Firstly today is Yarrow, NL: Duizendblad (Achillea millefolium) growing in a protected and well fertilized spot, next to a lamppost on Hugo de Vrieslaan. I use it mainly as a wound herb, I rub the juices gently on lightly wounded skin as an antisptic and to stem bleeding and as a fast remedy to nosebleeds. There are a great many uses for this herb. It is definitely one that far more people should know about and learn how to use. My daughter loves to nibble on this plant, perhaps because she can easily recognize it and pick the leaves from my roof pots but it shouldn’t really be ingested by under 5 year olds due to the strength of its blood regulating action. This plant grows all over the place, very easily and there are coloured flowered varieties which also have the same medicinal effects. I have a red flowered one on the roof. It makes an interesting addition to salads, just a leaf or two chopped up a little is all that’s needed. Be aware that it will bring on bleeding so not for pregnant women. Having said that it also helps to normalize mentrual cycles in some women. A very useful herb.
Above is the uniquely “fragranced” Field Woundwort (Stachys arvensis). Another wound herb, not as potent as Yarrow and not bitter tasting but very aromatic. Its a member of the Labiates and tastes a little of mint, but its quite different aswell. Good as a tea now and then, also a herb with many historic uses. See day 52 for some more information and links about this prolific urban waterside herb – why it’s called field woundwort, I’m not sure, I always find it beside water.
Above is Rosebay Willowherb (Epilibium angustifolium). Edible and medicinal (some use it for treating puss filled boils) not one I’ve really used, just eaten the odd flower and young shoot. Apparently it’s popular in several countries as a spring vegetable. Patrick Whitefield taught me about it some years ago, on a permaculture course. It often grows profusely on wasteland. I remember a lot of it growing on freshly cleared building plots, near my home as a child. It is a pioneer species, giving it the common name in North America of Fireweed.
For several years now, I’ve been growing herbs on my roof terrace in what I call Permapots. Inspired by the first Permaculture course I attended, run by Patrick Whitefield at the Sustainability Centre, I began growing mixtures of perennial herbs in large planters.
Permaculture advocates low maintenance gardening of edibles by growing a mixture of perennials and annuals in a way that reduces the need for weeding, watering and feeding. My idea of the ideal Permaculture garden is one that is self-sustaining, produces a useful yield of food throughout the year, is pleasing to the eye and is in harmony with nature.
This is a tall order for a small roof garden but I thought it was worth a try. My Permapots have been going strong for 4 years now and have provided us with a nice variety of edibles and medicinals year round. We have enjoyed roof-grown Rocket at Christmas, occasional summer Strawberries, year round Yarrow and countless herbs for teas and various lotions and potions.
From time to time, I thin out the perennials and refresh useful annuals, such as Calendula and Nasturtium. but mostly I just leave the pots to do their thing and am grateful for whatever harvest we receive. Some plants have done well, some have disappeared and others have done phenomenally well.
Tips for Permapots…
Grow perennials suited to your environment.
Sew annuals which self seed readily.
Be prepared for change and some failures.
Plan for a low to moderate but varied yield.
Grow Lupins our clover in some pots and dig them in each season.
Thin out plants from time to time and share with your friends.
My favourite Permapot plants are…
Borage (self seeds readily)
Calendula (seeds are easy to collect & sew)
Nasturtian (seeds are easy to collect & sew)
Permapots save money and effort as I don’t need to buy new plants each year and I am provided with baby plants to sell our give away.
Permapots allow for failure, if one plant does in bad weather there are always plenty of others to enjoy.
Permapots welcome unexpected guests – chickweed, hairy bitter cress and dandelion being the tastiest here.
Permapots don’t need much work.