The ‘Triangle Bed’

This is the first of a number of reviews I am undertaking this year.  In previous years I have always made a note of the time spent working in the garden and the amount of produce I have harvested as an indicator of the effectiveness of this means of gardening.  Having done this for a number of years I am happy in my own mind that I get plentiful edible rewards for a small amount of labour.  So this year whilst I have continued to record the time I spend, I have not recorded the weight of the harvests.  Even if I were to record the weight of the harvest it would be much less than the maximum amount that has grown because in a multifunctional and largely perennial garden:

  • Some plants are saved to make more for future years, eg many of the alliums (onion family plants)
  • Some plants are shared with other people
  • Some are more productive than I actually can use eg kales and other greens
  • Some harvests I just don’t get round to – I haven’t yet tried eating cardoon leaves although I fully intend to each year.
  • Some harvests I leave for other creatures such as some raspberries for birds.

I think it is important to assess what I am doing in some way and decided to review the garden bed by bed on the basis of what function(s) I had intended for each bed and the plants in it to perform.

This first review is of what I call ‘The Triangle Bed’ and until just now when I went out to measure it I was under the impression that it had three sides.  Actually it has five!  They measure approximately 6 x 4 x 3 x 2.5 x 2.5 metres.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Triangle Bed June 2016

It is the first bed you see on entering the property and lies alongside the house.  Therefore one of the main purposes is for it to look good.  However, that is not sufficient for me!  I want multifunctional beds as well as multifunctional plants.  To ensure that something is living / growing all year round which is important for fertility I have planted shrubby perennial bushes, small trees and herbaceous perennials.  They also provide some measure of structure.  Some herbaceous perennials are for flowers and others for their edible parts.  Importantly there are herbs for the kitchen.  I also use the bed for looking after plants that I want to watch over more closely when starting to grow them.  Altogether there are 57 different plants growing here.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Triangle Bed June 2016

I have prepared a table below to catalogue the plants and their intended purpose and where applicable whether that was achieved.  A few brief conclusions are given at the end.

For the table the purposes the plants can have are:

  • Edible
  • Flowering
  • Medicinal properties
  • For biomass – at the end of the season, or sooner if they are too large for their space I cut back plants and mulch the ground where they grew, feeding organic material to the soil.
  • To supply nitrogen
  • To help break up the soil which is dominated by clay and stones.
KODAK Digital Still Camera

Marjoram in Triangle Bed August 2016

 

My observation is that every plant that flowered attracted a good deal of insect life and was also visually delightful so my notation of ‘flowers’ in the table is intended to reflect this dual purpose (unless noted otherwise the flowering period is summer).

Name Purpose When sown and notes
Root vegetables    
Burdock Edible root

Flowers

Self set 2016

Not harvested, one has seeded from plants elsewhere this summer

Chinese artichoke Edible root Planted 2016

Some shared and will harvest some later in year

Evening primrose Edible root

Flowers

Planted 2015

Roots not tried yet, seeds harvested for next year

Jerusalem artichoke Edible root Probably planted 2014

Will harvest later in year

Mashua Edible root, but planted as ground cover Planted 2016

After a slow start, did cover ground.

Oca Edible root, but planted as ground cover Planted 2016

After a slow start, did cover ground.

Parsnip Edible root, plant left to flower for the seed 2 self set 2016 and 1 planted previous year

New plants, not harvested, the other set seed which has been harvested and sown.

Salsify Edible root

Flowers

Self set 2016

Not harvested, will leave to flower, tap root is helping to loosen compacted soil

Skirret Edible root

Flowers

Planted 2014

Not harvested yet, will be digging up and possibly moving later in the year.

Yacon Edible root A small plant that has only just reappeared in November.  Discovered in summer 2015 when I thought I had lost my crop (in someone else’s care over the winter).  This plant had overwintered in 2014/5 and again in 2015/6.
Onions (alliums)    
Allium hookeri Zorami Edible

 

Planted 2016

Not harvested, allowing to grow larger.

Allium nutans (blue chives) Edible

Flowers

Planted 2016

Not harvested, allowing to grow larger.

Allium senescens ssp senescens Edible Planted 2016

Not harvested, allowing to grow larger.

Allium walichii Edible

Flowers

Planted 2016

Not harvested, allowing to grow larger.

Day lily Edible flowers Planted 2014

Not harvested

Garlic Edible Planted 2015

All bulbs harvested and some replanted

Three cornered leek Edible

Flowers

Self set and just appeared for first time in this border
Fruit    
Blackcurrant Edible Planted 2014

Young plant, did not fruit.

Cherry, Cariad Edible Planted 2013?

Young tree, had a few cherries.

Jostaberry Edible Planted 2014

First year of berry production, not harvested as away and birds had them.

June berry Edible berries Planted 2015

Still a young plant, no fruits yet

Quince (type) Edible Planted 2015

Did not fruit

Edible greens and herbs  
Bay Culinary herb Planted 2015 as small cuttings, still very small but growing now.
Elecampane Herb

Flowers

Planted 2015

Attracted insects, attractive flowers

Fennel Culinary and medicinal herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Attracted insects, harvested for seeds, blue tits also eat seeds.

Hyssop Insect plant

Flowers

Planted 2014

Has attracted insects and looked lovely

Lamb’s lettuce Edible greens

Flowers

Self set 2016

Not harvested, only just appeared, currently tiny

Lemon balm Culinary and medicinal herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Harvested for herbal tea

Marjoram Culinary herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Not harvested, has attracted insects and looked lovely.

Parsley Culinary herb

Flowers

Self set 2016

Leaves harvested, not yet flowered (next year).

Savoury Culinary herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Attractive flowers

Sweet cicely Culinary herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Attractive flowers

Thymes Culinary herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Not harvested, has attracted insects and looked lovely.

Wall germander and hedge germander Culinary herb

Flowers

Planted 2014

Attractive flowers

Wild rocket Edible greens

Flowers

Probably self set one or two years ago.

Not harvested, more in the garden than we need.

Flowering plants    
Alchemilla mollis Attractive plant In the garden originally, self set in this bed
Annual flax Flowers

Seeds

Sown in 2016
Aquilegia Flowers Self set from neighbour’s garden plants

 

Bird’s foot trefoil Nitrogen fixer

Flowers

Self set in 2014
Bugle Flowers transplanted from elsewhere in garden 2014

 

Calendula Flowers Self set 2016
Californian poppy Late spring and summer flowers

 

Self set 2016

 

Cowslip Spring flowers

 

Self set 2014

 

Daffodil Spring flowers

 

Planted 2014

Attractive flowers

Dandelion Wild flower

 

Here already

 

Forget me nots Spring flowers

 

Self set 2015

Attractive flowers

Honesty Spring flowers

 

Self set 2016

 

Lungwort Early spring flowers Planted in 2015
Mallow Flowers Self set from neighbour’s garden plants

 

Nigella (love in a mist) Flowers

Edible spice

Self sown from previous years
Perennial flax (one white, one blue) Flowers

Seeds

Planted 2016
Rose x 3 Flowers

 

2 plants brought from previous garden planted 2014, another added the same year
Scabious Flowers Self set in 2015
Sweet William Flowers Self set from neighbour’s garden plants

 

Toadflax Flowers Probably brought from previous garden 2014

Attractive flowers

White clover Flowers

Nitrogen fixer

Present in garden before I arrived.
Others    
Acer Small decorative tree relocated from previous garden Planted 2013

Growing very slowly, looks attractive

Dock Wild plant

Tap root to break up stony soil

Leaves for accumulating nutrients

Here already

Leaves pulled when too large / encroaching on other plants and mulched on bed

 

My conclusions

Where there is room for tweaking or a different approach:

  • I could grow some larger plants to supply more biomass and also to raise the height of some of the flowers for aesthetic effect.
  • I tried sunflowers but they didn’t grow, couldn’t get established amongst the existing plants.
  • I tried to grow a celeriac bulb bought in the local market to hopefully get flowers and then seeds, but it rotted!
  • I need to include more nitrogen fixers.

 

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Triangle Bed June 2016

However overall I am very pleased with this bed.

  • It has had masses flowers from early spring throughout the summer and still has some in early November.
  • Almost all of these have attracted LOADS of insects, especially fennel and marjoram.
  • I have harvested a good quantity of garlic bulbs and some herbs for the kitchen.
  • There has been life all year round.
  • The plants with deep roots such as dock, burdock, dandelion, parsnip and fennel have helped to improve the soil structure by breaking it up a bit.
  • It has been very easy to maintain and I probably spent less time on this bed than any other.
  • The plants that I wanted to keep an eye on such as the new alliums were just by where I walk every time I come and go, so I could make sure they were safe.

 

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Alchmilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle) in Triangle Bed June 2016

KODAK Digital Still Camera

End of Triangle Bed June 2016

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Perennial flax and Californian poppy

 

About Anni Kelsey

Author of Edible Perennial Gardening and avid researcher into edible perennials and associated useful plants.
This entry was posted in biomass, Borderland Garden, Flowers, Fruit, Herbs, Perennial Vegetables, review. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The ‘Triangle Bed’

  1. narf7 says:

    Another brilliant post. Cheers for sharing your progress with us all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mortaltree says:

    You’re trying Allium wallichii! I am very interested in hearing about thais one specifically. I tried it and didn’t so much as get a sprout a year or so ago.

    I’m also quite intrigued in what N-fixers you use for the garden. Looking forward to it.

    Like

  3. Pingback: The ‘Triangle Bed’ — Anni’s perennial veggies – brusselfmdesign

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