From the soil analysis we gathered that we he have two distinctly different soils: 1) the lower, southern part, which has a reasonable depth of sandy silt over a layer of chalk and possibly some clay a bit deeper down. The ph is pretty much neutral and it is low in nitrogen and magnesium. 2) the higher northern part with almost no topsoil to speak of, just a rock hard chalky surface.
We decided to place the keyhole bed on the northern side, at the border between zones 1 and 2 in relation to where we intend to construct the strawbale house next spring, with the entrance pointing north for easiest acces from the house and also therefore having the path at the postion where there will potentially be the most shade from the plants. So one of the first considerations was to create some topsoil, but first we wanted to outline the area and level it.
The dimensions of the bed are an outside diameter of 4 metres and an inside diameter of 1.2 metres. That way the bed has a width of 1.4 metres all around and can easily be accessed from both sides with a reach of 70cm. We had already dug a swale (more about that on another post), so we wanted it to fit below that. With a stake in the centre and a piece of string of the appropriate length we measured the outer circle. Then with an A-frame we measured a level diameter and placed stones around the lower perimeter with the stones from the mysterious stone-walled hole we found on the property.
Now we were ready to make some soil, having also loosened the subsoil somewhat. First we covered the area with some weed cuttings from the land to form a thick mulch. The countryside above the land is mostly grazing land for cows, sheep and at least two herds of wild horses, so we went on numerous trips up the hill with a bucket and spade to collect their offerings and pile it on top of the mulch. Meet some of our generous donours...
And these small purple figs:
Now for the list of medicinal plants for those of you that interested. I separated them into shade-tolerant and sun-loving plants and listed them more or less in descending order of height, the idea being to put the tallest shade tolerant plants on the northern side and the lower sun-loving plants on the south, if that makes sense. I'm also giving the Latin names, their chief medical properties and other uses, as in permaculture every element should fulfill multiple functions.
- Lovage levisticum officinale - skin and digestion aid - edible, makes a good addition to soups with a celery like flavour
- Purple Loosestrife lythrum salicaria - wound herb, soothes sore throats - bee plant
- Burdock artcium lappa - skin problems, anti-bacterial, rheumatism - edible root, dynamic accumulator
- Comfrey symphtum officiale - bruises, sprains, broken bones, chest complaints - edible leaves, dynamic accumulator, bee plant
- Sweet Cicely myrrhis odorata - diuretic, aids digestion, antiseptic - edible leaves
- Clary Sage salvia sclarea - eyes, tonic, menopause - bee plant
- St. John's Wort hypericum perforatum - skin, burns, anti-depressant - leaves and seeds as tea substitute
- Peppermint mentha x piperita - digestion, headaches, colds - edible leaves, tea, ground cover
- Yarrow achillea millefolium - blood stemming, menstrual problems, influenza - edible leaves, dynamic accumulator
- Borage borago officinalis - blood circulation, rheumatism, anti-depressant - edible leaves and flowers, bee plant
- Chamomile anthemis nobilis - calming, digestion, colds - ground cover, tea, dispels pests
- Bergamot monarda didyma - antiseptic - edible leaves, tea, bee plant
- Lady's Mantle alchemilla xantochlora - menstrual problems - ground cover
- Red Clover trifolium pratense - PMT, menopause - ground cover, nitrogen fixing, edible leaves and flowers
- Liquorice glycyrrhiza glabra - stomach ulcers, hepatitis, insect repellent - edible roots, dynamic accumulator
- Centaury centaurium erythrea - stomach, liver, gallbladder - bee plant
- Mullein verbascum densiflorum - ear infections, coughs, pulmonary problems - bee plant, dynamic accumulator
- Tansy tanacetum vulgare - digestion, expels worms, rheumatism - edible leaves
- Hyssop hyssoppus officinale - antiseptic, tonic - edible leaves, bee plant
- Fennel foeniculum vulgare - digestion, anti-bacterial - edible leaves and seeds
- Fenugreek trigonella foenum- graecum - digestion, lowering cholesterol - edible seeds, dynamic accumulator
- Lavender lavendula angustifolia - calming, headaches - bee plant, used in perfumery
- Sage salvia officinalis -colds, coughs, tooth whitener - edible leaves, bee plant
- Feverfew tanacetum parthenium - migraines, fevers - attracts pollinators
- Lemon balm melissa officinalis - depression, cold sores, insect repellent - edible leaves, tea, bee plant
- Nasturtium tropaoelum majus - respiratory complaints - edible leaves and flowers, ground cover
- Marigold calendula officinalis - skin complaints - edible leaves and flowers, dispels certain harmful nematodes
- Cowslip primula veris - anti-axiety, cramps, blood thinner - edible leaves and flowers, bee plant
- Thyme thymus officinalis - anti-septic, coughs - edible leaves, bee plant, ground cover
- Purslane portulaca oleracea - high in omega 3 acids, skin complaints - edible leaves, ground cover