Nooks and crannies

One of the key principles of permaculture is to ‘observe and interact’. Having lunch or a cup of tea in the garden can give you a great opportunity to notice things that you might otherwise miss, and to learn more and more about how the garden actually works.

Over time I’ve noticed a distinct pattern in regards to the growth of new seedlings in our front garden. Those which are closest to the house grow much faster than those further away. This is true not only within the area of a garden bed but even within the space of a seedling tray, less than 40 cm long.

I’ve concluded that there are several elements to the microclimate in this area that favours the plants nearest the house:

  • Warmth – the thermal mass of the north-facing house wall stores heat and re-releases it at night. Same goes for the paved path and the masonry walls of the raised garden beds. This gives spring seedlings a head start if they are directly exposed to it. But less heat radiates beyond the first line of plants, so they do dramatically better than their neighbours.
  • Shelter – the house also acts as a windbreak to protect the garden from cold southerly and south-westerly winds, and those plants that are nestled closest to it receive the greatest benefit. They suffer less from both the drying and chilling effects of winter and early spring winds.
  • Water – in spite of our best efforts, the plants nearest to the house probably get just that little bit extra hand watering on hot days because they are so easy to reach from the shady comfort of the vine-covered pergola.
  • TLC – e.g. they are first in line for us to spot any caterpillars that might be munching them, or fallen leaves that are flattening them when young, and come to the rescue.

So having a cup of tea in the garden is far from a luxury… it’s all part of the observation process that leads to more productive gardening.

What cosy corners have you observed in your garden lately?

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