Moretonhampstead garden design - Evaluation and Design

Beneficial relationsips mindmap

I listed the elements that were already in the garden, and the ones that Olivia wanted added in a random assembly mindmap form, so i could link them together with beneficial and antagonistic relationship lines, to help me see what guilds there were, and how i could place things relatively for the best yields. For example, slugs and leaves were an antagonistic relationship, the water butt and raised beds were a beneficial relationship, so slugs should be kept from leaves, and the raised bed near the water butt. The elements i listed were - comfrey, rats, tyre potatoes, grass path, leaves, root systems from existing shrubs, caravan/office, herbs, compost heap, slugs, fruit, vegetables, shed, rockery, concrete walkway, cold frames, shady area, artichokes, raised beds, pond and hedge.

The design comes of age

The mindmap process gave me lots of placement and relationship ideas, which i used to update the original design map. I also broke down the vegetables, fruit and leaves into each type, and worked out where in the raised bed and border beds each would go, with a 4 crop annual rotation moving round the raised bed. I drew a new (still not to scale...) map with lots of colours and plant icons on it to demonstrate my plans for Olivia. I photocopied the map so i could keep a copy for myself. I also wrote out a staged implementation plan.

A brief tour around the design. longer version available here

CONCRETE/ZONE 1 - Exiting the kitchen on her way to the garden, Olivia walks along her concrete walkway, past pots of cooking herbs (close enough that she can easily nip out for them while cooking, and not get her feet wetted by the grass if its raining). The cold frame is also on the walkway, and just below is a bed of annual herbs, the ones that prefer to be damper, again they are easily reached from the walkway. One possible location for the compost heap is just off the walkway, so it is easy and convenient to put stuff into it even when it is blowing a Dartmoor hooley, and this placement also neatly uses the most shady part of the upper garden for something that does not need a lot of sun. Below the concrete walkway low maintenance perennial herbs grow tall and strong to be cut and dried each year.

RAISED BED - The bed border is made from 2ft splits of Larch from Steward Wood, which are arranged into a five segmented keyhole bed. The standard 4 bed rotation of brassicas-legumes-potatoes-roots takes up 4 of the segments, with squash and pumpkins replacing potatoes, which are efficiently grown in tyres instead. The fifth segment (the one closest the steps and the kitchen) holds salads and leaves and edible flowers. The soil in the bed is not ever trodden on, and the keyhole incursions allow access to the beds and vegetables. There is a path all round the outside of the bed.The stool of a leylandii i cut down to the ground is located in one of the incursion keyholes, so hopefully the continuous treading will stop it growing back. A thick layer of cardboard is laid at the bottom of the bed, to keep back weeds (the ground underneath is predominantly grass), then compost is added on top, into which the new plants and seeds are added.

BEDS BELOW THE SHED - Underneath the shed, adjacent to the concrete walkway there is another salad and herb bed, and either 2 compost bays or potato tyres and a water butt in this relatively shaded area. The compost bays are made from 6 pallets nailed together. The central divider is removable for ease of turning the compost from one bay into the other. The two bay system means the maturing compost is kept separate from recently added material. Next to this, in the suntrap below the shed, cold frames nestle under fruit trees/vines. The tree/vine roots take advantage of the space under the shed for their root systems, and enjoy the sunshine and warmth caught by the shed. They need to leave space for the shed door to be opened for ventilation. The fennel is left to thrive in its chosen location under the caravan window.

HEDGELINE PLOTS - There is another salad and herb bed as you move from the top of the raised bed towards the hedgeline. Behind this is the alternate location for the compost heap, surrounded by potato tyres, which are located close to the compost heap for ease of filling. New compost is used each year in the tyres to reduce the risk of blight, and the spent compost is then added to the raised bed. The tyres also mulch the area around the compost heap. Behind the compost heap a row of comfrey makes available the compost nutrients that are trying to leach out and feed the hedge. The comfrey can be regularly cut and used as mulch. Further down the hedgeline is the location for runner beans and tall peas, given wind protection and possibly competition by the hedge behind them. Beyond the tall legumes is a patch of fruit bushes and perennial leaves, which are well mulched and low maintenance.

PERIFERAL BEDS - There is a spot for shade loving perennial leaves next to the pond, which are also kept well mulched. behind the pond is a set aside wildlife area, a zone 5 spot for the birds, frogs and insects, if the local cats leave them alone... The existing flower bed has some edible flowers added to it.

The design meets Olivia

Olivia decided she preferred having the compost further from the house, in case it got smelly, so the water butt and some tyre potatoes filled the concrete/shed corner instead. On reconsidering the design, i realised i had missed out the strawberries, onions and slug control measures. Olivia liked the design though, and with the tweak of putting strawberries into the salad bed next to the compost heap, it was time to move onto implementation.

2007 review of the evaluation and design phases