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The number of self seeded and unwanted sycamores in the communal garden is almost beyond counting: Ben took down 35 in one weekend and hardly made a dent on anything except the woodpile ๐Ÿ˜‰

Not totally true, of course, some areas still need a lot of clearing, but the slabbed area the guys use for bbqs suddenly had lots more light, enough to make it a vegetable growing area.

There are many ways ofย  making raised beds, but first think about your materials to hand and your long term goals. On the allotment I would make temporary raised beds as a way of mulching the next area I wanted to bring into cultivation:ย  knocking back weeds and enrichening the soil and making a reservoir of compost AND growing a main and companion crop all at the same time is incredibly pleasing! ๐Ÿ˜‰

4 STAR land clearing beds

1 old tyres

1 lay waste cardboard boxes to cover the area you want to mulch

2 space out large tyres to anchor edges and joins

3 stack a second tyre on each pile, line with landscape fabric, fill the middle with manure, woody prunings, hedge clippings, top with balled newspapers

4 stack a third tyre and add comfrey and nettles or green waste/weedings, top off with soil and plant squash/potatoes / tomatoes or aubergine with borage, marigolds or nasturtiums, with an empty flowerpot angled towards the roots, a stick holding it in place, with a bright rag at the top.

5 water and crop as necessary but at end harvest have your next patch ready mulched with cardboard so you can just roll the tyres to their new position ๐Ÿ˜‰

2 builders bags:

1 lay waste cardboard boxes to cover 5′ x 5’/1.5 x 1.5m

2 if possible lay bricks around the edge

3 builders often abandon the white recycled plastic 1m cubedย  bags that sand etc is delivered in, as some depots will not refill them. ask nicely or keep an eye out for nearby skips, ask people on your street who are having a new drive etc for the bags, people are mostly happy to get rid of them, though i have paid 50p sometimes. If the bag is for sand and gravel it will have a long funnel in the base, make sure you fold this over so there are no gaps for weeds to come through. Fold the sides down on the outside, so that as you fill the bag, you can pull the sides taller.

4 fill the bags with: raw horse manure or rabbit hutch clearings to a height of 8″/20cm or 4″ 10cm poultry manure, then add 6″/15cm woody prunings, hedge trimmings and shredded paper or balled newspapers and cardboard, next add rotted horse manure or grass clippings or non invasive weeds/spent foliage*, top off with soil and shake the bag and raise the sides. Now add more newspaper/torn cardboard/1 year leaf mould/old compost and if you have them, a layer of comfrey and nettles and 2pints/a litre of human urine. Cover with grass clippings and leave for a week.

5 shake down again and I used to use a claw or hand fork to aerate by raking through, a bit like tossing a salad ๐Ÿ˜‰ Now put good soil or compost on top, plant in a squash plant with an empty flower pot angled towards the roots, sticking an old cane or long pruning wand in, to anchor the pot, with a bright rag on the end. When the squash has enormous foliage you will still be able to find the roots and get water where it is most needed ๐Ÿ˜‰ plant marigolds or nasturtiums around the edge to bring in pollination insects and make pretty colours and composting bulk for next season ๐Ÿ˜‰

6 water weekly as needed but otherwise leave till autumn cropping

7 when the first frost is forecast, harvest your pumpkins/gourds and leave to cure in the greenhouse/full sun for a couple of days, bringing in at night. Meanwhile, fork all the fresh foliage into a barrow and put on your overwintering compost heaps or the next builders bags* see instruction 4 ๐Ÿ˜‰ Use the remaining mature compost to fill a raised bed or to mulch your overwintering brassica patch/beds

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I used to have half a dozen or more of these each year and it kept the allotment committee happy as weeds were being contained and the plot was productive, while I didn’t have to dig bulldozed soil (my allotment had been totally trashed by the previous guys, who were scrapmen fixing cars…they even laid gravel at one end! After 4 years Iย  had lots of permanent raised beds that meant I could lay proper paths with builders fabric and chippings/hedge trimmings. Try to become friends with everyone in your street who has a hedge or big lawns, they will often bring you their bags of trimmings right to your allotment as it saves paying for a garden waste bin or a long trip to the tip. I used to give the cleanest white bags with no funnel to the neighbours to collect their clippings to bring to me and they progressed down the chain to raised bed base and side linings s they deteriorated.

PERMANENT RAISED BEDS USING UPCYCLED MATERIALS

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1 dig post holes at the corners and joins, put in posts and join sidesย  OR

line a trench vertically with small logs and add narrower pieces horizontally, usin nails or screws

2 line with builders weed cover fabric

3 fill with layers of fresh horse manure etc as above

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materials:

wooden doors, sawn in half

logs from clearing trees

treble layers of building site mesh (often abandoned in skips at the end of the job) with old tent poles every 6 inches

fence panels, doubled up for strength

old bricks/slabs

pallets

railway sleepers

if you drink lots but don’t make wine/beer, save the wine bottles, turn upside down and bury to half height or lay on sides and cement – I’ve not done this myself as I would be worried about the glass cracking, but others have, google for advice ๐Ÿ˜‰

tyres on their sides and buried to half their height

old pet cages/hutches with cardboard box lining

and lots more, the trick is in how you look at what has ended its FIRST use…

Happy scavenging ๐Ÿ˜‰

Updates on the potatoes: rocketing away! and an aubergine seems to be growing from seed in the compost?

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