Winter Salad Garden

Aim: To create a planting scheme in my garden to grow salad leaves and other greens during the winter months.

Date: July 2020 to March 2021

Client: Personal project

Status: Completed

Principles: Mollison

Framework: Appreciative Enquiry

Tools: Visioning, Sketch / Mood Board, Client Interview, Descriptive Words Activity, Zoning, Plants Analysis, Yields Analysis, Site Analysis, Site Plan, Ground Plan, Ethics Analysis, Principles, Monthly Action Plan, Systems Analysis, Picking Chart Month by Month.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture ethics?

People CareEncouraging my family to try new food and explore new flavours.

Accessing healthy food close to home.

Encouraging my family to get outdoors in the winter months.

Increased connection to the natural world by working outside in the garden.
Earth CareEnvironmental benefit of organically grown local food.

Reduced plastic waste as a result of growing own food.

Increased biodiversity in our garden.
Fair ShareReduced reliance on supermarkets for my family as a result of growing food.

Allowing us to explore notions of sustainable food at home.

Allowing my family to reclaim aspects of the food system.

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do.Allowing me to further develop my skills around land based designs.
Build links to the Permaculture community.Sharing process and documentation via social media and design group. Also sharing within my Guild.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma.Developing my mapping skills further, and also my design skills around a land based design.

Resources / Support

  • Salads The Year Round – Joy Larkcom
  • How To Grow Winter Vegetables – Charles Dowding
  • Real Seeds
  • Design Forum
  • Permaculture Guild
  • Diplomas Group on Facebook
  • Permaculture Association – Knowledge Base
  • Design Web – Looby Macnamara

Context

My family live in a typical terraced house in Lancashire with a small garden. Over the years that we have lived here we have developed this outdoor space with a mixed planting scheme focussed upon poly cultures so that the garden meets the needs of all family members (2 adults and a 5 year old) and various visiting birds. As part of this we have developed a planting regime for salad leaves, which means we are self sufficient for much of Spring, Summer and early Autumn. The intention of this design was to develop a further plan to provide salad leaves and other greens for us to eat during winter.

In terms of my family’s involvement in the design:

  • I developed the plan and planting, I also maintained the planting over the winter months.
  • My partner undertook other general maintenance, planning and planting work in the wider garden in the winter months. He also built many physical aspects of the garden such as the raised bed, though not specifically for this design.
  • My son pitched in and helped as and when he fancied! He also enjoyed playing in the garden whilst other members of the family worked outside.
  • All of us harvested, cooked and ate crops from the garden!

You can explore a selection of images of our garden in the gallery below.

I decided to use Appreciative Enquiry as a framework for this design. It is a framework that I read about in Jasmine Dale’s Permaculture Design Companion and I felt that the simplicity of form would be well suited to this design. Originally it was used in leadership / organisational development as a strengths based tool to instigate change and to create a positive shared vision.

Dream

I created a simple Vision Statement outlining what I would like to create for my family as a result of the design. This was supported by six key elements that summarised the essence of what I hoped the design would provide for my family.

Next I undertook a Client Interview. As I was the client for the design I answered a series of questions about what I hoped to achieve for my family through the design. These questions focused upon:

  • Wants / Needs
  • Yields
  • Current Features
  • Potential Risks

I created a sketched Mood Board to think more about what I wanted from the design and about what I already knew about the space.

Discover

I began by undertaking a modified Zone Analysis to explore the initial elements that I had identified during the visioning aspect of the process. I thought about each in terms of:

  • How much each mattered to my family – the closer something is to the centre of the diagram, the more important it was.
  • How easy each would be to achieve – the closer something is to the cetnre the easier it felt to achieve.
  • How expensive / cheap each would cost to implement – the closer something was to the centre to cheaper it would be to achieve.

Once the points were plotted I joined the points to create a triangle for each of the initial elements. This gave a sense of which of these elements may be the easiest to achieve and which may be more difficult on that basis that the smaller and more equilateral the triangle, the easier the element would be to achieve.

Next I created a Yields Analysis for the design. This explored the following:

  • The primary yields I hoped the design would provide.
  • The secondary yields.
  • The system that may provide the yield – in this case either the planting scheme and / or the plant research.
  • Challenges that may mean the yield wasn’t achieved.

Alongside this I created a Site Plan and undertook a simple Site Analysis. The site analysis made use of the elements (ie water, air, fire…etc…) and was possible to do quickly and succinctly, as I already know the space well, not least due to the design process involved in creating the wider garden.

I created an initial Plant List detailing the different plants that could be grown to provide the yields we were hoping for within the spaces that were available.

Design

I created a second Plant List. This was more detailed than the first and explored the different varieties that I intended to grow, and the qualities they would bring to the garden. This was supported by a Planting Plan detailing what would be planted month by month in the garden.

I created a further Yields Analysis focussed upon specific plants. I did this as a mindmap, supported by a spreadsheet. The key for the mindmap is as follows:

  • YIELDS / FUNCTIONS = Boxes with hatched coloured background.
  • ELEMENTS = Zig zag boxes
  • PLANT CULTIVARS = Boxes without coloured background.

The spreadsheet details more clearly the functions that are provided by each element within the design.

Alongside this I created a visual Planting Plan showing where the different plants would be planted in the garden.

Finally I explored how Mollinson’s Permaculture Principles, and the Permaculture Ethics, are reflected in the design and how they cast further focus upon the different elements and features of the garden.

Deliver

I created a Systems Analysis to clarify what would be needed to sustain each element of the design and what yields amd outputs would be produced as a result.

I created a Timeline to outline what needed to be done and when in the garden.

I detailed what each member of the family would do within the garden.

L– Developed the plan and planting.
– Maintain the planting over the winter months.
– Harvesting.
– Cooking.
– Eating.
J– General maintenance.
– Wider planning and planting in the garden.
– Maintenance of built elements.
– Harvesting.
– Cooking.
– Eating.
R– Helping as and when.
– Playing in the garden.
– Harvesting.
– Cooking.
– Eating.

Evaluation

Here are a selection of images from the completed design. These were taken on the wettest of days in January! The images show the following (scrolling from the fill garden view using the right arrow:

  • The view from the back door over the garden.
  • Pots, coldframe, greenhouse and waterbutts on the patio behind the house.
  • Pots of mizuna, chard and endives.
  • Raised bed with cavolo nero, wild rocket, land cress and parsley.
  • Garden bed with curly kale and cavolo nero.
  • Coldframe with pak choi, Chinese cabbage, leafy celery and chard.
  • Old wooden drain pipes from the house made into pots to house claytonia, corn salad and mustard.

I created a table to document what was harvested each month in the garden – this can be seen below. I recorded harvests until March which was when Spring plants started to grow again and the new season was beginning.

To evaluate the design I also thought about the success of the design in relation to the design’s original aim, and the primary and secondary aims as identified during the design process.

Aim: To create a scheme in our garden to grow salad leaves and other greens during the winter months. The scheme should be quick and easy to implement and utilise existing features in the garden.

Productive winter gardenUntil the end of March we were still harvesting many items from the garden with something available to pick and eat most days. Most regularly we harvested herbs and elements for soups and stews. I stopped recording harvests after this as Spring plants started to grow again and the new season was beginning and much more was available in the garden.

We were able to harvest sufficient greens to make seasonal salads several times a week. This was achieved through the planting scheme that I designed.

Herbs on the kitchen windowsill were less important that I had envisaged – probably as they were summery flavours that we eat less in winter.
Salad leaves and salad growing in winterThroughout the winter until the spring we had managed to pick and eat salad leaves several times a week.

Most crops were planted at the start of the season – very little was planted successfully during winter. In reality growing in winter, even indoors, is very hard.

Next year I will grow much more in the late summer / autumn to reflect the previous point and to increase winter yields.

I will think about how to make more use of microgreens which weren’t included at all and could be really useful winter crops.

I did not think about seed collection and saving in the design, but have taken mizuna, chard and landcress seeds from the garden to use next season. Clearly this is a great reflection of the ‘yield is unlimited’ section.
Unusual and tasty cropsWe certainly harvested some unusual crops that we haven’t eaten before. These were unusual salad crops such as corn salad, land cress and claytonia.

We tried new and unusual cultivars we haven’t grown before. For example, we grew several new mustards which were delicious.
Knowledge of new and interesting cropsThrough research for the design I came across many crops which would grow well in our garden but which I have not grown before.

It was nice to try new things to grow which added variety to our winter diet. I loved land cress in particular.
Increased outdoor time to harvest and upkeepThe time taken to maintain and harvest from the garden has been minimal, however harvesting certainly means going out into the garden most days. This is something we are unlikely to have done otherwise.
Increased interest in the winter gardenIt is lovely to look outside and see things growing particularly for the more physical and structured crops like kale.

I would not have anticipated how much the garden would have attracted birds, particularly around the raised bed. This was a lovely additional yield!

The planting brought increased interest from slugs and snails – crops were really eaten in areas of the garden where there is normally not an issue. I presume this is due to the fact there isn’t much else for them to eat in winter.

Not all crops ended up growing in the location that was originally planned but this was not an issue.

What would you do differently in the garden next year?

  • Think about different herbs to grow in the kitchen that we may use more readily.
  • Grow much more in the late summer / autumn to increase winter yields.
  • Make more use of microgreens.
  • Continue to think of new and interesting crops to try.

Reflection

I used the format suggested within the Design Web to structure my reflection on this design.

Processes, tools, next steps…Personal reflections
What went well?
What were you pleased with?
The Appreciative Enquiry framework worked well for this design – I liked the simpleness of it and all the positive focus of the questions that it asks.

It was good to practice mapping again but this time on a small scale – this meant there was less pressure! I still have more to learn on this though.

I enjoyed exploring how to use the Permaculture Ethics as a tool to explore my design in more detail. It really brought clarity to what I wanted to achieve.
It was good to work for myself – again this allowed me to develop my design skills with less sense of pressure.
What didn’t go well?

There are still some small inaccuracies with my mapping but these were able to be modifed in Photoshop when the map was scanned.
I have a tendency to want to add more to my designs! I have tried to be more concise here but still used lots of tools. Maybe too many? Though final design doesn’t feel overdone.
Highlights

I really liked this framework and would like to use it again. I can see it would also work well for a social or person focussed design.

It has been lovely to develop a design for my own family.

I really enjoyed creating and using this winter garden!
Reflections going forwardWould still like to develop my mapping skills further and will explore ways to do that.



Will certainly use this framework again – was really effective for a simple design like this one.

I love making creative elements within the design / write up like sketches, word maps…etc… and intend to used more visual aspects in future designs.

I intend to explore more ways of making use of the ethics / principles more creatively and explore how they can bring different focus to designs.
Need to resist the temptation to over design and use too many tools! Some of the tools I used here really felt like they gave clarity and nuance to my thinking. For example the zoning tool gave a clear visual respresentation of the practicality of things that I hoped to achieve. Similarly the drawn planting plan gave a distinctive sense of what would go where in the garden. Some other tools felt practical, and may be useful if creating a design for a client, but creating a home garden they feel too much. For example, the yields and elements analysis could easily have been integrated into the drawn planting plan, and the different written planting plans could easily have been integrated into a single tool / activity.

Though I feel on a personal level there are too many tools used in this design friends who have read it and who are not growers or who do not have much knowledge of permactulture have commented that they really like the clarity and detail. I guess this raises questions around who the audience for a design is what they will benefit from seeing.