Post Archives from the ‘The Herb Garden’ Category

No-Dig Herb Beds with Mulch Membrane

Posted on: March 11th, 2017 by
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An alternative to lasagna beds, straw bale beds, etc.

As I mentioned in the last post about our plans for 2017, and my plans for the herb garden at Cae Non in particular, I have a need to rapidly extend the amount of land I have ‘under the boot’ to grow my herbs in. This year is shaping up to be the year that, having got my herbal medicine practice established, I turn my attention back to growing herbs in earnest. Before, I had used raised beds filled with topsoil, but I just can’t get enough soil to do this. Various no-dig methods appeal to me, but most require a lot of biomass to make it work and I just don’t have access to that. Despite being mostly clay and not having much organic matter, the soil at Cae Non is surprisingly rich – the boulder-clay laid down by a glacier thousands of years ago is packed with minerals. It is also incredibly hard to dig. With my busted elbow, digging is out. So I made these. No dig herb beds with mulch membrane. Have a watch of this video and see for yourself:

Herb Growing… The saga continues

Posted on: May 5th, 2015 by
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Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post on this blog as much as I’d have liked over the past year… I have found myself rather busy setting up my herbal medicine business and trying to kick-start that side of my life.

But we didn’t stop working on Cae Non, and the land didn’t stop growing things!! The herbs I planted 1 – 2 years ago in the raised beds are now all mature, and doing really well. I got a goodly crop of plant material from them last year, which is presently sitting in tincture form on my dispensary stock shelves. There is no reason to think that those plants will not give equally as good a crop (if not better) this year.

So, how am I continuing to grow the herb garden? Well, there are two avenues which need developing now: Firstly, making more raised beds for the smaller herbs and perennials, and secondly, clearing some more ground and creating larger beds or places to plant larger medicinal shrubs and trees.

I have about 10 additional species of smaller medicinal plants and shrubs to go into the new raised beds… when I get round to building them(!!!), and I have got a couple of larger medicinal shrubs waiting for a home. These are more suited to planting straight into the ground, albeit with some compost or manure turned in to give some biomass to the heavy clay soil. But I have also ordered seeds for 9 more larger shrubs that I don’t presently have.

The list of shrub/tree seeds for planting this summer are:

  • Echinacea pururea (Echinacea)
  • Eucalyptus globulus  (Bluegum)
  • Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed)
  • Albizzia julibrissin (Silk Tree)
  • Solidago canadensis  (Golden Rod)
  • Dature stramonium (Thorn apple)
  • Prunus serotina (Black Cherry)
  • Lycium barbarum (Goji berry)
  • Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

It is worth noting where I bought these seeds: an ebay seller called ‘seedsworld’, a Lithuanian seller/shop who stock many unusual, interesting, and medicinal plants. Go and check out his shop if you are interested in growing these sorts of plants – his seeds are very reasonably priced, and of good quality ( I have bought from him before), and postage is very reasonable – about £2 to Britain for 10 packets of seeds. He is also friendly and approachable and will readily answer questions if you email him. Cannot rate his service or seeds highly enough!

The first Herb Harvest

Posted on: July 18th, 2014 by
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20140621_114832This time of summer is rather a slack time when it comes to gardening: the time to plan and construct is winter and spring, and the times to plant/propagate are spring and autumn. Now however is the time to harvest and gather, to prepare and process. So it is with my still small herb garden.

These long, lazy summer days are absolutely amazing at helping herbs produce aromatic volatile oils in their flowers, so now is an ideal time to harvest herbs such as Yarrow (Achillea milefolium) and Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). So that is exactly what I did. Along with Mothwort (Leonurus cardiaca) they make up my first harvest from the herb garden at Cae Non. 2 weeks ago, bathed in gentle evening sunlight, I popped down to the field to see if anything was ready to harvest, and to my delight, these three herbs were. After a couple of weeks of drying, they are now soaking in alcohol to make tinctures; tinctures that will be some of the first stock put into my (soon to launch) business. It’s a lovely thought: Setting up my herbal medicine business using the harvest of seeds I sowed last year: just like my education is reaping the harvest of my knowledge and qualifications.


Harvesting more than just plant material: Harvesting the magic
of a dream – the dream of bringing health and healing from nature’s

Easy Triangular Raised Beds

Posted on: July 5th, 2014 by
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Those who have have read my herb garden posts for some time will know that the only way to effectively grow herbs at Cae Non is to use raised beds. The first batch of raised beds I built were made of scrap wood and were rectangular. This poses several problems, especially if you’re using offcuts of scrap wood of varying thicknesses and sizes – getting the planks to meet up in the corners is rather challenging.

However, almost by accident I found a better way of utilising waste materials which make rather nice raised beds. The trick is to start off by making a triangle, with two tyres stacked on top of each other in each corner. Fill the tyres with soil or compost. These can be used as planters or large pots for plants you’d rather keep under control (especially true of creeping plants like mint or bugle).

Raised Triangular Bed 001

Next, get some long wood screws and individually screw the ends of each of the planks to the side of the tyre stack. As the tyres are flexible, You don’t need amazing precision carpentry skills, and if you use 3 screws at the end of each plank, the sides of the bed will be really strong, with enough ‘give’ to move slightly without breaking (a consideration if using ratty old planks.

Raised Triangular Bed 002

Line the bottom of the bed with old rubble sacks to retard weeds, fill with good quality topsoil, ideally topped with compost or a mulch, and you’re there.

Raised Triangular Bed 003

It can take quite a while to fill with topsoil, but the shape allows easy access. You can extend the bed by adding three side triangles butting onto the first bed.

Raised Triangular Bed 004

The finished article with a grass mulch after settling down for a couple of months.

The Herb Bunker

Posted on: July 2nd, 2014 by
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Again, a dearth of blog posts has very much been the case recently… but it is not because we have been idle; in fact it is because out in the real world, we have been very active! But often, the best laid out plans tend to be different in their planning to their execution, and sometimes an opportunity arises that is too good to pass up.

I had planned for some time to build another shed at Cae Non to use exclusively for my pharmacy equipment and herbal preparation; also as a space where I can teach one or two people at a time. I’d planned to do this sometime next winter. So, there I am taking my university finals, and a friend from Llanberis posts that he has a shed for sale. It’s listed as being ‘Very strong’. Ideal. It looked like it was about 5′ x 7′. So I said I’d have it in the middle of June and thought little more about it.

Fast forward a month, and I’m back at home, and arranged to go round to look at/dismantle this shed. I’ve done this before with other sheds, and it is usually pretty easy. Most sheds sold in the UK are built with 1/4” wood. Which is very thin, but also light and easy to manage. When I arrived to look at this building, I found something more akin to a nuclear bunker. It was designed to survive living in a garden in Fachwen, a thousand feet above Llanberis. So it was built with 3/4” decking panels with 2x2s for the roof, held together with 8” screws and metal strapping in the corners. First thought: It isn’t going to go in the Berlingo. Holger turns up, and it takes us another 5 hours to dismantle the shed into individual panels with a seperate roof

Cae Shed 1Cae Shed 2Cae Shed 3Cae Shed 5Cae Shed 6 Cae Shed 04






2 days later, we’re back with a hired van. I’d ordered a ‘Short Wheelbase Transit’ and instead they gave me a Vauxhall Vivaro. The transit has a 9′ bed, the Vivaro has a 7′ bed. The shed panels were 8′ long. Soooo, with an hour of further twiddling, and with the shed panels sticking out of the back doors by a foot, we ponderously set off to Cae Non.

So, we now have the nuclear bunker ready. I’ll probably reassemble it in the autumn or winter, after the busy herb harvesting and processing season has finished (more on this later). But it is an exciting winter project!

Raised Beds – Building the Herb Garden

Posted on: August 20th, 2013 by
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Raised Beds 1

Building Raised Beds

The year is flying round at quite a pace, and it has been quite a while since I posted updates with progress on the herb garden. But we haven’t been idle…

Unfortunately, due to ongoing renovation work at our house, we have rather a lot of reclaimed timber at the moment. It has been absolutely ideal for making raised beds for my herbs, and so far, I have made 4 largish (7 x 3′) beds that are about 18” deep. As it happens, the hard work was not in building them, but filling them with soil; each bed took about 25 sacks of topsoil to fill. As the soil at Cae Non is so heavy with clay, we have bought in a ton of topsoil, and these beds have used most of it.

Planting up

Planting the first set of herbs for 2013

The soil is enriched with some good quality topsoil/compost we found on site, this has generally been used to top the beds as it is of better quality than the topsoil we bought in! I have also added layers of grass clippings to try to introduce some organic matter into the soil. The one different thing that I have done with these beds that is entirely new to me is the addition of bio-char. Bio-char is the introduction of small charcoal pieces into soil – it serves two purposes: firstly it locks up carbon in the soil in a very stable form that is stable for thousands of years, thus sequestering carbon. But it is the second remarkable property of bio-char that we are interested in in these beds: It greatly enriches the soil. It improves drainage as it is porous, acting as a growth media for beneficial bacteria that will put life back into the soil. It will also directly fertilise the soil too as it is rich in potash and some other minerals. This idea originates with the South American tribes who use this process to make what is known as ‘Terra Preta’ – the foundation of their crop cultivation for millennia. For those interested, more information is available here on Wikipedia.

The first bed to be constructed had the most bio-char in it as I’ve been enriching it for the longest time: It has also grown the best herbs as you can see from the photo below:

First raised beds finished and in bloom!

First raised beds finished and in bloom!

The planting list for the four raised beds so far is:

Bed 1:
Eschscholzia californica – Californian poppy
Matricaria recutita
– Chamomille
Achillea milefolium
– Yarrow

Bed 2:
Borago officinalis – Borage
Silybum marianum – Milk Thistle

Bed 3:
Althea officinalis – Mallow
Leonurus cardiaca – Motherwort
Digitalis purpurea – Purple Foxglove
Arctium lappa – Burdock

Bed 4:Valeriana officinalis – Valerian
Verbena officinalis – Vervain
Inula helenium – Elecampane

Many more raised beds are planned, but this is a good start for this summer, and we should soon be reaping the harvest of some of the herbs planted this year!