"Future Orchard"

Mon 26 Jul 2010

Alistair did a nice new site map for the NGS day, featuring a sketch of the "Future Orchard" at the top of our Wildflower Meadow. This is currently just a mown stock-fenced paddock with 24 blobs of mulch set at regular intervals where this coming winter we will plant some very young fruit 'maidens' (as young grafted apple plants are known).

As with all good childcare we'll then ignore them for the best part of a decade - before (we hope) realising they have turned out rather well and enjoying the fruits of our labours.

For now - like all fanatical gardeners I am already working on next year - I am sourcing the 24 trees, 6 of the most altitude, wind and rain-proof varieties from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

So far I have:

'Scotch Bridget' - a locally grafted specimen, she does well in Cumbria I am told

'Gravenstein', 'Brownlees Russet', 'Duke of Devonshire' (Bred at nearby Holker), 'Mere de Menage', 'Monarch', 'Keswick Codlin' and 'Hawthornden' - from the lovely R V Roger Northern fruit specialists

From Irish Seed Savers I'll be ordering 'Yellow Pitcher', 'April Queen', 'Cavan Sugar Cane', 'Kemp' and 'Keegan's Crab' which apparently isn't a crab.

Finally, Wales will be represented by 'Cissy', 'Bardsey', 'St Cecilia', 'Pig Aderyn', 'Croen Mochyn' and a 'Snowdon Queen' pear - yes a pear, found at 1000' on the slopes of Snowdon!

As the nice man at supplier Gwynfor Growers says "that should love Coniston!' 

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...the garden looks like this

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Woodland Garden looking over Old Man of Coniston
Woodland Garden looking over Old Man of Coniston

....who braved the rain for the third NGS Open Garden here at Lawson Park - numbers were up on last year! One lady fell in the stream en route but was very decent about it, and one chap told me that Lawson Park used to be a dairy 'farm' (something about being bordered by 2 streams...), which was the first I'd heard of it.....

Thanks also to all family, friends and staff who helped out.

 

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51 Birds at Parkamoor

Fri 18 Jun 2010

Parkamoor has a busy summer ahead, just had an 83 year old lady staying for a week, the party spotted 51 species of birds in the immediate area, the top moments being Hawfinches, Redstarts, Ravens and the double whammy of a Peregrine Falcon taking a Wood Warbler right in front of them.

Next week there are 7 German architects of unknown gender

Followed by a group of 5 ESP artists from Birmingham - (Extra Sensory People)

and so on

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Some evenings are special

Thu 17 Jun 2010

The silence of the World cup. not a mountain biker, a lakeside screamer, a barking dog


Learning how

Mon 31 May 2010

We had to look up how to trench celery in the classic 'The Vegetable Garden Displayed"....

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A quick plug for What will the harvest be?, which is a gorgeous public garden in East London that I designed with Nina Pope and it's now in its second season as a communal 'harvest garden'. A horticultural and social experiment, it allows anyone to come and grow and harvest food and flowers for free and is open dawn to dusk.

We open the garden for London Open Squares weekend on June 12/13th, 10-5pm both days, teas etc are available and we will be giving guided tours all day long, so do please come along.
The address is Baker's Row, London E15 3NF a- a 10 minute walk from West Ham or Stratford train / tubes.

I'm very proud of this project as I've been able to apply so many of the lessons I learnt up here at Lawson Park, and we have even succeeded in growing the rare blue Himalayan poppy there, from seeds harvested from my plants up here.

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Meconopsis betonicifolia having a go in East London
Meconopsis betonicifolia having a go in East London

Slow down please

Fri 21 May 2010

Due to the long, long winter, spring came late here and the last daffodils have only just gone over mid-May. Looking at pictures of the garden this time a few years ago, it was much greener and fuller.

But given our slender means, we are happy for summer to slide in slowly as we spend 5-8.30pm most days now on the land, weeding, sowing, dividing and planting. The legend that is Mr James Herd has been back rerouting the front Farmhouse Garden pathways and retaining walls, creating a rather more formal and rather more massive border than before - about 100 sq metres - almost all filled with propagated plants from existing stock. I'm trying very hard to minimise maintenance all over the garden, using more shrubs where I can and mulching like it's going out of style, using old chipped wood (almost free but ugly) and spent mushroom compost (good looks don't come cheap). A short-term Japanese intern, Mi, has gamely saved the day by planting the orchard hedge with the already in leaf hawthorn James donated to us - it seemed a terrible shame not to get a season ahead with the plan but the scale of the challenge had beaten me and I had resigned myself to postponing it. As long as we water the plants well we can hope it will thrive.

Vegetables begun in the polytunnel and now planted out include pak choi (about to bolt due to too long in the trays I fear), broad beans 'The Sutton Dwarf' (no staking apparently), and spinach 'Bordeaux'. Verdant Leaf beet 'Oriol' has been extraordinarily hardy, the only vegetable to survive the winter's snow and hard, hard frost and still going strong. French shallots (first in in March) are doing well and spring onions and Chinese radish are both showing now.

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One Straw Revolution

Mon 29 Mar 2010

After a lot of recommendations I have just finished the seminal 'natural farming' text 'One Straw Revolution' by Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukoaka, who for some 50 years pioneered a form of 'hands-off' cultivation on his mountain site which gave yields equal to conventional intensive rice-paddy techniques. In a nutshell, this was achieved by allowing 'weeds' and beneficial green manures to colonise all space between rice or grain plants, and by mulching all harvested fields immediately with the straw of the harvested plants before sowing the follow-up crop. He also advocates growing vegetables in semi-wild mixed areas, allowing self-seeding. He apparently transformed his arid mountain soil over a decade of this cycle. This approach is embedded (as he explains in the book) within a holistic lifestyle of respect for natural cycles, foraging for wild foods, eating according to season.

Having spent time in the mountainous farming village of Toge in north west Japan, I can vouch for the intensive rice-farming still practiced by diminishing numbers of elderly Japanese farmers. As I was there mid-summer, I didn't witness the busiest times but it was clear how hard it was to maintain these vertiginous paddies and to produce the prized rice. The endeavour of food production brought the whole community together year-round, and it was an intensely moving experience to live amongst them and feel this intimate connection with land even for a short time.

I haven't yet looked into how Fukoaka's evident success was disseminated amongst the Japanese farming community, but in his book he cites many clashes with chemical companies and government agencies. It would be depressing reading if it were not for his moving accounts of the satisfaction he gained from his simple relationship with his land.

With memories of the Toge villagers' excitement at spring's earliest murmers, and thinking of Fukoaka's belief in the spirituality of foraging on one's own patch, instead of disposing of the many Arctium Lappa (burdock) seedlings coming up in our fruit cage, I carefully pulled them out. These have now been boiled lightly and pickled in a mix of mirin, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Delicious.

Now onto working out a way to translate his agricultural techniques to the northern European climate of Lawson Park....

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Winter's last roots gathered
Winter's last roots gathered

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