Tag Archives: Permaculture

Community Garden weekend – Sunday Afternoon – no.5

Sunday 5th May, beautiful weather and we are going to get these trees planted!

Dandelion Tree!

Dandelion Tree!


After the church service the congregation were invited to come into the garden to see how things were going, to discuss our plans and to see where their peas and beans are going to end up. The children in particular seemed to enjoy the garden and very quickly picked loads of dandelions to make chains of yellow flowers which they hung from the rose tree.



With a larger number of volunteers we managed to dig over the bed next to the fence and to finish digging out the trench for the trees to a sufficient depth and width so in went the rest of the trees along with two blackcurrants and two loganberries which we will try to grow up the fence to provide some privacy for the vicarage.

We also dismantled the old fence for the wood panels that we hope to use for making slightly raised beds. The timber is old and dry but it should suffice for the time being. We also have a huge pile of cuttings from the cotoneaster that was cut down. We had hoped to burn this for the ash to enrich the soil but we ran out of time and it will probably be removed by contractors during the week – an opportunity missed!

A huge thank you to Tony, Joanne, Pippa, Rob, Ramesh, Steve, Danny, Catherine, Buster (the dog!), the children and everyone else who helped to make the weekend so productive. The garden is beginning to take shape!

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Community Garden weekend – Saturday morning – no.4

This weekend saw two work sessions in the garden – on the Saturday morning and the Sunday afternoon. The main aim being to get the four fruit trees planted and to plant some other fruit bushes that we had acquired.

The trees are from Ashridge Nurseries and are all maidens:

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Saturday morning saw Tony and Joanne hacking away at the stony ground. Huge pieces of stone and brick were dug up. Joanne in particular seemed intent on digging a hole through to Australia!

During the week contractors had been to replace the vicarage fence that had blown down. They also removed the whole of a fantastic cotoneaster that had been growing along the fence. The new fence was about 2m tall and provided some privacy for Rev Steve but the old fence is lower and without the plant allows us to watch Rev Steve making his cups of tea in his kitchen. We will need to look at growing something new, attractive and hopefully productive along that section of the fence.

The soil against the fence that has now been revealed looks quite rich. It is dark and moist and contains a lot of works. Because we needed a quick fix for planting  our trees – it looked like we would need a week of digging to get the trench ready for four – we decided to plant two of them against the fence and to grow them as espaliers so in went the Greensleeves with plenty of water and a bit of micorrhizal fungi rootgrow. Mycorrhizae are fungi that coexist in the soil with plant root systems. They have a symbiotic relationship in which the fungi provide the host with additional water and nutrient in exchange for the plant’s waste products (mainly starches) that the fungi require to grow. Mycorrhizae grow vastly more rapidly than roots and so they can increase the effective root area of a plant many times in only a few weeks.

Lunchtime came, hands were blistered, so we decided to call it a day and reconvene after church on Sunday.

Community Garden work afternoon – no.3

The 28th April saw another very busy Sunday with AJAR holding their training event at church so person power in the garden was a little low!

The good news was that we had acquired four apple trees for planting. They are maidens on MM106 rootstock and so should train into espaliers or cordons according to our requirements. The plan is to have a tunnel made out of two rows of fruit trees (probably apple and pear) outside the window of the church. This should look stunning in the spring when they are in blossom (any potential weddings at this time of year?) though you might want to wear a hard hat if you walk through the tunnel in autumn. Anyway, that is some time off yet!

So, measure up, mark out, in goes the spade and … guess what … there is that Virgin Media cable again, but fortunately not cut this time. Relocate the markers, start digging …. guess what …. more stone. The top couple of centimetres of soil has been formed from the rotting down of grass and leaves over the last umpteen years and so looks quite good but underneath the soil is either dry, dusty and stony or rock solid clay or rubble. It is going to take some time to dig this trench so I am going to have to heal in the fruit trees (stick them in some soil to keep the roots cool and moist) for a week or two.

In Permaculture our aim is to turn “spirals of erosion” into “spirals of abundance”. A spiral of erosion could also be known as a vicious cycle and they lead to resources being lost. A simple example is growing the same crop on the same bit of soil every year, the crop removes the same nutrients from the soil every year, it is then harvested and the soil gets poorer. To turn this into a spiral of abundance we have to find a “point of intervention”, a way in which we can interrupt this cycle and turn it into one of positive feedback and productivity.

We also try to identify the limiting factors – those things which stop us from making effective interventions, things that lead to a leak or blockage of resources and energies that are needed to create our spiral of abundance.

I am beginning to identify some of these now in our garden. Obviously the quality of the soil is going to be a limiting factor. To improve our soil we currently have a number of strategies:

  • we have started a compost heap which will hopefully develop into a proper two or three bin system
  • we have got the congregation to start growing legumes for the garden – peas and beans are good at fixing nitrogen in their roots which helps to improve the soil
  • we will be planting lots of green manure such as afalfa which has deep tap roots that can draw goodness up from clay deep in the ground. Green manures also cover over bare soil to stop it being eroded by the wind and rain, the roots help to break up and aerate the soil, the leaves will eventually be used as mulch or compost and the roots will die back to help form humus (organic matter) in the soil which helps to prevent erosion and to store moisture
  • we will plant some comfrey which helps to improve the soil (rather like afalfa) and can be used to make a liquid feed
  • importing some compost – one of our volunteers does some work at a local gardens where there is a surplus of compost and he has volunteered to bring some back for us

All this will take time but it has taken time for the spiral of erosion to work on the land, we can’t expect to change it overnight without a major input of energy and importing lots of materials, both of which we are trying to avoid. The major input of energy needed at the moment is to finish digging a trench to plant our fruit trees and that is the plan for next weekend!

Community Garden work afternoon – no.2

This Sunday was a very busy day with  the church’s AGM following the service. potThis was closely followed by the opportunity to plant some pea and bean seeds to take home and germinate on all those window sills. Since we don’t have a green house at church this seemed like a good way of using the resources that are available to us as well as giving lots of people the chance to grow their own plants – though we do hope that in a few weeks time some of them will be returned to plant in the garden!

As for the garden itself, Joanne continued working on clearing the Russian Vine and Tony and I continued to work on the first vegetable bed and started a second bed.


After last weeks efforts we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Rev Steve’s TV / phone / broadband cable had been repaired and still occupied the same bit of soil so we were going to lose that part of the bed until the cable gets re-routed.



concrete1The next bit of bed turned out have a solid lump of concrete only a few inches below the soil! This wasn’t in the plans! And as Tony cleared the turf off the second bed he found a rock with another cable duct under, fortunately he didn’t cut through it like I did the previous week.

What should we do?

The ideal would be to have raised beds. The soil here is not very good, has loads of rubble in it and is not very deep but we have no funds at the moment to buy in the materials to make raised beds or for compost / soil to fill them. Circumstances and a desire to be regenerative mean that we will have to find a way round this problem.

The soil between the “new” cable and the lump of concrete seems reasonable clear of big stones and looks as if it is about a spades depth before it hits the worst of the clay and stone so we have combined one third of one bed with two thirds of the other bed to make the new bed. The turves that we have been digging up are currently piled to allow the grass in them to rot down so that we can re-use the soil as top soil later. The stones we have been digging out are going to be used to make paths between the short ends of the beds which means that we can lift that topsoil for use in the beds as well. So, hopefully, we will be able to get a reasonable depth of soil. Maybe one day we will be able to raise the beds.

Meanwhile, Joanne had been chopping up all the Russian Vine. Time for a fire! We moved the material onto the bed we had been working on and lit the touch paper. There’s something very satisfying about fires! Although they produce carbon dioxide they are also part of the regenerative cycle. We burnt up all the Russian Vine which we would otherwise probably have had to remove from the site as I doubt whether it would compost down very well, and we burnt the cuttings from the rose tree. The result, a big pile of ash to dig into the bed, a great discussion about biochar, the Zai method of farming used by Yacouba Sawadogo in the Sahel and other exciting things that are happening around the world to regenerate soil and recreate abundance that nature provides. Maybe, eventually, All Hallows’ Community Garden will be part of all this!

So, next we will finish digging this bed and in a few weeks time we hope to plant all those pea and bean plants that are now germinating on the “AH distributed windowsill greenhouse” along with some green manure to help cover enrich the soil. We are still on the look out for some old doors or / and pallets to make our compost heap so if anyone has any to spare please let us know.

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If you are inspired to be part of this project then do contact me via the Church Wardens email address or via this blog.

All Hallows’ Community Garden work afternoon

There has been a lot of interest and support for the idea of a Community Garden at All Hallows’, we have done some thinking and planning and shortly some actual work will get under way! We have a work afternoon planned for Sunday 14th April starting from about 12:30pm.

On our first work session we hope to cut back some of the more invasive and neglected plants, prune, cut grass, start to mark out and dig vegetable beds, build compost heaps, clear litter, sit and drink tea, and think and plan!

We hope to develop the garden along Permaculture Principles (which you can read about elsewhere on this site) and develop the garden as a space for the Community Project and local people to grow fruit and vegetables as well as having a green space to relax and enjoy nature and whatever sun we get this year.

ahcg_logoThe logo on the right indicate the three Permaculture Principles of

  • Earth Care
  • People Care
  • Fair Share

and it has the All Hallows’ rainbow of hope and inclusivity superimposed on it.

Everyone is welcome to come and help though if you are a child you will need to bring an adult that you can supervise! Do bring gardening gloves and tools if you have them.

We also need the following:

  • palletes to build compost heaps
  • wooden stakes for marking out plots
  • fruit and vegetable plants – if you are able to propagate some of your own at home that we can use that would be brilliant!
  • learners and teachers of gardening skills
  • ideas

Do come and join us, we will make sure that the kettle is kept hot!

All Hallows’ Community Garden Project

20121113-090636.jpgWe are developing plans to turn the church gardens into a community based project based on permaculture principles that will allow members of the community to learn more about growing their own food. Our first meeting to discuss the project will be on Sunday March 10th at 1pm in the church cafe and then in the gardens themselves. If you are interested in joining us then please let me know or come along on that afternoon.

Permaculture Ethics 1: Earth Care

The first permaculture ethic I am going to look at is Earth care which can be summarised as “enabling all life systems to continue and increase”.

I sometimes think it strange that we, as Christians, don’t seem to value the Earth on which we live. We, like most of the the rest of the world’s population, continue to consume and treat the Earth as if it were a consumable resource, like toilet roll – when the roll runs out there will be another in the packet. But the truth is, there isn’t a packet, we only have one Earth, and if we use it all up then we will be in the ……

I think that part of the problem is that we don’t see the gorilla in the room because our focus is elsewhere, we are too busy counting things, we are not paying attention to our “home”.

As a person of faith, a seeker after truth, as a Christian, I believe that the Earth is part of “creation”. In other words, there is a power, a deity, a “god” who is ultimately responsible for bring everything into existence and sustaining it. All life is a gift from the creator, not to just me or just you, but to all things. All things are a gift to each other, we are all intrinsically linked, we are all parts of the whole creation. As such, I have a responsibility to treat all those gifts to me with care, and I have a responsibility to treat myself with care as a gift to the rest of creation.

I believe that Jesus did just that. He saw all creation, all people, all animals, plants, soil, water, food, everything, as God’s creation, as part of a giant gift economy, to be cared for, to be tended, to be loved, to be appreciated, to be valued.

Not to be consumed, abused, treated as of no or little value, commoditised, discarded.

So for me, the first Permaculture ethic, Earth Care, rings so true. It resonates with my faith and my being.

What is Permaculture?

As some of you will know (since I’ve talked about it so much!) I participated in a Permaculture Design Course earlier this year and many of you have asked me “what is Permaculture?” So I thought I would do a short series to explain it. In this first post I will give you the summary given by the Permaculture Association UK. I will then try to explain a little more in subsequent posts and why I think it is so relevant to my faith.

Permaculture Explained from “Permaculture Works” by the Permaculture Association

Permaculture works with nature to make a better world for all. By observing the natural world we can see that there are a set of principles at work.

Permaculture design uses these principles to develop integrated systems to provide for our needs of food, water, shelter, energy and community in ways that are healthy and efficient. Through permaculture design we can improve the quality and productivity of our individual lives, our society and our environment.

Permaculture has an ethical basis:

  • Earth care – enabling all life systems to continue and increase
  • People care – enabling access to the resources people need for a good quality of life
  • Fair share – limits to population and consumption – to share resources for Earth care and People care.

Twelve permaculture design principles allow us to creatively re-design our environment and behaviour in a world of less energy and resources. They are universal – how they are applied vary greatly from project to project:

image1. Observe and interact – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

image2. Catch and store energy – “Make hay while the sun shines

image3. Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach

image4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation

image5. Use and value renewable resources and services – “Let nature take its course

image6. Produce no waste – “A stitch in time saves nine“, “Waste not, want not

image7. Design from patterns to details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees

image8. Integrate rather than segregate – “Many hands make light work

image9. Use small and slow solutions – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall“, “Slow and steady wins the race

image10. Use and value diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

image11. Use edges and value the marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well beaten path

image12. Creatively use and respond to change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be

I hope to expand on these ethics and principles in further posts but if you can’t wait talk to me or visit:

The Permaculture Association

Permaculture Principles

Permaculture, soil, soul and society

I’ve been reading around the topic of Permaculture for many years but it took until the beginning of this year when my wife showed me an an advert for me to sign up for a Permaculture Design Course, the first step towards being recognised as a Permaculture practitioner.

The Permaculture Association describes Permaculture in the following way:

Permaculture works with nature to make a better world for all. By observing the natural world we can see a set of principles at work. Permaculture design uses these principles to develop integrated systems that provide for our needs of food, shelter, energy and community in ways that are healthy and efficient. We can use permaculture design methods to improve the quality and productivity of our individual lives, our society and our environment.

Permaculture is not just about growing plants to feed us, it is also about the buildings we live in, the organisational structures we set up, it is about our society and it’s relationship to the environment around us. In fact, Permaculture ethics summarise this:-

      Earth care
      People care
      Fair share

Permaculture Ethics and Principles

I have also been a regular reader of Resurgence since re-discovering E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. Satish Kumar summarises the the philosophy of Schumacher and Resurgence with the phrase “Soil, Soul, Society”.

As I reflect on my Permaculture studies, other readings and my faith I think that these are excellent ethics for our time. If we need a new emphasis for our times it has to be life giving, life enhancing, for people and planet. Our current economics and global politics seem to be geared up to making the minority rich at the expense of the poor and “sod the planet”. Caring for our planet, caring for it’s inhabitants and sharing the abundance of natural wealth in a sustainable way seems to me to fit in so much better with my understanding of Christian faith than the “money for nothing” route that our society and current banking system seems to be pursuing.

Over the next few years I intend to investigate further how I can apply Permaculture ethics and principles to “Soil, Soul and Society”. If you want to know more or want to join me on this path do chat to me or follow my own personal blog.