy of its return to colour and


bounty (wildlife and harvest and enjoyment) I feel sure it wants more human presence, not less.. more domestic everydayness anyway!

This is the kind of thing that you either get or you don’t!Β  And the truth is, you can be a great steward of the land without feeling this. But some extra layer of ‘happening’ tends to occur when listening to the spirit of place, some bonuses come in as though on rails when I engage this process. I feel very convinced by it, because after a lot of work turning round my derelict and poisoned allotment, I saw the results, bushels of healthy fruit and veg, herbs for tea and scent or strewing, bees galore, the pollination rates of the allotmenteers near me shot up… Even the old guys had to concede my ‘messy’ ways worked πŸ˜‰

STA45096Coming back to the garden here, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the transition from kitchen garden to purely ornamental/badminton lawn. The rockery is huge, as long as a tennis court and a couple of metres wide at the narrow end. It has beautiful mature trees and lovely rocks with fossils in and interesting marbled chunks and then a lovely array in July of foxgloves, feverfew, spirea, liquorice agastaches and flowering stonecrops, with alkanet and lush foliages… So looking from my rollator along the curving length of the bed towards the drive, seeing only logs on the raised bed edges would jar.

DSC_0018-001Instead we went on an expedition rounding up materials from all corners to make a bed that can be a heart centre. Ben suggested pulling some of the rocks lost under ivy from the super dry shady bank that is the front boundary, David found a huuuge sandstone boulder on the edge of the drive and I found big chunky pieces of tree trunk in the wood pile.

DSC_0032David then worked really hard, digging postholes and a channel to support yorkstone slabs on their sides, wedging and shuffling rocks, logs and slabs until it all looked really harmonious. I had suggested that the biggest log, which gets used as a seat on bbq nights became the edge of the bed nearest the slabbed area, and that the boulder made the corner between the rockery and the badminton lawn, and the upright slabs next to it echoed the path, but David had lots of fun choosing where to mingle rocks and tree trunks and big branches πŸ˜‰ Yes, he ached all over when he stopped!

DSC_0050DSC_0042DSC_0040DSC_0061DSC_0063Called back to view progress I was so touched: a big seawashed chunk of chalk we had used as the top of a miniature quoit in the garden in Hucknall has been put at one corner and the copper, steel and stone mobile that hung near it were fitted in to the corner! So lovely of David to think of this! I put an amethyst and some hyacinths (Andy’s favourites) there too. They had emptied compost from the bin round the corner and the empty container garden over the cardboard and horse manure, so with a bit more topping up, I’ll be all ready to plant πŸ™‚

There will be rose bushes and hyssop for the bees in the centre and then beans, squash and tomatoes roundabout, though I might sneak beetroot and lettuce in to catch crop πŸ™‚

Being able to dream gardens again is so satisfying! And with all that sorted I feel more connected and committed to tending the rockery, which has been possible but not an attractive option when it meant walking past all theΒ  looming ‘beyond my strength’ reminders. It has been a gap, a lost friend even…I feel gardening to be an integral part of my life, my healing, my politics, my art, being at home in the world, a place where the balance finds itself and energy flows… paying attention to my changed capabilities means I have to listen even harder now. WorkingΒ  with neighbours who have never worked this way before was a challenge! This garden that is a woodland edge in a city needs to be a place where we can play to all our strengths, and yesterday, we did πŸ™‚


summer garden dreaming on a winter’s day:

Apologies to The Mamas and Papas! A few arrangements for help in the garden have fallen through because of weather conditions (and before you say a bit of rain never hurt anyone, if you walk across soil you intend to plant in when it is wet, you compact it, and anaerobic/airless soil is a sad lifeless thing, “a graveyard of hope” indeed…) so I was delighted when Eleanor offered to help me today πŸ˜‰ we managed an hour between showers and I felt so happy! She borrowed clothes to get dirty in and I dug out the homehelp gloves for her, to protect her manicure…


She is so not a gardener and this was a deeply selfless gesture (well, I suppose she gets to stop hearing me keen over everything I’m stuck on cos the first domino can’t fall πŸ˜‰ ) but in the end she enjoyed it! Not sure she’s converted, but she could feel the win of a big bucket of weeds that used to be between the slabs, and the replenished mulch (thanks approved foods, your boxes are great!!)Β  looks so much tidier.


She could lift all the heavy things, so I could put the winter covers on my workbench (Β£shop shower curtains are excellent waterproofing) and move the trays of pansies etc so when there is a sunny day I can plant some more pots. Having settled this area for the winter, it is easier to plan what to ask Spade and Sparrow to do, and I can see that I want the laurel and tree weedlings out of the east end of the rockery.

This is a photo of when I mulched on my own, but couldn’t lift the heavy bricks to weigh down the big cardboard, so it all blew around in the night 😦  So it is already better, but the angle of this shot shows the brambles, dying laurel, holly seedlings and various other ruffians… you can click on the image to make it bigger btw. Take my word for it, at first I saw nothing much in it, but Nonie loves this corner, she hides in the undergrowth around the laurel, and when I peer in, I can see rocks supporting or crushed by the laurel that’s almost horizontal, it really would make an interesting feature. And it’s so huge removing it would cost hundreds, so feature it has to be! It could make a great bench for enjoying the garden from…though not so comfortable our nocturnal visitors would use it with their customers, I hope 😦

When I weeded this area and planted the pink astilbe lots of feverfew and self seeded foxgloves came up, and I think clearing it back of definite weeds (plants in the wrong place) would reveal more rocks, but also more dormant flowers… I’d like to grow oswego tea again (canadian bergamot, nothing to do with citrus bergamot in earl grey tea) and that has pretty pinky mauve flowers. With more blue agastaches again, it could smell as heavenly as it looked… oh, dreaming gardens is so good for your stress levels!

A great understanding that came out of my struggles with the toxic damage I had to remedy on my derelict allotment, was to work with what I had, and to be patient, to enjoy the stages.Β  I wasΒ  saying this on Facebook earlier, gardening taught me the patience and acceptance, that now I have fibromyalgia is just essential for coping. Just as dreaming is! Getting stuck these last few weeks got me very down, being helped over this stile, I can do what is within my abilities and having the money to pay sympathetic professionals to do the rest, I can focus on this very neglected corner and make it a feature, and the momentum that gives me is immense, and carries through into other areas of my life… but really important is just to sit in my rollator with a coffee and enjoy the garden today, or light a candle and daydream what it can be…stopping to savour this is a vital ( essential-to-life) part of the process…and I used to skip that, till gradually the landspirit taught me that was part of the greater harvest of the allotment, not just crops, and a constructive hobby, but a quiet attuning to the greater process.

And if you can help a friend get a bit closer with a dream, do try – you might find you enjoy it more than you ever expected πŸ˜‰