Over winter we'd first prepared the ground by first making it as flat as possible. Then where we'd be growing vegetables, using waste cardboard Jun created a biodegradable barrier to stop weeds coming up before our intended foods would have a chance to create their own space to grow. This would comprise most of zones 1 & 2 of the Permaculture plan.
Brian & Breda, parents of some close friends of our's came to visit whilst on a trip to see their family, as Brian's an avid gardener. He saw the compost heap he'd explained how to put together on e-mail and we spent some time walking around whilst I explained what we had in mind. It was great to have the advice of someone experienced - who speaks English! - so I lapped up every word he shared. We'd never met before, but had a really rewarding day together.
As the winter weather disappeared we begun to see insects zipping around. Bees came to find our peach & nectarine blossoms.
Our blueberry shrubs each begun to grow leaves and the longer established fruit trees begun to turn green.
It was a relief to see most of our little saplings had survived the frosts of winter. Unfortunately a couple of the lemons and tangerines died, but we'll know how to better protect them over winter when we replant later in the year. Perhaps we should have waited till Spring, but in doing so we wouldn't have been able to sample the sweetest fruits before buying!
Here's the almond tree (Still not properly re-planted at the time, but doing well).
And a cherry blossom I planted with my daughter and spread bulbs around the perimeter with.
We liberally spread seed for dutch clover and it soon begun to sprout. It's not a perennial but we'll seed it again as ground cover whenever needed, as it's nitrogen fixing. Still need to mix with other seeds though, to help keep a good balance.
Our forest had also begun to show more life as we'd cleared a few of the smaller trees. There's still much more wood where that came from.... which is why we now need a BIG wood burning stove to use it in winter with!
I'd been wondering what to do about our very old Bonzai which had looked quite ready to die when we moved in.
Jun had put compost all around it and I'd planted some bulbs (But ran out.. so the rest were only planted recently!) to help make it pretty.
We were really pleased to see it blossom new shoots all over. Now I need to learn how to prune a 300+ year old Bonzai. It should be a centrepiece in front of the house, but I hear it's very expensive to get specialists to do this... Surely it can't be that hard??
One cool but bright early April day Jun & I sowed seeds in trays. Many of these I'd obtained from www.seedsavers.org through some friends. From Brian's advice we knew how to plant, but hadn't realised some seeds are just so tiny it's hard to sow one or even a few at a time!
I had made a spreadsheet of around 100 different seeds we wanted to try, detailing the type of growing conditions each plant would need including exposure to direct sunlight and so for each of the rows of seeds we sowed we wrote the names and catalog number on tape.... And that's how we learnt we'd need a better system next year.... as within a month or so they were almost completely illegible, except by taking them off and holding them up to the sunlight!
At first the seeds took a long time to come out. Really I could have made a small polythene dome greenhouse but the weather seemed to have gotten warmer and we only suffered a couple of light frosts.
Some of the smaller seeds had been sprinkled on the surface of soil and we didn't think till much later that over zealous watering would cause the seeds to be drained away!
But that's how we learn.
We planted again and this time Jun was more careful. Sure enough most begun to sprout as the weather got warmer and we had many of the plants we'd wanted, albeit quite small in size!
Of those that didn't come up or where we didn't have enough, we went out and bought ready to plant vegetables & shrubs, seed potatoes, etc. from the local home centres.
I'd been concerned perhaps we'd lopped off far too much Azalea as it looked quite lifeless, but slowly sprouts begun to appear and as the weather warms up, it's coming back to life. Eventually we'll want to trim these nice and rectangular in profile, or perhaps rounded. The clover seed seems to cover the ground well, although we need to spread more of it in the areas that are thin.
This beautiful Bonzai pine will soon have a traditional slit support and then be used to help hold a hammock from it's strongest branch.
From what I'd learnt from reading Permaculture books over the last year I sat down and drew a plan of how I'd envisage planting all these vegetables to use the least amount of space possible. It looked like a cute maze, but by not having rows of vegetables and paths between each, space could be saved. Around the vegetables are barriers of Azalea, which will eventually house birds that feed on insects who will want to eat our veggies if left unchecked.
By varying the different vegetables the Permaculture idea is that insects that target particular plants won't so readily amas and reproduce to eat rows of food.
They do eat some of it, but I believe that in nature insects eat the plants that aren't in good condition, so keeping them healthy is the idea behind having the plants grow in good organic compost.
Here we have about 2-5 week's growth after planting. We've been putting in the smaller plants as & when we have time.
This is our herb spiral. Depending on light needs the idea is to arrange the plants accordingly so they're exposed to the right amount of sunlight and water. They survived some very heavy rains and are steadily colonising their areas.
Eventually we'll probably want more herbs or even a second herb spiral, but this will teach us some new things this year no doubt!
Fresh strawberries are beginning to appear.
Assorted lettuce grows well in the shaded areas.
Sweet potato, Potato, malabar spinach and spring onions make their appearances.
Apparently Indians used to grow climbing plants next to corn, so I've tried the same.... it seems to be working.
Some plants I didn't know exactly what they were, so planted together - too late now, but it'll be interesting to see how an oddly positioned brocoli or carrot will fare next to a large corn!
In the foreground are (perennial) asparagus, but I believe these may take about a year before being ready to harvest from.
These are our first peaches, before thinning to stop fruits toucing one another.
The fig is a tree that can grow very large and restrict fruit, so I will probably dig it up & limit it's root size over winter, but will need to see what else can be done for good irrigation, etc.
This is one of the tangerines that did make it through the winter. It had lost all of it's leaves (They're evergreens usually!) so it was good to see it make a comeback as the weather improved.
Have been spraying plants with organic soluble seaweed extract a couple of times so far in an effort to maintain their health and hopefully encourage a good balance of nature so the insects don't eat our food before we do. So far it's going well it seems.
We hope by summer to be able to pick a selection of tomatoes, beans, cucumber, marrow, Japanese pumpkin, ladies fingers and many other vegetables we like, if all goes to plan.
In autumn I'll look to find some chickens perhapsm so that they might help us eat the unwanted vegetable shreads, seeds, etc and fertilise the land. I'd have liked to grow mushrooms too, but there's still much to learn and experience this year I think and we need to be sure of not overdoing it and exhausting ourselves when we should be having fun learning.
Where the Azalea is still occupying a large circle next to the white shed is the best area for all day sunshine.
For next year we'll want to clear this, leaving only borders for birds and hopefully put it to good use elsewhere. Once it's grown back from being heavily trimmed it's very colourful with pink flowers.
I'd also like to build a strong arbor for the Kiwi on Zone three and another over the roughly concreted area between what will be the two main vegetable plots, where we can grow grapes. Have seen Arnie's front entrance where they've trained grapes to grow under the clear corrugated plastic roof. I hadn't realised it was possible to grow grapes successfully in this area, but it appears it is!
Over time we'll introduce more flowers in the ornamental area that's mixed with fruit trees, to attract bees and yes, eventually we hope to culture our own honey, but that may be a few years down the road when the kids become more (Or less!!) manageable.