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The Hungry Gap & Building a Herb Planter!

Traditionally, the 'Hungry Gap' is the period in Spring time (around April in the UK) where people would usually be struggling the most for food. The new years growth has yet to provide any substantial food and last years harvest are dwindling. People would be surviving on conserves, jams, salted meats & any stored vegetables that are still good (e.g. potatoes, squash, onions) as well as foraged edibles some of which you may recognise in the countryside such as wild garlic, 3-cornered leeks, dandelions, nettles etc.

Now-a-days, most of us haven't heard of the 'Hungry Gap' as globalism, supermarkets & logistics work so seamlessly that although it may seem to us we have hit Spring harvest and there is lettuce & salad leaves on the shelves, they are often imports from Spain, Italy or huge greenhouses. Read more about the Hungry Gap here.


This time of international crisis has shone a light on the fragility of our food systems and how reliant we all are on our essential services. It has been heartening to notice that there has been a huge increase in demand for herb & vegetable seeds - seed distributors online have been unable to cope - as people have begun growing food in their spare time (this is great although it has been more difficult for us to get our seeds this year!).

Herbs are a great way to add flavour to your dishes and this is a good time of year to take advantage of that - we have plenty of lemon balm, mint, oregano, thyme & more in our beds at PFMG. Our friend Lorcan Kan has made a great Salsa Verde recipe recently so sign up to his newsletter here if you are interested.


We decided to design & built a herb planter in partnership with Patagonia who have been promoting regenerative agriculture practices around the world using their companies influence.

The planter design has been inspired by aquaponic systems. It demonstrates the benefits of good drainage in your containers and after a few weeks of growth looking beautiful as the roots will grow and dangle through the mesh searching for more water in the tray below.


Measurements:


Wood lengths -

We have used wood that we have found lying around the garden. Our measurements are designed to work with what we had – you should be able to tailor your herb planter to the size you want it depending on the wood you have.


Types of wood

Wide pallet wood – approx. 95mm width, 10mm depth, 1200mm length.

Thin pallet wood – approx. 75mm width 10mm depth, 12000mm length

Batten wood (see pictures below) – approx. 40mm width, 20mm depth

Tray:

2 lengths of thick pallet wood @ 420mm – the combined width of 2 lengths side by side should be 190mm.

2 lengths of batten wood @ 420mm

2 lengths of batten wood @ 230mm


Planter:

4 lengths of thin pallet wood @ 400mm – the combined width of 2 lengths side by side should be 150mm

4 lengths of thin pallet wood @ 150mm – the combined width of 2 lengths side by side should be 150mm


Legs:

4 lengths of batten wood @ 180mm


Mesh for base of planter:

Fine mesh but strong enough to hold soil. It needs to line the planter so will be at least 600mm by 200mm – if you have enough to double it over then even better.


Plastic Tray lining:

A plastic waterproof lining that needs to be at least 440mm by 210mm. It will need to line the tray.


Process:

1. Cut whatever wood you have to the lengths specified in the measurements above.


2. Screw the planter together. You will likely need to drill holes in wood so the wood does not split.


3. Use a staple gun & staples after folding the mesh to size and staple the lining inside the planter. The mesh will hold the weight of the soil but should allow the roots to grow through.


4. Create the tray – Drill holes in the batten wood and screw into the pallet wood to create a shallow tray.


5. Cut the plastic lining to the size specified in the measurements. If the lining is thick, cut small square notches in each corner. This will help fold the lining into the tray. Spread glue to the bottom of the tray and lay the lining. Staple the lining on the sides and then use glue to fill the corners. Let it dry before testing it with any water.


6. Now we're finished with the planter, lets plant it up! Here we've potted up basil, parsley, dill & sage.


And that's it. Thanks for reading!

MUD

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Manchester Urban Diggers are urban community market gardeners based in Greater Manchester where we are making spaces for people to grow food.

©2019 Manchester Urban Diggers.