Originally I set up this area of the garden with two big beds of mixed annual vegetables, flowers and herbs which left a nice sized area for the chicken arc to be moved around. A few years later the chickens moved to a larger ‘permanent’ area under the old Bramley apple tree, making way for a wildlife pond and three raised beds. We lost the beautiful old apple tree last year which gave my husband the opportunity to build a workshop. So the chickens moved down into the forest garden, a joint workshop and potting shed (for me) appeared, and I gained two new cold frames and an extra three raised beds.
These beds were mainly annual vegetables, edible cutting flowers and some herbs, so over winter they are nearly empty and I top them up with home made compost. Gradually, though, the annuals are being replaced with perennials: ocas (a lot of ocas) rhubarb, fennel, chamomile, lavender and mint along with self seeding edible flowers like borage and nasturtiums. There will be even fewer annuals next year.
Recently I’ve noticed that quite a few permaculture and forest garden blogs mention worm towers. I was inspired to make my own after reading a post in one of my favourite ones Our Permaculture Life which is based in Australia, but the principles can be applied to edible gardens in Cornwall, it’s just a case of researching the suitability of plants. Surprisingly most will adapt to our climate very well and it is not too tricky to find alternatives. (eg Morag uses some varieties of perennial spinach which would not survive here but there are perennial spinach plants such as Caucasian Spinach and Good King Henry which will do well.) The worm towers seem a really good idea. They are basically mini compost bins which do not need emptying as the worms carry the goodness down into the ground for you. Composting in-situ!
For each worm tower I used a length of 150mm x 500mm plastic pipe and a terracotta saucer for a lid. I then (by ‘I’ I mean my husband as I can’t be trusted with power tools) drilled some holes randomly around the bottom 30cm of pipe to allow worms, moisture and goodness through.
Next I dug a hole approximately 30cm deep and ‘planted’ the pipe vertically into the hole and refilled around to keep it upright. All the drilled holes are hidden below the soil and the top 20cm of pipe is sticking out of the ground.
I half filled the worm tower with kitchen scraps, cardboard and newspaper and added some worms that I collected from the compost bins. Most people recommend buying composting worms online as you need about fifty for each tower. However, I thought I would initially try to find enough from my own garden as they have found their own way here, so are suited to the conditions and they will multiply by themselves. Hopefully I won’t have to resort to buying any. Then I just watered the tower well and covered it with the saucer.
I ended up making one for each raised bed in the potager, and I think they look quite cool sitting in amongst the vegetables and herbs.