Over the weekend we headed down to Duffcarraig Camphill Community in Wexford for their annual open day. It’s a fascinating place and worth the visit. Then on Monday we headed on a tour to Mountusher and Kilmacurragh Botanical gardens in Wicklow. These trips got me thinking about garden design.
Below is the last updated drawing of my own garden in Dublin which started in 2011 and shows in detail all the elements to the garden.We are leaving quite soon so I,m going to start putting the beds to green manure for the winter in the hope that whoever lives here next might take it on. It’s been a worthwhile exercise compiling this and taking stock as there are many lessons learned.
Three years ago when we moved in, it was the potential of the space in the garden that excited me the most. It was by no means the perfect situation to garden in. ,North facing with tall Leyland cypress on the western boundary , long and narrow.
Here is a sketch from back in 2011 just after I had put in the small greenhouse. At the time I had an allotment in Beechhill where I spent weeks preparing the beds and covering with straw only to have most of my seedling devoured by the slugs. I remember one night ringing laura at about 11.30 and explaining that my attempts to save the crops were futile as even the onions had 4 or 5 slugs per leaf. At this stage I had asked the landlord would it be ok to put in a raised bed or two to which he said sure work away do what you like, so I decided to focus my efforts at home where I could keep a closer eye on things. The allotment being 30minutes from home was,nt really working for me. I suppose my ambitions suited very much having the living and gardening spaces together even though I had notions that this could work separately. It took some time to see the potential of the place.
The first thing I made was this greenhouse and it went from there.
I was thinking there recently how would I go about making a new garden and what have I learned by going this one ? What are the elements of the design and how might they be arranged. In Permaculture layouts are always site specific and closely linked to Topography. After this the elements are arrange in proximity to habitation in order of most frequently visited to seldom visited. There are exceptions eg. composting area. Below is a little diagram to illustrate the idea of variety based on topography etc. One might imagine this as a cluster of habitation in a forest for example.
The is no such thing as a blank canvas in design the wind direction, topography, frost pockets, soil type, plant species etc all provide a start point.. IPM/ICM is now proving that beetle banks and wildlife corridors are the most effective ways at creating balance in a system so why not use this as a design idea.
This little doodle of a small holding was something I was playing with. I was thinking about light , wind and proximity .The house and the heart ( fire) is the centre of the design and is curved to track the sun during the day. This is arrange around a pond and flower garden to bring the pollinators in. Linked to the house a glasshouse for keeping a close eye on seedlings and tender plants. To the North of the house a 1/4 acre of food forest creating a buffer and then a series of gardens divided by hedges and wildlife corridors. To the south two large tunnels on a North south axis with outdoor crops grown between rows of top fruit and a few ponds and channels to keep the fowl moving about the place.
The next design Idea is for an urban garden and loosely based on the elements of my own garden. It’s 12metres wide allowing for 5 long veg beds and south facing.It’s for someone who wants to make a serious dent in the food bill with a mix of annual /perennial veg as well as a top, soft ,cane and bush fruit and a mini forest garden also. Compost making is celebrated here.(Eliot Coleman style). For home use you really don,t need much more space than this as there will be surplus.
This little idea is for a long narrow garden packed full of interest and surprise. Its only 4.2 metres wide.