This was laid out in 1986 with a mixture of culinary herbs & mainly cottage garden plants. There are also 3 dwarf apples trees [ Granny Smith, Sunset & Laxton Superb] and a small Bay tree.
It is situated just outside the kitchen door in accordance with Permaculture principles & being thus south of the cottage is in full sun most of the day.
Originally I planted a wisteria, a climbing rose & a clematis against this south facing wall of the cottage and they are so beautiful that I am reluctant to remove them. But in January 2011, I managed to make room for a fan-trained Early Moorpark Apricot because the 2 free-standing apricot trees in Fort Ducks orchard were not fruiting well. It cropped reasonably well which encouraged me to plant two hardier varieties against a south-facing fence in the Allotment orchard but that was unsuccessful. Recently I added a passion fruit against the cottage wall which is flowering well but has so far failed to bear edible fruit.
My small cottage garden extends around to the east & north of the cottage and includes a productive Alpine Strawberry area & a large Quince tree but is otherwise mainly ornamental. It does support wildlife including plenty of toads and I nearly put my bare hand on a grass snake one year – no problem, once I was sure it was not an adder!
I built a small conservatory onto the south wall of the cottage which helps conserve heat in both . It is furnished with a small table & five chairs so that one can sit there or alternatively one can carry the chairs onto the terrace just outside where there is a large table for meals in fine weather . It also houses a productive grapevine [ Black Hamburg ] and usually houses my lemon trees in winter, although if the weather is very harsh I carry them inside the house. In summer the lemons stand on the terrace against the south-facing wall of the conservatory and produce the only citrus fruit I use.
Adjacent to the flower garden & thus still near the kitchen door is the main vegetable garden, protected from the wind which can whistle up the valley by native hedges and surrounded by post & rail fencing up which I’m growing fan-trained apricots, quinces and an apple. This fencing replaced yew hedging which was visually attractive but which required a lot of maintenance, harboured huge numbers of slugs & snails & depleted the adjoining vegetables of nutrients.
I grow perennials such as Globe artichokes ; Sorrel ; Babbington leeks ; Jerusalem artichokes ; Horseradish; Welsh onions & Rhubarb plus annual summer & winter vegetables
In the bee orchard, just beside the wicket gate into the vegetable garden, are the two compost heaps, conveniently situated for receiving stuff barrowed from these gardens.
There is an excellent, sheltered growing area enclosed on two sides by the eastern wall of the Cold-store and the south-facing wall of the stable.
Against this white-painted stable wall, I built a small greenhouse which harbours a very fruitful fan-trained Peregrine Peach & is used to raise seedlings, for forcing early strawberries & potatoes and for the cultivation of tomatoes, cucumbers & melons.
The south & west walls of the cold store are built against the solid earth and one metre beyond its east wall a second wall was constructed & the space between filled with soil for insulation. I now top-dress this area with copious horse manure and it usually grows excellent Spaghetti marrows.
An area above the cold-store roof , treated in the same way, is the courgette patch.
Although I am on heavy clay, half a mile away they are quarrying sand & gravel and kindly gave me some of their spoil to cover the rest of the flat roof of the cold store. This sandy soil has made an ideal bed for carrots, garlic & similar vegetables which prefer a light & well-drained soil – although I am still picking out large stones!
I tried growing asparagus here before discovering that it addition to requiring well-drained soil it demands a lot of root space. It never did well so I moved the crowns to the vegetable patch but they didn’t like the heavy clay there any better.
I shovel horse muck through the door in the adjacent field shelter into two small muck- heaps, built beside the cold-store vegetable beds. It can rot down there ready to be used as needed in this area.The horses like to stand in the shelter whenever the weather is either very wet or very hot & so provide plenty of muck close to where I want to use it.
Beside the Greenhouse a Brown Turkey Fig & a Kiwi Solo are trained against the same south-facing stable wall. I get a reasonable crop of figs around September most years & delicious Kiwi fruits ripen between mid-December & mid-January.
Around the corner of the stables, 4 gooseberry bushes are being trained up the east facing wall & usually fruit well [ a Hinomaki Red, a Martlet & 2 Invicta ].
I have a Phoenix grapevine growing over a pergola here, which is starting to crop really well in good summers.
The two fruit cages are sited inside Fort Ducks – the poultry enclosure – and the ducks eat the slugs so that I do not have a problem with the slugs eating the strawberries.
I do have a slug problem in the vegetable garden – perhaps this also should have been sited in Fort Ducks!
One fruit cage currently contains blackcurrants; red & white currants and strawberries. The other did contain autumn raspberries but this area unfortunately became riddled with bindweed. I therefore planted a bed of autumn raspberries in the veg patch and am currently growing potatoes in the fruit cage to clear the soil.
Near the front of my cottage is an Allotment which is being cultivated by the friend who helps with fencing, chain-sawing & similar tasks I cannot do. He also has an incubator & hatches out chicks & ducklings for me to rear in the stables.
Just below this he has built me a large muck pile. This holds the overflow of horse-muck from the stables which is not put directly onto the gardens. I bed my horses on shredded cardboard as it is easier to handle than straw or wood-shavings & much better for the gardens. Contrary to popular belief, I find there is seldom any need for it to be “well-rotted” first, although I would not use it on the flower beds: I put it on as a mulch in the autumn & dig it in, if necessary, in late winter or early spring after the rain & frosts have broken it down.
I always plant my Pumpkin seedlings directly into the main muck pile in early summer as the rising warmth of the rotting muck & its moisture retaining properties mean that they yield good crops with minimal, if any, attention.
The muck pile is also conveniently sited for friends who want some of the well-rotted product after the pumpkins have been harvested.
Between the muck pile & Underton Lane [ the public road ], I have planted Tayberries & Japanese Wineberries and a Merryweather Damson. There was also room to plant one big old-fashioned pear tree & I have put in a Catillac on Pyrus Communis rootstock. I’ve also planted a line of hazel & similar small native trees to screen me from the Leylandii hedge cultivated by my otherwise delightful neighbours in the bungalow.
In December 2014, I purchased a further 5 acres across the lane from my existing land. This is now divided into Brook Field, Wildflower Hay Meadow and the Nursey Area
To hide these fences & for the benefit of the wildlife, I’ve planted a screen of shrubs – mostly hazel with some field & dog roses, viburnum lantana & opulis, buckthorn & alder buckthorn and native honeysuckle – one plant per meter, this being cheaper to establish & maintain than a conventional hedge.
In Nursery Area my friend Julia has erected a poly-tunnel and is growing plants for sale – mainly vegetables, some soft fruit and a few garden plants that are particularly good for bees & butterflies – see “Plant Nursery” page for details. Also in this area is my small hay-barn, screened from the road by a copse of 24 silver birch.
I would like to try growing some of the more unusual food plants that I have read about, mainly in Permaculture publications, or heard about on radio programmes like Gardeners Question Time.
And I want to try other alternatives to buying seeds [often F1 hybrids] each year. So far “Trail of Tears” beans & Yacon from the Real Seed Company has been a great success.
I would also like to try producing more of my own fertilisers instead of buying Maxicrop and Blood, Bone & Fish – probably neither are sourced by environmentally friendly methods. I am establishing Comfrey under some of the fruit trees & use horse muck both solid & dissolved in water as a liquid feed.