The ideas that this website is promoting are the Pallet divider and Wood chip sock and how they are combined into the super-combo U-Bend shaped “Open book planting bed“. All with the intention of helping the novice, the elderly and the time pressured plot owners to overcome early disenchantment by reducing failures. See current designs below.
Note: Planting success and growth is heavily dependent on the way water moves thru your planting beds. Get this right at the very beginning and you will have more successes than failures.
DEBUNKING RAISED BEDS (BOXED)
– I am with the old boys on boxed in “Raised beds” 🙁 , I think they are a red herring, a cul-de-sac of disenchantment, only to be used as carrot / parsnip, deep soil boxes on stony plots. IMHO they lead to stagnation of the transpiration cycle, saturated roots and poor root development during the crucial early spring period. They are a waste of expensive wood that within 2 seasons has rotted away slowly stealing valuable nitrates from your soil. During a rainy period, they retain the water saturation (anaerobic conditions around roots) for longer and then in the summer they dry out quicker due to the x4 sides of porous wood acting as a water evaporator. They are costly and take longer to construct and are more static, fixed in that position until the wood has rotted away, limiting your ability to rotate crops.
+ However boxed in “Raised beds” have got people thinking about and building alternative planting bed designs. If you are determined to build something out of wood then its not too much of a leap to have a go at building using a free (recycled pallet) and cleverly designed Pallet wood divider 😎 . That through science, completely overcomes the failings of boxed in “Raised beds” 🙁 .
DISCOURAGING THE “OPEN SOIL” APPROACH FOR NEWBIES.
– The ‘Dig-for’victory’ old boys are a dying breed unfortunately and are being replaced by my generation. Feckless and obsessed with the internet and the lastest fads. We do something for a year, find it “too hard” then throw it in bin. Unfortunately the macho (physically demanding) farming inspired turning-the-whole-plot-over approach doesn’t sit well with this new breed of allotmenteers. You end up with plots that have all the good top soil scrapped off and dumped at either end. Then this large expanse of open soil is left to be colonised by weeds. Then they get bored, discouraged and give up leaving the plot a little harder to return to productivity.
ENCOURAGING A SUNKEN, BED-BY-BED APPROACH, FOR NEW PLOT OWNERS… “SMALL MOVES, ELLIE, SMALL MOVES”
+ In the bottom North-east corner of your plot you should place your first U-Bend planting bed pointing towards the sun at 12 noon. Your next beds will radiate, a couple to your right (West) and then working your way up your plot (towards the south). You only ever open up as much soil, as you’ll actually be planting into.
PROMOTING THE “OPEN BOOK PLANTING BED” APPROACH
+ With Open book planting beds we only water indirectly either into the pallet divider void or along the wood chip sock. This encourages root development of the young plants in the drier soil in the middle of the bed. Their roots will naturally seek out the wetter zones. Longer roots equals more nutrient uptake and more robust plants. Think of a ladder with the parallel supports being the wet areas and the rungs being the plants.
+ Imagine the planting beds in this design as a long pillow that over the previous year has become flattened and has lost some organic content. We can’t improve all the soil across our plot but we can easily dress (add manure) to these narrow pillows of soil. As well as using our sharpened spade to chop them up and our hand fork to fluff it back up just prior to planting. Quickly turning over the part of the bed that you are going to plant into with the hand fork brings up some of the nutrient laden lower soil to the top. The bottom half of this pillow should also be sitting within the water table of our plot/
+ Understand that the grass paths & borders surrounding our Open book planting beds are equally important to their success as they retain the water level across your plot.
+ The overall U-BEND shape of this bed with its north-to-south orientation gives you three zones of differing moisture levels. An open soil area at the rounded mound end to grow crown type plants, e.g. Courgettes, Marrows. A wetter bed on the port side morning sun and a dryer bed on the starboard afternoon sun.
AIMS OF WEBSITE. MY DESIGN PRINCIPLES
+ One# Come up with ideas to improve growing success in the least physically demanding way so as to be inclusive. Always using the basic soil that your plot comes with. Try to break that early disenchantment. Then with these early successes your knowledge improves and you can then introduce techniques for improving your soil.
+ Two# The design principles for my ideas follow these basic rules. Always try to use recycled materials that are easily obtainable and are not dangerous (glass) or polluting or cluttering. Can either be burned at end-of-life (wood) or recycled (tin / plastic). Its easy to horde on a plot which can be unsightly and also create problems for the next owner. The size and proportions of the designs also need to be easy to handle. My pallet dividers were originally 1.2m but have now reduced them to 1.1 which makes them easier to handle as well as their being more pallets slats that are 1.1m in length. I try to keep to standard dimensions with the designs for attractiveness and uniformity. All my duck boards, pallet dividers and 8 Block temporary path carriers are all 1.1m in length (3.5f). All my wood chip socks are 3.3m in length. They are put together mainly using either recycled nails or 70mm yellow zinc coated TurboCoach screws which are self taping, hard wearing and reusable. If for some reason I have to give up the plot other allotmenteers will be able to pick up my standardised designs for use on their own plots.
– I am aware that the sunken-into-the-soil lower horizontal slat of the Pallet divider is wood and will cause both suck back and nitrogen depletion. As discussed above in “DEBUNKING RAISED BEDS“. In an ideal world the sunken slat would be made out of some form of porous, fertiliser impregnated, foamed-clay tile ( 9cm x 55cm). However as this currently does not exist and would take the cost of the divider from zero (recycled) to about £10. The suck back from this slat is also central to the design as this helps to start the movement of water horizontally through this planting bed. We will just have to compensate by sprinkling slow release fertiliser pellets into the pallet void for the sake of keeping the design simple and costs down. Remember we pull the divider out of the soil during the six months of winter.
If you have time please read the full explanation (essay…duhhh 🙁 ) page at Open book planting bed.
Imagine if my idea was sponsored by the “National Allotment association” and x24 pallet dividers were dropped off at every allotment site in the UK. Two pallet dividers per U-Bend shaped planting bed.
Q: Would you be tempted to have a try, if it was free?
Imagine if Wilko’s sold a 3.3m roll of wood chip sock mesh for a couple of quid.
Q: Would you have a go at creating some small mounded beds with wood chip filled sock border edging ?
Please leave a comment below if this summary has inspired or helped with your understanding of these new ideas ?