June 2015 - Week 1

Produce No Waste

One of the permaculture design principles is ' produce no waste'.  Waste is either an unused resource that should be used or else some noxious substance that is being discarded in order to make sure that it injures someone else and not yourself.


My new neighbour is not a permaculturalist as you can see by this picture of his garden.  Last month he brought in a ride-on mower and cut his grass.  He piled the mowed grass up and tried to set fire to it.  This was waste on both counts as he was not only throwing away a nutrient resource but polluting the atmosphere with smelly smoke.

I offered to take his waste and compost it.  I suppose I quite often offer to take on things other people throw away.  My neighbour's reaction was initially a very common one.  He seemed to think that I was perhaps trying to rob him.  Maybe I was selling it on ebay?

This month he cut over a cubic metre of grass and offered it to me.  It had already started to ferment.  I had to quickly construct a container for it. It's the best grass of the year - full of protein. Very hot inside the pile.  I wish I could generate electricity from it but that's for the future.


Lovage lurks Triffid like at the back of the garden.  I sowed it as seed about 5 years ago, meaning to expand my range of herbs in the garden.  The plant succeeded but I must admit that I hardly ever use it.  My Romanian former-neighbour used to take armfuls of the spring growth to freeze.  Apparently in eastern Europe it is widely used instead of parsley in soups and stews.  I find it a bit too bitter.  Hugh Fearnley-Wearnley describes its flavour as 'parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed and curry'.  I think I find its foetid smell off-putting as it reminds of harmful umbellifers such as wild parsnip.


The plant itself can be invasive in the garden. It grows tall and spreads wide, shading out other plants.  It dies back at the first frost but creates a big fleshy root that enables it to return vigorously next spring.  The best place for it is some relatively dry, slightly shaded spot at the back of the garden where it won't be a nuisance.  It can certainly be a striking feature of the garden.

Broad Beans

The first broad beans (known as fava beans in the U.S.) are nearly ready to pick.  Good to get then young and tender.  Generally broad Beans are sown in October and November (usually variety Aquadulce) and overwintered or else sown in early spring.  I have found that overwintered beans don't do well here.  Wind, rain and pigeons take their toll.  I sow broad beans in modules in the polytunnel in the last week of January and then more in the last week in February. The February ones nearly catch up the January ones.  Mice are a big pest at this time of year for peas and beans.  As you can see from the photos, when I plant them out I cover them with stock fence!  This is a very convenient way of protecting them from pigeons in my 4 foot wide raised beds.  I've found that I can leave the fencing over the beans throughout their life as it is perfect as a way of stopping them getting blown about.  There is a species of aphid that can ruin a broad bean crop but I don't get it here.  Autumn sown beans are supposed to be more resistant.


A small, hard shelled version of the broad bean is known as the field bean.  I've certainly eaten it as a poor student but it is also sown as a ground covering green manure and, being a legume and very hardy, is useful for increasing soil fertility over the winter.

If you find broad beans to be a bit fibrous and tough for you, particularly if they're getting a bit old, then you can 'double-pod' them - i.e. parboil the beans and then slip them out of their shell and cook them again.  Another interesting use is broad bean hummus.

Broad beans can be frozen but this is probably not the best use of your freezer space.

A bed of broad beans that is harvested now can then planted up with summer salad crops or maybe leeks to overwinter.

Sowing in Modules

Nearly all of my seeds are sown in plastic modules, rather than directly into the ground.  Modules, which can be indoors, allow you start sowing seeds earlier than you would outdoors.  They also give a higher germination rate.  Seeds can be transplanted out when the plants, weather and the ground are ready.  It's very satisfying to look at a full row of plants. The only disadvantage is the extra work involved in transplanting.  Some crops, like parsnips, do not transplant well at all and theses are sown directly into the ground.


The modules that I use are Plantpak or Plantcell 12 and 20.  They are the size of half a seed tray.  Tuckers of Crediton certainly used to sell them at about 15p each and with reasonable care they can be reused.  They are not sold by all garden centres but can be bought online.