Straw Bale Planting

There are many reasons why you would want to go down the route of planting on straw bales. My reasons are as follows:

  • I don’t have to bend down to reach the plants. (also very helpful idea for elderly/disabled/bad backs)
  • I don’t have to do any digging in that area (my plot is full of brambles and tree roots so this is a bit of a relief to cut down on as much digging required as possible)
  • The plants I am choosing for the straw bales are Squash and Pumpkins. These large heavy fruit will be easily kept away from the ground, supported by the bales,  and stay dry and in good condition in whatever weather.
  • At just £3 per bale of straw, it’s cheaper than compost and as it breaks down natural goodness is still released!

Make sure you get your straw bales put into your chosen position in advance of plating out. You don’t want to plant your seedling directly into the straw bale as soon as you set it on the ground. I recommend a minimum of 15 days with the straw bales “out in the elements” and to make sure you visit them regularly and soak them in water whenever you can.

You do not need to add extra compost and nitrogen fluid but it does help if you can do so. I intend to use chicken manure saturated water on the bales to soak them in extra nutrients before planting.

11057339_10153208050226774_3212869578303713884_nIn addition to this, think about what plants you are going to have near it. I chose a row of Borage right next to the straw bales. I waited for them to get big enough to not be bothered about the shade, this is a big hardy plant that is useful in many ways. In addition, Borage is reported to be a good companion plant for almost anything but in particular squash and strawberries. The straw bales on my plot are destined to have squash and pumpkins on them and in addition I have strawberries filling my fruit bush and raspberry bush area which is right next to the bales. This therefore seems like a match made in heaven!

Why is Borage Useful?


  • Companion plant for most plants. Strawberries – increases yield and improves flavour
  • Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms
  • One of the best bee and wasp attracting plant
  • Adds trace minerals to the soil and improves compost
  • Increases resistance to pests and disease for any plants next to it
  • Perrenial – plant once and never worry about it again
  • Flowers are edible!

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To plant the borage, I dug a long trench alongside the straw bales, and then placed the borage evenly along it.


Remember the Pop Bottles?

On Day 3 of going over the allotment to prepare it for cultivation, we made a small handy pop bottle structure for planting along the fence by the pathway. This is known by many as vertical growing.

We didn’t plant anything at this time – it was totally out of season, but now I have a bunch of Spinach seedlings with no home and I decided this would be a great spot for them.

It’s important to note that I do not know if spinach really will be okay in these bottles. It’s shallow, its warm and it’s dense. However, I gave a handful of seedlings to my partner Alan for his standard allotment so I know either way I will still have Spinach on the table.


I added a handful of fresh compost to each of the bottles and planted a spinach seedling in each one. Then I watered it heavily and stood back to admire my handiwork. I will keep you updated how well this goes.. Just check out our sustainable life facebook page for allotment updates.

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Erecting a Polytunnel


Make sure you set aside a full day or two for some really hard work and back breaking labour. Don’t make the mistake we did and assume your polytunnel will be okay weighed down for a day while you get your breath back, it won’t!

Separate the work across two days. Make sure you only put the cover on when you have time to dig it in all at one go.

Day One

Get the Polytunnel erected (frame only). Make sure you have all your tools and equipment necessary and an extra person to help out. You will need someone to help carry and lift the arches if nothing else and to hold bars in place while they are fixed in.

Dig a trench where the polytunnel will fit in all around it, even if it has no base frame – you will need the trench for the cover. You can use the frame of the polytunnel itself as a guideline so you don’t need to mark it out. You will need to move the frame while you do so.



Day Two

Get the cover on the polytunnel as per your instructions, you will need an extra helper for this too. Align up the sheeting and tie it down. Then move the frame into the trench if not already and ensure the cover lays down into the trench. We lined our cover with a few bricks and rocks to help weigh it down but we are not yet sure if this was wise. Next, move the soil from the trench back into the trench on top of the cover. Do the same on the inside of the polytunnel too to seal in the cover and ensure there are no gaps. Press the ground in firmly.


10940995_10153022779756774_831437722297401246_nTry to get the cover as tight as possible, but with this type of polytunnel it will be difficult.


You will notice how warm and cosy your new polytunnel is (just like ours, mmm!) Remember to seal the doorway properly before you leave or it will serve as an entryway for the wind.




Polytunnel Plan

This section of my new allotment will not be much permaculture this year. The polytunnel will house a mixture of perennials and annuals. The greater plan for next year is to convert the base of the polytunnel into a pond/self irrigation system which requires the entire polytunnel plot to be dug out. This pond will then be converted into an aquaponics fish farm eventually completing the project.

In the meantime, It;s the middle of winter and I am several muscles short of digging out the polytunnel section in time for my first plantings in february. Therefore to ensure I don’t miss out on this year’s harvests I am postponing the pond until next year and building my new polytunnel somewhere else on my plot. This will give me the year to casually dig out the pond section where I eventually want the polytunnel to end up.

10298757_10152731960451774_2342701344785688399_nMy rough plan for the finished plot shows the polytunnel and pond system on the right hand side. I will move the polytunnel to the middle section while i dig out the pond on the right hand side where i want ti to be. This means for the first year my polytunnel will have to be regularly maintained and watered manually.

Plants planned for polytunnel:
Tomatoes, chillis, Peppers, Melons, Aubergines, Avocado tree (currently on windowsill), cucumber, sweet pepper, cape gooseberries, coffee plant.

I will be putting up the new 6m x 3m x 2m polytunnel this week so if you’d like to come along and help please do get in touch.


Day 5 – Digging and Setting up Compost Bins

Another 2 hours at the allotment and I was able to get some more digging work done and clearing some dried bramble heaps. Not only this however but we also dropped off 4 pallets of varying sizes found in skips around the neighbourhood.

Day Five


new permaculture allotmentA good square of land was carefully dug with the removal of roots, rubbish and pebbles as I went. It’s tough going to get through the solid ground but steady progress has been made none the less.

new permaculture allotmentI then managed to construct one and a half compost bins from the pallets by using the fencing as main support and tying the bins together at the corners with twine. I am going to need more pallets to complete this section of the plot to create front panels and build 3 compost bins in total.

Compost Bin One

General weeds and other unusables that time a long time and/or a lot of care to produce compost that could be used. Or as storage throughout the year until a bonfire can be made (allowed on our plot every november).

Compost Bin Two

Compost to be used on the plot in the next year when it is ready. This year’s compost will be added to this bin but not used. To be rotated with compost bin three.

Compost Bin Three

Compost to be used in the current year (not applicable for the first year of the plot). This compost will have been breaking down in the previous year. To be rotated with compost bin two.

Day Four – A Quick Hours Work

Sometimes when you are looking after an allotment or garden, you only get one or two hours here and there. With so much going on, it can be hard to find the time to go the plot, but even if you can only go down for 10 minutes do your best to do so because chipping away at it a little bit at a time will help you tremendously in the long run.

So today, Day four at the plot, I only had time for an hours work and here is what I did…


Day 4


First of all I got to work clearing the dried bramble cuttings from our last day of clearing and piling them up in the main weed pile at the front of the plot.

This only took a short while, so I got out the spade and started digging up the ground at the front of the plot. I thought I would start and what looked like the easiest section of the allotment but the ground had lots of clumps of wire, plastic, glass and rubble as well as the standard weeds.

day four permaculture

It wasn’t long before the sun’s heat was too strong for me and I was tired of pulling up debris so I had to call it a day after only doing a small corner, but I had to get back anyway so it wasn’t a loss.

It wasn't long before the sun's heat was too strong for me

Fuchsia Berries and Flowers for Foraging and Permaculture

Name: Fuchsia (that’s ch-s not s-ch)

Location: Mostly gardens or public garden spaces

Months: Flowers and berries in summer/Autumn

Edible Parts: Flowers and Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Leaves, Stalks


Fuchsia is a great flowering plant to have in your garden or allotment. For one thing the BEES love it! So if you are adding it to any area, bear this in mind and place it away from seating areas and preferably in the middle of crop plants to encourage the bees.

There are lots of different varieties of fuchsia – some have large flowers, and large berries and others are light pink or purple or fuchsia coloured! However, none of them are poisonous. Each different variety has it’s own flavour and sweetness so try them out and taste for yourself what kind of berry they produce before you buy to make sure you get a strain that suits you. Some are super sweet and some are a bit bitter and have an after taste.


I purchased this plant here for my new permaculture allotment because of the following key reasons:

  1. You can eat the berries fresh or make them into jams etc
  2. You can eat the flowers or use them as food decorations
  3. They attract bees to your plot
  4. They look pretty and add an extra edible dimension to a standard plot


Day Three – BIG Permaculture Project Helpers Day

On my third day of working on the allotment I asked for helpers to come along to the plot to help out and drink some alcohol with a facebook event. We had a shaky start as one of our helpers had previously hurt his shoulder and was therefore mostly supervising but we didn’t mind.

Day 3

The first problem I encountered while on the plot was a lack of access to our tools storage box. The box was a gift from our wonderful friend Wayne, so it was brand new but the padlock we used was also new and desperately needed oiling. I waited for Alan and Killian to arrive with the oil but they were not due to land for an hour or so.

In the meantime, I began work on the vertical growing fence.

vertical growing fenceThis fence is constructed out of plastic 2L bottles and twine. I have started from the one end of my plot where the seating will be, so that the first area covered will provide some privacy. I am told that particularly in winter time the fence along the side of my plot is very see through as the plant life dies off. My plot is immediately next to the park, so it’s important to me to have some kind of barrier between us. I am thinking about planting lettuces in this plastic bottle wall next spring if not sooner as they don’t mind the shady bits under the trees.

The aim is to create a “Lettuce Hedge” across the plot which would take little to no space and produce more lettuce than we know what to do with. For now we are building it little by little with whatever 2L bottles we can get our hands on. I will produce a quick guide for building a vertical garden like this so stay tuned.

clearing the plot

We then got to work clearing the last third of the plot of brambles including the mound at the back. As it turns out, there is lots of rubbish and stones all over the plot we need to deal with before we break our tools trying to dig. In this picture you can see our good friend Dean working hard scraping up the loose brambles and plants into piles (or rows as he decided).

collecting pebblesWe then borrowed Alan’s wheelbarrow for the day and began collecting pebbles of all sizes and poured them into a pile at the end of the plot. We don’t want these pebbles in our way on the allotment – some of them are quite large! However, we can reuse these later underneath our polytunnel/aquaponics system. I’ll tell you more about this later though so stay tuned to find out what happens to these pebbles.

collecting rubbishAccording to the allotment council, the plot has been sneakily used as a dump site for trash, weeds and gone over crops for many years now and several allotmenteers have had to be told off about it. Hopefully now we are working on this plot they will stop but in the meantime that still means an awful lot of rubbish and dangerous items to be cleared off the plot! I got to work collecting buried plastic carrier bags, bottles, broken shards of glass, bricks, concrete, plastic and twisted metal to name just a few little surprises on the plot. There is still plenty more to be done however, so we will have to continue this another day!

A BIG thank you to everyone who turned up to offer a helping hand or donated materials or gifts to the project.

Day Two: Chicken Experimentation

I say it’s day two, but actually it’s day 2.5 as I did manage to get to the plot yesterday and do a rough half hours work getting some extra clearing done but hopefully you won’t mind me bundling it into Day Two.

Day Two

Today  I concentrated mainly on more clearing armed with my trusty hedge trimmers and fork. I managed to get up to the next tree stump cleared which means I have about 1/3 to 1/4 of the plot left to do. Yay! The main thing not to think about however, is that after I have finally finished clearing I will need to do some serious digging!

day two allotment

While I was doing the clearing however I had a couple of extra helpers on my plot today. Killian (5 years old) helped me with some light digging work and keeping an eye on my other helper: Chickeny the chicken. We brought her along to the allotment today for a bit of enrichment and to see if she can get any of the soil loose. The soil right now as it stands is quite rock solid! Chickeny did more egg laying than anything else but I aim to bring her back and see if we can get something more done. I’m going to need to dig it up several times so every little helps.

day two allotmentIf you are thinking about getting chickens on to your plot there are just a few simple things to remember:

  • Keep the chicken/s supervised. Cats and other animals are usually lurking around and the chicken may even dig very deep and escape.
  • You can use a netted cloche like the one in the picture to keep the chicken in a controlled location. Our chicken doesn’t really “escape” but the netted cloche stops her wandering into someone else’s plot by mistake. You can learn about how to make these in our blog post: making divan’s into cloches.
  • Ensure they have water available – bring along a spare drinker.
  • Ensure they have shade available (I used my old hoodie draped over the cloche to provide a shaded corner).
  • Make sure they are placed away from any plants you want to keep. The tastiest plants for us are the tastiest plants for chickens!