21st Century

Raised beds are a common feature of 21st century gardening. With their raised beds for easy access and low maintenance.

Below left to right is:

fennel, leek, cabbage, marigolds, beans

Fennel is very versatile, it tastes of aniseed, the bulb at the base of the stem can be chopped in salad, Bulb, stem and leaves can be cooked as a vegetable to added to stews and finally the seed can be used as an aniseed snack or stored to add to any cooking. especially some Chinese dishes.

marigolds and cabbage are companion planted. The smell of the marigold is supposed to deter the cabbage white from laying eggs and the resulting destructive caterpillars. May also help keep white fly away. Click here for a list of companion plant pairings.

The bed below is the dig in red bed

Green manure crops such as mustard, kale or clover can be sown to keep weeds at bay while ground is not in use and provide nutrients and humus for the soil when dug in. In this case Crimson Clover Trifolium Incarnatum is being used as its roots host nitrifying bacteria which help fix nitrogen in the soil so promoting healthy lush green growth of the next crops.

Also in this bed are some dwarf French Beans and Broad Beans. These will be cropped but dug in afterwards as they too have nitrifying bacteria in root nodules.

Patio Vegetable Wall

Under development coming soon.

The idea is to allow people with little garden space or access to grow some of their fruit, vegetables and herbs very cheaply. You can buy wall pockets but they are usually expensive as are kits to grow potatoes in tubs or bags. A south facing wall is ideal but anything from east through south to west is fine, a northerly aspect to the wall will mean constant shade, slower growth and cropping and possibly ‘leggy’ plants trying to climb to the light.

How to make a wall

Look for 1 ton polypropylene builders merchants bags. These are often used to deliver, sand, stone etc and are no longer re-usable due to health and safety regulations so beg then for free. Cut out the bottom and unpick the side seams to give you 5 panels. Get a very large needle and polypropylene garden string. You can now fold down the top 10cm and stitch a double thickness top band which can either be screwed to a wall or fence or used as an open ended tube to slide on to a support frame. The bottom edge is then folded up10cm short of the seam and stitched either side and up the middle. You now have a 2 pocket bag which you can attach to your wall by the method chosen above. Make as many as you want for your wall.

These same builders bags can be used to make bags to stand on the ground at the base of the wall. I would suggest halving their width both to save your space and to allow you close access to the wall pockets mounted on the wall behind and above these to a height you can easily access to water, tend and pick. Alternatively use garden tubs.

So looking face on you will now have a row of tubs or bags along the foot of the wall, fence or support structure. With rows of pockets going up the wall to a height to suit you. Note you need to plan what you are going to grow at each level so that you space pockets out vertically so a taller crop below does not overwhelm the crop above. Why not consult companion planting pairs to help control pests or encourage growth.

How to grow with the wall

Fill pockets and tubs or bags with moist compost and start planting. Here are some suggestions but feel free to try growing food you like:-

In the tubs or bags on the ground.

2 – 3 Runner beans or 6 peas can be planted on both the left and right if you give them a cane to grow up. Secure the cane top to the edge of the top pocket. You could even swap in a sweet pea or 2 in place of a bean or pea to get a splash of color and scent not to mention attraction of insects. The runner beans can be red flowered, red and white flowered or the bright purple flower stem and pods of purple podded beans. In the rest of the space in the bags/tubs you can grow carrots, parsnip, swede, cabbage, cauliflower or herb rosemary, fennel,. Carrots can be sewn in a single line. Do not worry if too close as they will push out as they grow and you can start cropping baby carrots for salad so thinning out the remaining main crop.

In the top row of pockets

Crops with a trailing nature making it easier for you to pick. Trailing strawberriestrailing tomatoes, chili peppers, 1 cucumber(preferably to one side where you can train it out and away from plants growing up.

Other pockets

Herbs, oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram etc. These are Mediterranean plants and like free draining soil and would prefer at least 25% sharp sand or grit mixed in with the compost.

Onions, shallots, dwarf french beans, radish, lettuce, rocket….

Care and watering. Design your planting to put plants which like similar conditions together. Herbs and tomatoes are not a good match as toms like regular watering with roots never drying while Mediterranean herbs are happy with spells of hot dry sunny conditions.

If you are likely to be away and unable to water every other day then plan ahead and mix some water retaining gel with the compost for most plants or recycle pop bottles. Drill small holes in the base 3 or 4 (1 – 1.5mm) and bury the bottle in the centre of the pocket about 10-14cm deep. Fill the bottle with water when watering and put the top back on. This slows water exit and allows water to seep out over 2-3 days. Play with size and number of holes to suit your compost. Once every week or two you may have to agitate the bottle to free the holes from clogging up.

Feeding This is important as compost only has a few weeks worth of nutrients. Fertilizers have NPK proportions on the box. Careful with nitrogen the N and first number as this will put on a lot of leafy growth which is the last thing you want. P and K phosphorus and potassium are needed to produce flowers, fruit, tubers etc and are good for your crops. The easiest is to buy a tomato feed and apply as per label every other week once flowering has started. Or for free keep a water butt in which you put an armful of comfrey or/and stinging nettles every month. (Take out the old rotted and put on the garden or on top of potato bag as mulch before adding new and more water.) One the water is 3 weeks old dilute 50% with 50% tap water. Keep a top on the butt as it smells and may attract midges otherwise.