Planting plan for nursery school

Just worked up a small planting plan for the daughter’s nursery school. They want to be able to plant a couple of things each term, so I’ve had a look through Joy Larkom’s Grow your own vegetables and Dominic Murphy’s The playground potting shed and worked out what fits into the nursery term structure.

Incidentally, I found “the playground potting shed” as a hardback for a quid because the paperback had just come out. I’ve had a skim of the book & it’s a nice read but it’s from Dorset — significantly warmer than here and also with different terms to the Scottish educational system — so I couldn’t carry the examples over wholesale.

The first constraint is that the Summer term ends at the end of June. That’s not long after the hungry gap, and certainly before the main crops are ready. Secondly, I’ve chosen a plan which has the vegetables ready in the same academic year as they are planted. If this was relaxed, it might be easier to plant seeds in the Summer term and then harvest in Autumn.

This is where a discussion with the school staff will firm up the plan. The point is that I’ve created a plan as part of the school’s Eco schools Scotland programme (and I’m very glad I don’t have to tie all the points into their big-A, big-P Action Plan). Plenty of time for fine-tuning the growing plan as the year progresses.

Here’s a scan of the plan:
vegetable planting and harvesting plan for a nursery school

The timings look OK as long as there’s not another severe Winter. There’s also a variety in the things the kids are planting: a seed potato; a clove of garlic; big seeds and small seeds; green, black and white seeds; round seeds and elongated seeds. I’ve had many interesting discussions with the daughter over seeds; long may it continue!


The tiny garden, by Jane McMorland Hunter

This is not a book to be read cover-to-cover. The images are inspiring and showcase inventive ways of using space, but any good advice in the text is obscured by awful typography and loose editing. Tables of plants for specific purposes are included throughout the book.

a tony garden with a single tree surroundded by a water feature

The idea I want to take from this book is that plants for small gardens must fulfil more than one role: a long flowering season, good foliage, scent, or pleasing overall shape. In a small garden with room for only a handful of plants, fragrance is as important as colour.

The tiny garden authored by Jane McMorland Hunter, published by Frances Lincoln

Spuds, spam and eating for victory

Spuds, spam and eating for victory: rationing in the second world war by Katherine Knight (ISBN 9780752441887) is another book I’ve borrowed from Edinburgh library.

The cover of the book shows an overflowing basket of vegetables

Part oral history, part archival studies and with some reproductions of the wartime images and leaflets, this book rattles through the issues around feeding Britain during the second world war. The book is well-written (if you don’t mind puns) and there’s an extensive bibliography and references. The case studies are important since the time when we’ll be able to get direct oral history about this period is coming to an end; and the necessity to make-do-and-mend is timely advice in this depression.

Katherine Knight has some evocative turns of phrase. As the war effort used agricultural land in the fens, other marginal land had to be used for agriculture:

war planes used the flat fields of peace, while potatoes climed the mountains to make up for the loss

Continue reading

Hidden gardens of the Royal Mile

To celebrate my first week working Wednesday through Friday, I booked myself and the daughter onto Green Yonder tour’s Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile on Tuesday. The idea is that people don’t know where the public gardens are on the Royal Mile, and this tour shows them where they are! I thoroughly recommend it: the concept is good, the guide friendly and knowledgeable, and I came away knowing two public gardens on the Royal Mile that I’ll be going back to.

Very impressed by this herb garden, and want to rejig my herb bed at home in this style:

herb garden with fennel, rosemary etc.

herb garden with fennel, rosemary etc.

Lots of sage in the herb garden

Lots of sage in the herb garden

Another garden has been recreated in the style of a C17th garden. The first block isn’t very enticing as it’s on the North side of the buildings, but then it opens out into some fantastic formal spaces with espalier apple trees, marigolds of some kind, and wee nooks for herbs. Am also tempted to train a couple of apple trees like this:

Two espalier apple trees

Two espalier apple trees

Daughter with lavander

Daughter with lavander

Finally, a wee puff piece! The tour is similar in spirit to the bike rides I led on Doors Open Day and Parks and Gardens Open Day in 2007, although there’s a stronger theme and it’s a bona fide tour rather than random observations. Information on Doors Open Day 2008 can be found here.

The green directory at

The green directory at

The good news: for the categories I know about (allotments, compost, permaculture, recyling) the entries consist of the usual suspects with one or two additional organisations. I’m confident that the other categories (another 50) will be a good starting point for future investigation, and a quick browse brings up a wealth of information. There are some nice introductory sections.

The bad news: as there’s no timestamp on the entries, they could be out of date e.g. LEEP is in there rather than changeworks. Most of the subject heads have statistics and quotes from 2003, so I wonder whether this project had particular capital expenditure but no more. Not found any broken links on my non-rigorous check.

There is a link to the main site


Can’t recall why I started getting interested in seaweed as a green manure, although it came up in conversation on Monday night. One of my colleagues was talking about taking a cycle ride along the seafront from Edinburgh out to Seaton Sands, which opens up the possibility for doing a run out to collect a trailerful of the stuff.

Seaweeds and their uses, Chapman and Chapman. CEC Central Lending Library, shelfmark QK567. Technical book; reporting and links to research; graphs and tables; relatively old.

Mostly brown algae, wracks and oarweed has been used as manure. Driftweed or cut rockweed. It’s mainly used close to the coast as seaweed is approx. 90 percent water. High potash content (K) so good for plants that require high K: roots and fruit, esp. blackcurrants. Low in phosphate so must add it if seaweed used exclusively for long time.

N Phosphoric acid K Salt
wet weed 11 2 27 35
manure 11 6 15

Advantage of being free from weeds and fungi.

Seasonal variation: research shows higher content of minerals around March; lowest around October.

So … it’s actually seaweed as a brown manure. Quite different from getting well-rotted manure from Gorgie City Farm at £2 per bag. Telephone 0131 337 4202.

Organic Gardening; Plant life of Edinburgh and the Lothians; A Scot’s Herbal; Joy Larkom: all these references seem to indicate that seaweed is full of trace elements and so is useful for poor soil but doesn’t make much difference on good soil.

The self-sustaining garden (a guide to matrix planting), Peter Thompson

Another book borrowed from Edinburgh’s Central Lending Library, shelfmark SB473 (or AH4 in the new system).

An intriguing book. Written from a gardening point of view with reference to plants and their visual and aesthetic structure, it makes the argument that one should minimise inputs, intervene in the landscape minimally, choose plants that complement each other and the microclimate they inhabit. It’s all reminiscent of permaculture, yet there’s not one reference to permaculture or any of the permaculture big names in the acknowledgements. There’s no references to productive plants, either, so it’s not one for my bookshelf.

Encourage the plants you want; discourage the plants you do not want.

Can’t say fairer than that: it’s not saying eradicate plants that don’t fit! He then ranks plants into 9 categories, from the most vigorous through site-appropriate to inappropriate:

  1. out-and-out weeds with vigorous powers of regeneration (bramble, stinging nettle)
  2. plants that are out of place and pose a threat to the planting scheme (dandelion, ground elder, rosebay willowherb, blackthorn, ash)
  3. Weedy but not threateningly invasive; better out than in
  4. Plants with attractive qualities but an inclination to take over
  5. Long-lived tenacious plants, appropriate to the site and largely self-maintaining
  6. Plants appropriate to the situation but unlikely to survive entirely unaided
  7. Plants whose survival depends on intermittently repeated regular attention
  8. Plants dependent on regular attention over indefinite periods for survival
  9. Plants unable to exist without frequently repeated, time-consuming attention

Nice chapter on soil and indicator plants. Lovely illustrations. Has case studies from halfway through the book and the last four chapters are dedicated to particular habitats: variations on grassy themes; garden pools and wetlands; the mixed border; the blessings of shade.

More reading required!

Looks like my review of Graham Bell’s book is quite high in the google ranking. I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoyed writing the review and now there’s some feedback from the blog stats and google.

One of Nielsen’s usability articles reckons that one should write articles with content rather than hastily-written blog posts. Isn’t that obvious? Whatever… it’s certainly bolstering the fact that I could do more reviews and stuff.

The permaculture garden, by Graham Bell

Borrowed from Edinburgh Central Library, this book is clearly a reference book as there’s so much in it. From large scale projects for a row of terraced houses to a chapter full of ideas that can be completed in a day, it has an informal style and a can-do attitude. The book also has 24 tables of plants suitable for a variety of uses; my only criticism is that the tables don’t get a mention in the index or table of contents.

The inspiring illustrations by Sarah Bunker are clear and complement the text well. She describes permaculture techniques and imagines community living (in the vein of Clifford Harper). It appears that she’s author of Diggers and Dreamers, listed on (TODO: explore this site)

Two themes running through the book are edge and height. Taken from forest gardening, the book advocates making structures in the garden to maximise the use of these two components. Another theme is making do with what’s there and reducing inputs — permaculture.

The book is published by Chelsea Green Publishing, who see publishing as a tool for effecting cultural change and want to stop the destruction of the natural world by challenging the beliefs and practices that are enabling this destruction and by providing inspirational and practical alternatives that promote sustainable living.