Moretonhampstead garden design - Design Debriefing

i did an on the job debrief 3 months into the process, in June 2004, and then a more detailed review in November, some of which i have lost. i have also done a fairly detailed 3-years-on review while writing up the design in April/May 2007, which has been very interesting and useful.


On the job debrief June 2004

I split the debrief into observations and evaluations, to be clear what was fact and what was mixed in with my thinking:


Some grass is getting into the sides of the raised bed.

Olivia has not done the jobs i thought she took on, and a lot of the annuals have not been planted.

Broad beans are doing well despite the close spacing, they haven't been predated by anything.

The peas have been a bit eaten by insects. The rocket is doing well.

The strawberries are not cropping very well, but the lettuces interplanted with them have.

The runner beans never appeared. Carrots all got predated. The beetroot has mostly been predated.

The radishes have survived a bit. The herbs are all doing well.

The spinach is doing well, but Olivia doesn't want to eat the holey leaves.



Are annuals a good idea in this garden? there are a lot of slugs around and not much maintenace is happening. More perennials are needed, like fruit bushes and perpetual spinach.

The raised bed is too high, and has needed a lot of compost. Will the cardboard really kill off the grass underneath? Probably it will break through next year. It is also very tempting to step across the centre of the raised bed when i want to get to the other side.

Why have i concentrated so much on annuals? Because i know more about them? Because their seeds are easier to get hold of? Because i have felt the cold hand of time on my shoulder?



Put in a step to aid passage over the raised bed.

Put in ground covers to build up soil over the summer and supress weeds.

Plant leeks, tomatoes, sea beet, nasturtiums and leaf beet spinach.

Plant up the raspberries with comfrey underneath them.


End of year review - November 2004

After a lot of procrastination i arranged to meet Olivia the weekend before i went off traveling for 2 months in Italy. I had been meaning to do a debrief with her for ages, but fear of criticism had held me back, until the power of my Italy deadline gave me enough oomph to get on with it.

So we met up and i asked her some questions, and we turned the compost together. I also did a bit of weeding and wrote up some quick notes on paper. I then elaborated those notes in December, on a balcony in the Tuscan hills where i was dog and house sitting for someone. Unfortunately one of the 2 pages of notes from the meeting with Olivia had disappeared somewhere on the journey from her house in Moretonhampstead to the house in Castiglioncello Del Trinoro, so those ideas and learnings may be lost forever to posterity. I did a PMI exercise on the one remaining sheet, and then pulled out a few of the elements that were interesting onto mindmaps. I noted that i would like to learn some more debriefing tools as well.

Plus Minus Interesting
The raised bed border aesthetics are much admired Tomatoes went in too late and didn't fruit 1 spinach plant was still going in November
Spinach and broad beans grew well - not slugged Runner beans didn't even get above the ground Leaf beet was growing all over the place
Lots of worms in the compost Wires on the compost bin snapped on first attempt to move the pallet boards around The keyholes in the keyhole beds got quickly filled with pots
Sage, thyme and mint all doing well

Root crops and peas all got slugged

The second compost bay was too big - the rotted material didnt need that much space

Tree onions still going in strawberry bed.

Strawberries not high yielding (not enough compost?, bird predation?) The herbs got lots of attention


House renovation is going to obliterate most, if not all the work!!! A path next to the compost heap would aid the turning process
  The design requires more maintenance than is available Is the raised bed too big? it didnt get fully planted up
  I lost interest in the project quickly  
  The height and size of the raised bed meant it needed lots of compost to fill it. And grass was getting in around its edges. The clothes dryer also shaded it a bit.  

The items i pulled out for further analysis were - the raised bed and the herbs.

The raised bed was a considerable investment in terms of materials and time, yet it will perhaps only be used for one season as house renovations are going to change that part of the garden. Could i have forseen this, found out about it from the client interview? Did Olivia know it was going to happen? The sides of the bed were quite high, so it never filled fully with compost, and looked a bit funny. The compost needed a lot of time to seive and bag at the abandoned community composting site, the other option was to buy it from Proper Job, which would have cost a lot. The time the raised bed took meant i had less time to spend on planting and nursing the other beds.

The herbs did very well. They were easily reached from the concrete walkway. They were also easily procured from the local Coop in Moretonhampstead (a zone 1 shop!). The plants were hardy and low maintenance, and planted in good locations for their needs - a rocky south facing slope. They were easily utilised by Olivia, quick to harvest and an ongoing resource through the summer, rather than a one time harvest. They did not get eaten by slugs either.

I also suggested a few ideas to her during this process - to learn from another friend of mine's sluggy garden in Moretonhampstead, which ran on very little maintenance: it consisted of herbs, fruit trees, comfrey, tricornered leek and tree onions. The other idea was to add edible flowers into her flower garden, preferably perennial/robust self seeders.

Onto the 2007 review, which includes a review of this review...