Tin Bath Design


Thanks to the article in the latest copy of Permaculture Magazine by Vera Greutink,unnamed where she describes how she establishes different polycultures in an old tin bath, I was inspired to create my own. A polyculture is simply a group of different plants all grown together. In her article she grows 3 different polycultures: a group of edible flowers, a group of edible annual veg, and a group of edible perennials (I’m guessing she did this in 3 consecutive growing seasons).

My husband had picked up an old tin bath (2ft x18″) with a hole in the bottom that he’d spotted being thrown away, and brought home a few years ago. It had remained unused but even so we brought it with us to our new house, intending to use it some day. Well that day has arrived! The bath fitted perfectly on our new patio in the sunniest spot. Using Vera’s article for inspiration I designed my own polyculture of plants that would enjoy a sunny spot together.




In my design I chose: a compact tomato ‘patio yellow’ for colour at the back, calendula for height and colour and to deter pests, garden rocket for leaves and flowers, rainbow chard for colour and leaves, dill because I love that in salads and with fish, a perennial viola for it’s pretty (and edible) flowers, and a compact nasturtium ‘empress of india’ for it’s edible leaves and flowers.



I put the tin bath on two pieces of wood so that it would drain properly, then filled the bottom with broken pots. Then I filled it with multi-purpose compost and farmyard manure in a ratio of 50/50 which I bought from the garden centre. I figured that my polyculture which included a fruiting plant (tomato) would need plenty of nutrients.

unnamedWith my design in hand, I had a look for the plants on my list at the garden centre. I recommend bringing your design with you, because it’s all too easy to get distracted by the range of plants on offer in a garden centre and then it’s tempting to change your design at the last minute. This is usually a bad idea because your design is something you will have spent time on, getting the spacing right, making sure the plants are compatible and like the same conditions, so if you change it on a whim, the chances are that you might not have taken all these factors into account.

I could have grown it all from seed, but it was getting too late to start the tomato, and perennial violas take a long time to grow to the point of flowering, so I aimed to buy these two plants. I also spotted the ‘empress of india’ nasturtium plant while I was shopping, and decided I would buy this one too because I only needed one plant, and it was too tempting to have it ready to plant out for immediate effect. Such is the allure of garden centres! But I would rather buy a pretty multi-use plant than go shopping for dresses any day of the week!unnamed-1

When I got home I planted out the 3 plants I’d bought immediately into the tin bath. It was a sunny day and I thought they would all grow and be happy. But little did I know that we would get a very late frost followed by dull weather the following week and the tomato plant didn’t like it, but it survived and has now started to grow. The viola and nasturtium were fine and are growing well.

I sowed the rocket, calendula, chard and dill in late April in modules and these took off quite quickly in my sunny conservatory. Yesterday I planted them out (it’s now mid May). So, here is a picture of the tin bath planted up – so far so good. I’ll let you know later in the season how it looks and what kind of yield I got out of it. I wonder whether it will turn out anything like I imagined in the picture I drew?



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