An apple a day...
by Wade Muggleton
Station Road PC Garden is a domestic scale design based on 1950’s ex local authority semi. It is an 80ft by 40ft back garden and a 40ft by 30ft front garden and our aim was to produce as much homegrown produce for our own use as possible.
We grow around 30 types of fruit and 20 odd types of vegetables. We have chickens, two ponds, solar panels, two greenhouses and a water harvesting system involving six water butts and an underground tank. We also try and incorporate wildlife aspects for pollinators, a pond for frogs, newts and toads, insect houses etc; the hope being wildlife does our pest control for us.
When we started our permaculture design in 2002, we had no children. It was focused on food production for two people. Now we have two children, aged 11 and 7, so the balance has changed. We’ve made some elements child friendly, such as adding crops that children like, like strawberries and peas.
I have a learnt a few lessons on small-scale household PC. For fruits and vegetables, it is important to get the balance right between what you grow and what you need or use. In the past, we had vast crops of currants and gooseberries but realistically, we were not using as much as we had. Now, we grow more potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, salad leaves - all of which get used. The key is to analyse what your household uses and get the right balance for production to meet that. Storing and preserving is also a big part of maximizing cropping.
We now grow less than 26 types of fruits as some of the fruits we used to grow proved to be not worth the bother. Peaches, for example, do not do well at 600ft in Shropshire, and our cranberries died. Our Kiwi has also never fruited, and Goji berry didn’t suit our taste so they have also fallen on the wayside. However, we now have 105 varieties of Apple between our orchard and garden, 9 varieties of pear, and 6 varieties of plum. We also have apricots, raspberries, currants, blueberries, blackberries, fig, and rhubarb, to name a few.
I still believe that ‘growing your own’ isn’t about self-sufficiency. It is not possible. For example, I cannot grow olives, bananas, and oranges - all three I like to eat and would not give up. What we can do is be self-sufficient to varying degrees in the things we can grow, and make sure to buy fair-trade or organic for things we can’t grow.
Start small, and remember that everything you grow yourself doesn’t have to come from somewhere else. So even if it’s salad leaves in a window box, container gardening, an allotment, or sheet mulching the lawn into a vegetable plot, do what works for you, because not only is it good for the planet, but is also great fun and very satisfying.
Find out more about Wade's LAND centre in Shropshire on our website.
Wade has also recently published The Orchard Book, an excellent resource for anyone looking to create their own orchard. It takes you through the design planning stage, how to value and use the edges for wildlife, harvesting and much more, including an insight into the fascinating history of apple growing in the UK.