Allotment slugs, circular beds and edible landscaping

Plot 103 is literally taking shape, and the shape is circular! It’s caused a little debate in our allotment neighbours (along with our scarecrow changing gender from Mrs Green to Green Man!) and I’ve spent quite a lot of time talking to people about what we’re trying to do and why. That means OH has spent quite a lot of time doing the actual tough work of digging and shaping the growing areas and the end result, yesterday, was the emergence of the second circular bed.

It looks great (yes, the cardoons are in the wrong place and need to be moved, but that’s where they were when we got the plot and we haven’t been able to relocate them yet) and echoes the shape of the round, tiered strawberry planter. The brassica cage sits off centre in the circle (which is actually something of an ovoid) and will be surrounded by edible planting.

The edible planting is starting to take shape too, although it’s still very low and unexciting to look at right now. One of the problems with starting an edible landscape from scratch is that nearly everything goes in as seedlings, so for the first year the planting is rather flat in profile. We’re working around what we decided to keep in place for at least a year: the cardoons, the redcurrants and the gooseberries and trying to build height and interest as soon as we can with fast-growing tall plants like hollyhocks, sweetcorn and mountain spinach and through annual climbers growing up screening. From next year some perennials like lavender, small rose bushes, fruit bushes and perennial broccoli will give structure through the year while others, like the cardoons and rhubarb, will give dramatic ‘splash shapes’ in summer and then pretty well vanish in the winter.

Anyway, in the picture you can see a planted area in front of the brassica cage that contains (from foreground to background) Redbor kale, fennel, leek, red cabbage, white poppy, iris, lavender, patio rose. In the metal hoop is another dwarf lavender seedling and a sprinkle of cornflower and other wildflower seeds. This planting area has been finished off over the weekend with a few nicotiana seedlings and a couple of marigolds.

A primary idea is that the mixed planting encourages pollinators and a wide range of other insects but confuses pests (like leek moth and carrot fly) that find their host plant by smell and work through a row or bed of the same plant, destroying them all. Another key idea that informs the creation of an edible landscape is that is should be beautiful. Ours isn’t yet… but I hope it will be by the autumn.

Under one of the many bits of random metal, concrete and slab that are buried below the soil on plot 103 we found this monster. I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s a leopard slug. Urgh.

And I'm teaching a free workshop on writing about growing things on Saturday, if you're in Hove (East Sussex) and want to come along. It's first come, first served for around 20 people at Hove Library, New Church Road, starting at 11am and finishing at 1pm - I am bringing some allotment based baking to share at coffee break and there is a little writing competition to make it more fun!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Anonymous EdibleLandscapeDesign said...

It sounds very nice! I always like to see people doing things differently -- there's no law that says vegetables have to grow in square boxes or in straight lines (and of course, left to themselves, they never would). :)

May 31, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Cathy Jones said...

Lovely idea - elements of permculture too? I am trying similar ideas in my garden although I have stuck with the boring straight rows at my allotment. Good luck - I will follow your progress.

June 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes it is a leopard slug, they eat rotting vegetation so they are actually a help to the gardener

July 23, 2011 at 4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leopard slugs start out eating other slugs, other garden pests and rotting vegetation. When they are done with that, they start eating everything else, i.e., your flowers, vegetable plants, etc.

June 20, 2012 at 9:33 AM  

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