Monday, 6 June 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 Learning to grow a Herbal Garden
The road to the RBGE nursery beds
As an integral part of our course we must learn to grow, nurture, harvest and prepare medicinal herbs.  We are allocated a nursery bed within the official RBGE training gardens to do so and the final efforts will form part of our grade.

Herbal Beds - Requirements
The requirement for this aspect of the course is to:
1) Create a medicinal herb bed with at least 5 recognized medicinal herbs from selected botanical families,
2) Evidence an aspect of organic and/or biodynamic horticultural practice, 
3) Prepare a simple herbal remedy using one or more of the herbs grown.

We first explored our ‘plots’ located up in the Botanics nursery gardens off Inverleith Row in October 2010.  Highest on the gently sloping hill, they are aligned east to west in one long double row, divided into 8 plots, approx 12’ long by 4’ wide.

At that time of year they were bursting with flowers, overgrown foliage and emerging seed heads.  There was a marvellous array of gigantic Fennels, huge Comfreys, copious Calendulas and sprawling Nasturtiums. The previous Herbology class had laid claim to seed gathering and so ours was simply a viewing expedition.
Proper sowing technique
Our second trip was with baskets in hand to collect wayward seeds so that we might learn to sow them and to start the clearing process in order for our own dreams to take root.  

The Assessment Criteria:
  • Herb bed presentation & plant husbandry
  • Quality of medicinal plants grown
  • Medicinal herbal content and knowledge of the same
  • Physic garden horticultural practice and techniques
  • Green pharmacy preparation (soruced from herb bed)
Sophie surveying the scene

In November we divied up the plots, each taking our preferred position and set to on clearing under the guidance of Duncan Ross.  Having spent an hour on hands and knees weeding, hoeing and pulling, it suddenly occurred to us that we would  be best to leave it all alone until Spring.  But black plastic came to the rescue and we pulled it close and tight over our hard work.

Work began in earnest again in March, when we had to place our orders for plants from Pontyzfield nursery and to get our seeds growing.  What seemed like voluptuous gardens were now reduced to mud puddles as the impact of all that snow revealed.

Our planting scheme must include at least one medicinal  herb from each of the following plant families:
  • Boraginaceae
  • Compositae (Asteracae)
  • Labiateae (Lamiaceae)
  • Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)
  • Leguminosae (Fabaceae)

15 March 2011 - rockery goes in

By late March things were beginning to take shape.Our tiny herbs, arrived from the Black Isle, carefully wrapped in moss with ice lolly stick labels were gently bedded in to their new homes.
New arrivals from Ponztzfield
Mid April and there was a torrent of activity, some of the rooting and destroying type, other of the bowing to nature’s will after one of the hottest and sunniest Aprils on record  We valiantly plotted our gardens’ designs, wove willow whips into trellising and borders, cleaned the pond, and laid stone bricks into paths.

Early May 2011
Mid May and the riot had begun.  Anyone who chose to leave their plot alone, untouched by winter weeding, suddenly had a 6 foot tall plant to contend with in a very small space.  (Might be good in a great sized garden, but is slightly overwhelming here.)  Maybe that Horn of Dung and Valerian should be only added every 2 years…

Weeding again, with final additions going in, June beckons and its only 5 weeks til Judgement time!
Margaret & Sophie at the plots

Late May 2011

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