Coed Hills

I went to visit Coed Hills today, a permaculture community near Cardiff. They have somewhere between 70 and 90 acres of land, so a great contrast to my own little plot. However I came away with lots of inspiration, plus some plants – Coed Hill tomatoes (seeds from open pollinated plants, so they may turn out to be anything!), a tree lupin, perennial onions and some strawberries.

Perhaps the most immediately useful observation was that strawberries create self-mulching ground cover. This leads me to the decision to plant more strawberries in the fruit cage as both a crop and weed suppressor. And with the gift of some plants, I can start straight away.

I also saw tomatoes planted in a polytunnel with a clover ground cover below them. Again there is a mulching effect, plus the clover plants fix nitrogen and boost soil fertility. This is an approach that I will suggest to Perkin for his big greenhouse.

We looked at their young woodland garden, which is bursting with fruit frees, soft fruit bushes and a wide range of ground cover – the trees are small as yet, but will grown into a beautiful habitat. One of the ground cover species was poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii). I used to have lots of this in my previous garden, but not in the current one: I must introduce it, as it is particularly attractive to those most beneficial of insects the hoverflies.

I was also reminded that I must reintroduce borage (Borago officinalis) into my garden (it was there but seems to have disappeared). It has beautiful blue flowers that bees love and that can be used in salads and, traditionally, are put in Pimms.

I also saw the most beautiful tree: a black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla) that I will certainly consider for future planting (and I may be able to persuade Perkin to have one in his garden… thus achieving at least vicarious ownership).

I could go on, but really what I wanted to highlight was that visits like this can be a real source of inspiration. Permaculture gardens are particularly valuable because they often reveal novel approaches to problems and inspiring uses of resources. I also find that permaculture people are very generous with their time, seeds, plants and ideas. So, thank you to the folks at Coed Hills for the hospitality and abundant cups of tea – I will see you again later in the summer.

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9 Comments

  1. Maya Panika

     /  June 19, 2012

    You can have some of my borage if you want, it’s seeded itself everywhere, I’m doing constant battle with it. 🙂 I love visiting permaculture projects, or just walking around with someone who really knows their stuff, terrifically inspirational.

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    • I can’t understand why my borage disappeared – it was happily self-seeding every year and now, nothing.
      And you’re right – an expert is a precious thing… thanks to Rich at Coed Hills who showed me round.

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      • Maya Panika

         /  June 19, 2012

        I’d love to visit one day, I particularly love forest farms but all the good ones are too far away. I wonder what happened to your borage? Mine dies every year but it always leaves a ton of wee ones behind. I weed them out, pot them into plugs and give them away and just keep one – my garden’s too tiny to take more than one.

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  2. Deano

     /  June 19, 2012

    The elder should take really easily from cuttings, so just note where they are, and snip a few hardwood cuttings in the Autumn. I’m using clover as a groundcover, and am growing soy with tomatoes, for added nitrogen. I also quite fancy growing toms up a frame of Siberian pea. N fixing, bee forage, edible seeds, and support structure.
    Wishing you well
    Deano

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  3. Thank you for visiting my blog. I found your post on Coed Hills very interesting, particularly the way they use ground cover. At my allotment in Brisbane we use a layer of straw mulch to deter weeds and to keep the ground cool in the summer. Eventually of course it breaks down too and adds humus to the soil. I will be following your blog with interest.

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    • Hello – the problem here with mulch is that it encourages slugs and (at Coed Hills) voles. The latter are causing them some problems because they are ring-barking the fruit trees… we talked about temporary mulching, but I think that ground cover plants might be better (although they still provide cover for rodents). As for the slugs, my chickens keep them under control in my garden, but I am careful not to mulch too much. We rarely have a problem in the soil overheating in Wales!!!

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  4. sounds beautiful!

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