Six raised beds with edible produce crammed into every spare inch of ground

With so many excellent value plants currently on offer from Dobies, why not adopt the technique of ‘cutting patch infill’? Anywhere you see an underused area, or bare earth, think cut-and-come-again vegetables, salads and herbs. Think floral decoration and cut flowers – in fact, think potager-style gardening. Nothing new there; in fact it’s a method that is centuries-old. And therein lies the beauty of packing spare patches full to bursting with vegetable and floral produce. Weeds are smothered, or cannot take hold. For where will wind borne weed seeds find bare earth in which to settle and germinate? Some will, of course, but are more easily dealt with.

Cutting Patch Infill equals no bare earth

A lovely mix of symbolic plants in this show garden
Apart from the path, there’s not a patch of spare ground in this show garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival earlier this month

It’s a practice that show garden designers use. You will rarely see bare soil, unless intended for access between beds, and that is likely to be paved or covered with gravel or wood-chips. Increasingly flowers, vegetables and herbs appear in an overall glorious mix. And if the thought of mixing veg with flowers is anathema to your pigeon-hole soul, remember that many flowers are edible, and so many vegetable varieties are decorative. The glow of chard stems that seem to light up the plot, purple-podded beans climbing up wigwams to add height (and colour); calendula petals and borage flowers – tangy orange and celestial blue.

So where to begin?

No space for a herb or edible flower bed, so pots or other containers are used
Pots of edible produce are crammed into every available space in a tiny ‘square foot’ garden

Adding patches of cut flowers in the vegetable garden is probably an easier concept than the thought of growing vegetables in the herbaceous border. Your flower garden may already be packed, so best to wait until you are dividing clumps or removing perennials that have served their turn. Cutting patch infill can as easily be practised in containers. Though that will involve more work; more watering but less weeding. Identify spots where you could position pots or tubs between the flowers, or in underused corners. Have some ready-crocked for when those must-have plants arrive – even if this is a temporary solution until another year.

Use grow bags as temporary crop containers when veg plot space is short
Reclaiming weedy ground whilst maintaining productivity

Maybe you have small areas of weed-infested ground and want them to be productive RIGHT NOW. This was the case in my ‘square foot’ garden a few years ago. The raised beds were already packed with edible produce and the only cutting patch infill possible was to use grow-bags. I cut back the docks and nettles and covered them with an old builders’ tarp. Best quality bags were used, positioned into blocks – but would it work?

When short of space, utilise grow bags for edible produce.
It’s surprising just how much produce can be grown in grow bags.

It did! Cut and come again salads and climbing squash soon provided us with food; the foliage hiding the unsightly bags (though visible here purely for demo purposes). Pots of herbs filled every nook and cranny – to be positioned elsewhere when the tarp had done it’s weed-killing job. By the following Spring, the temporary cutting patch infill was transformed into more raised beds. We had saved a year, and no hard digging, either, for weed removal!

A Helping Hand

Month by month help for gardeners wishing to grow food in containers
An invaluable book for beginner or experienced gardener

If you feel you are not quite ready to adopt my cutting patch infill suggestions, and prefer the container route whilst taking stock of what is possible in veg plot or flower border, take advice from ‘Permaculture in Pots’. Although sub-titled “how to grow food in small urban spaces” it’s just as applicable to those gardening in tiny rural spaces. Written by Juliet Kemp and published in 2012 by Permanent Publications, it provides a month-by-month guide to growing food in a container garden, using low-impact permaculture principles. As she also includes flowering herbs and edible weeds, it fits this week’s theme, and provides readers with much other handy advice – particularly good if you are new to gardening. And don’t forget to keep visiting the Dobies website to discover all the ongoing special offers.

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