February 2016 was the warmest month in recorded history globally, and here we are playing in a garden. How is that supposed to help?
What we eat has a tremendous effect on our health, but it also makes a difference to our global temperature. How? Consider this: if you buy a non-organic produce, grown in Kenya, you have applied fertilisers and pesticides which were made out of fossil fuels or made using their energy. The produce then went through the trip of a lifetime to get to the sorting and packaging facility, where it got put into a plastic bag with an appealing (get it? – ap-pealing – I know, I’m funny…) design to lure you to choose it instead of the other similar looking produce in another store. The plastic obviously was made out of oil, and the packaging facility and the store is heated with it too. Not to mention fuel for your car, unless you cycle or walk.
By now you surely got the picture, that ANY food produced in your own garden will not contribute to global warming. What it will contribute to is your health, and the happiness of your taste buds. There is a problem. A MAJOR problem. Time. You don’t have the time. You go to work to pay the mortgage, the bills, and the occasional holiday with the family. To live at an acceptable standard, both you and your partner work, and the school, or your parents help out with your children. How on earth are you supposed to grow your food?
Amit and Swapnaja both work 9 to 12 hour days in their respected jobs as instrumentation engineers for an international corporation. There have been many weekends when they did the same in order to ensure project delivery for their employer. They are proud of their work you could say.
They still want to grow their own food for reasons mentioned before. They care for the future that they contribute to building for their little daughter.
Permablitz is a day where friends gather together with a pre-meditated plan of action, and materials prepared to transform a garden into a productive one.
We met in their home on Saturday the 12th of March, and set out to prepare the growing space for their selection of about 20 veggies. We didn’t plant anything that day due to recent frost, but we did the following:
- cleaned the space of bricks, pots, and unwanted plants
- laid down cardboard to suppress the grass
- layered composted (three year old) horse manure, and last year’s leaves (mixture of oak and sweet chestnut)
- covered it with straw from a local supplier
- laid out paths with wood chips.
The team consisted of:
- The hosts – Amit and Swapnaja, who welcomed everyone with lovely Indian tea, and treats in the morning, and taste-bud-orgasm-inducing lunch later in the day. They obviously got their hands dirty too!
- The permaculture designer – Daniel (me), who prepared the outline, and suggested jobs
- Caroline – “hands-on-deck” doer who has never forgotten how to be a five-year-old. She also came with tools and gloves to help equip these less prepared (like me :) )
- Elliott – “the Titan” who using his boss’ van got the bulk materials delivered and got a workout in the process (he later described it as “light” duty – just a couple tons of manure shifted…). Elliott also used power tools to trim a large butterfly bush and ivy which were shading the back garden.
- Xenia – “the Eco Doctor” who apart of doing the manual labour has built a habitat for beneficial insects and small animals (frogs, newts, slowworms) who’s job will be to patrol the garden for pests.
- Debbie – another “hands-on-deck” person who worked tirelessly from beginning to end with a smile on her face all throughout.
- Rod – an experienced gardener who has been sharing his knowledge with us. Rod has grown the majority of his food for over thirty years.
- Amit’s friends – Deepak, Prasad, Aditi, Anish, and Anika
- Amit’s in-laws – who took a break from their farm in India to look after Amit’s daughter while they are at work. The lunch was Swapnaja’s and mom’s doing, and it was a-mazing!
Although the day has finished and the main garden has been built, there is more work to be done. Amit and Swapnaja will be sowing and planting up the beds in the days to come, and we still need to sort out chipping of the shrubs that were cut on site.
There are some lessons for us from this experience:
- the straw without pinning down wants to fly with the wind and now some of it can be found in neighbour’s gardens.
- to bring manure and leaves we drove up to fourty minutes one way, and then manually loaded the van. The time and fuel cost is something that I (the designer) need to address in future designs.
The general feeling afterwards was positive, and it gives hope that there are a lot of good people around us, who want to come together to build a better, tastier future.
There will be updates to it later, and after veggies have grown, the plan is that we could sit down for a soup together.
Here’s the plan we worked to:
A massive thank you go out to Redwood Tree Services headed up by Nick Rose without who’s help we wouldn’t have the use of the van and tools. MANY THANKS!
Another thank you goes to Zahir from We Love Woking for having me as a guest on his show on the Wednesday prior to permablitz:
As always thanks goes out to the Woking Borough Council for helping out with meeting space.