As we’re approaching the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and share the successes, failures and lessons learned. There was so much that I’ve broken the post into two parts, so expect a second on the crops and harvest soon. In the meantime here are the main projects of the year:

Thermal mass pond

We added a thermal mass pond as an experiment to both attract wildlife, and use the sun’s heat to warm the soil around the vegetables. From a wildlife perspective it was a huge success with frogs, newts, snails and more in the first season. It was great to see all the tadpoles, and watch them grow into little frogs hopping around the place. How well the thermal mass affected the plants was harder to tell – you can read the full post here.

Cordon fruit trees

The long right side of our garden is north facing, being in the northern hemisphere this makes it the shadiest part of the garden. There were already some large strong 6ft high posts in the ground which the previous owner had trained plants up, so I researched shade tolerant fruit tree varieties, stretched wires between the posts and planted the trees as cordons. Obviously they won’t yield as large a harvest in this shady position, but, better to have something productive than an empty space against our neighbours coniferous hedge. After reading around I chose four varieties – Merryweather damson, Victoria plum, Conference pear, and a Keswick Coddlin cooking apple. I believe all these are self-fertile, fairly hardy, shade tolerant and heavy cropping so hoping for good things to come. I underplanted the cordons with Comfrey to boost fertility – I’ll ‘chop and drop’ this several times a year to increase organic matter in the soil.

Willow weaving workshop

As a gift from my parents, I was able to go on a fantastic workshop learning to make willow garden structures. Jay Davey was a great tutor and really taught me how to work with the materials, much improving on my previous efforts. You really can’t beat learning a skill first-hand from an expert. I’ll definitely be making more garden structures with this method. It‘s such an enjoyable process, almost meditative, and they just look beautiful in the garden. You can read the full post here.

Bee habitat

We installed a ‘bee hotel’ (pre-made solitary bee friendly habitat) which was promptly filled as seen by the mud used to block the ends of the bamboo tubes. I was amazed at the different colours of clay the bees used, varying in hues of red and grey. Later in the season I made more habitat from the hollow sunflowers stems once we’d harvested the seeds.