Sunken Tugboat vegetable planting beds

“Sunken O’ Tugboat” by no_akira

I’m just a muddy old Sunken Tugboat 

cargo a heaped spades-depth of tilth and worms

a waterline over 2 fathoms

and a beam of six paces

unfolding my Chlorophyll sails

forever tacking to port, headway into a photonic hail storm 

a thermal bow wave of warmed stones

 afront of my cycloidal  fender of rubber

In the mornings I see my  sister ship Dawn then later Dusk

My aunts are behind and my nieces ahead

a fleet of Nine

Crown passengers parade across the forecastle

Paired births clumped across the keel line

Sometimes I raise a sail across the stern

Chasing the orb with its looping UV arc

This is always my annual journey

long shadow of the wizened garden sailor

<< JAN 2019 – Draft document – active changes are being made so bear with me, aim to be completed by the end of FEB ’19>>

This Vegetable Growing planting bed system is the answer to the “Horizontal vs Vertical” bed orientation conundrum. It achieves this through a simple but obvious bit of design.

In a nutshell it is a “vertically positioned” sunken planting bed with a single cycloidal curve, rounded end. A sort of flattened curve Norman window shape. Because this shape only has one line of symmetry running centrally through its length it makes it easy to position this planting bed pointing at the sun at 13:00 BST. Basically along a “North-to-South” axis or as close to this axis as our PLOT orientation will allow. see Diagram below.

The rounded end is dedicated to a trio of your sun loving heavy cropping veggies planted-out horizontally curving across the semi circle (courgette, aubergines, cordon tomatoes). Behind this crown we can grow our usual more shade-tolerant typical British crops in a vertical paired bed. The dimensions of this planting bed create x3 crown and x6 paired vertical growing positions (15 growing positions in total) for your typically larger vegetables, a maturing Potato plant being our standard size guide.

Two more Sunken tugboat beds are dug next to the first one creating 3 planting beds. This creates your first “3Block” of side-by-side planting beds.

The goal for your first year is to lay out three “3Block” beds across your plot thats nine Sunken tugboats vegetable planting beds for the new allotmenteer.

At the very heart of this system is the Mains, Second early and First early’s categories of potatoes which require 3 planting beds. Each category planted in the main section of these beds, 6 pairs of plants = twelve plants. Potatoes are the basic mainstay crop of the allotmenteer because they are one of the first crops to go into the soil and last to come out across the six months of the growing season. Fantastically are virtually maintenance free. From year to year we will rotate this trio of potato types from one “3Block” to the next.

The other clever part is that we have created a rolling “Trochoid”  horizontal row of 9 sunny positions at the head of each “3Block”. That is potentially 27 heavy cropping plants from our 9 planting bed system. Also the more widely the “Sunken tugboat” system is adopted across allotments will make it easier to revive a neglected plot

The aim of this design using standardised dimensions is to save new starters a lot of wasted effort digging beds in wrong positions or digging the whole plot over or wasting time with wood enclosed Raised beds.

Concepts explained

End of Concepts explained

+ Quick warming tyre, soil warmer


+ Worm corralling due to semi-circular shape of sunken tyre

+ Dedicated section of bed for plants by requirements

+ Crown head section for VIP and overwintering

+ Main deck clump planting explained

+ Sunken bed profile explained

+ Improves water conservation

+ Paired bed concept, light & shade

+ Soil Hydro-driver concept

+ Moisture level concept, Soggy nor Arid

+ Mounding of soil for 3 plant clump concept

+ Illustrates growing concepts to new starters

+ Nothing is hard fixed

+ Clever use of the soil 

+ Soil improving by design

+ Worm incubator path runners

+ Green manured to overwinter

+ Scalable design

Fits average British half allotment plots

Inspiration images for the Sunken Tugboat concept

<< CLICK thumbnails to expand >>

Sun goddess wall sculptureGoddess vegetable growing planing bedGoddess vegetable growing bed 2017

This growing system is all about maximising growth for annual woody-stemmed vegetable cultivars that have a high water and nutrient demand due to deep roots, bushy growth and long cropping; such as aubergines, chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, french beans, globe artichokes and surprisingly onions. Also, the unusual U-Bend shape gives us three planting areas all with slightly varying moisture levels, two lightly shaded long pillow beds and a full sun, open rounded end for crown type plants (eg courgettes & aubergines). For Brassica and Root vegetables its the same design except there is no need for my central Pallet wood Hydro-driver as they like it cold and wet.

The ultimate aim being a low-maintenance and high-success vegetable growing system with less disenchantment for new starters. Other considerations are ‘low cost’ and upcycling skipped materials (pallets) as well as being easy to construct by persons of all abilities with basic tools.

Importantly you should aim to only use the soil from your plot in this system along with dressing using acidifying horse manure to try to reduce the alkalinity of the clay soil and which will increase the range of vegetables that we can successfully grow.


Sunken Tugboat VG planting bed – Clever concepts explained

The Wood chip socks  that edge the borders help to retain the soil on this semi-raised deep bed as well as holding onto moisture and acting as water baffles creating the +positive moisture zone of the growing bed. Also within the wood chip socks are mycorrhizal fungi that are believed to have a symbiotic relationship with woody plants to provide them with essential nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen in a soluble form. The wood chip socks also allow us to create the unique U-Bend shape of this growing system.


Why the name ‘ Sunken Tugboat planting beds ‘ where did this idea come from ?

This design is a culmination of  5 years of experimenting with planting bed design at my allotment plot. It all started when I saw a U-Bend shaped bed with a path inside the U part dug by a new starter. 

19/08/2017 – Update for 2017 – Possible first evidence of a noticable effect from a “Goddess vegetable growing bed”

This might be the first evidence of a noticeable effect in growth using these Sunken tugboat beds. I have neglected this bed this year as I spent more time on my Heras panel lean-to and my g.easel compost dalek trellis projects, only watering the plants in the first few weeks and a couple of times during very dry spells. All the sunflowers on my plot all come from the same parent plant from the year before and were all planted at the same time yet these 2 plants are taller by at least 50cm and have received only irregular watering. The white detergent bottle is on a 2.4m stake for scale. I think the tall sunflower could reach 3m easily my tallest SF ever. Also I used no plant feeds or fertilisers. 

Possible evidence of blight resistance due to pallet wood munching mycorrhizal fungi?  The tomato plant in the foreground of the above picture also showed robust growth. Another batch (12 spares) of these same tomatoes were planted in a block in a normal single dug bed all succumbed to blight but the x10 tomato plants that I grew next to my Pallet wood Hydro-driver separated beds were all untouched. The mycorrhizal fungi could be acting as an anti-fungal agent. I did not water into the pallet void much, irregulary around the plants. The white detergent bottle is on a 2.4m stake for scale. I think the tall sunflower could reach 3m easily my tallest SF ever. Also I used no plant feeds or fertilisers. 

19/08/2018 – Update for 2018 – Out door Aubergines – need I say anymore…

During the 2018 growing season I fully converted my half plot to this “3Block of 3” system of Sunken tugboat planting beds






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