How to make a raised bed or herb book

Herbs are ideal for schools to grow. Most varieties are easy to propagate from cuttings or seed. Pupils can study the medicinal properties, find out how herbs were used in the past, or use them to enhance the flavour of food.

Mapledene produced a fantastic raised medieval herb bed for the schools garden at the Hampton Court Flower Show last month, while Ebchester C of E primary school in County Durham created an inspirational herb book.

Many materials can be used, including stones, bricks, logs or planks. If you want the raised bed to last, use a hard-wearing material as an inner structure, which can be clad with more authentic materials, such as hurdles (available at good garden centres).

Many of the plants grown by Mapledene had historic uses, including sweet woodruff ('Rubiaceae'), used in potpourri and to scent linens; lady's mantle ('Rosaceae'), so called because of its healing reputation; and camomile ('Compositae'), served as tea to relax the facial muscles.

If you want to grow a raised bed like Mapledene's, here's how:

* Using treated timber, take four square upright posts, each slotted along the length of two adjacent sides to take six planks for each side.

* Slot the planks together to create a rectangular frame and cement the upright posts into the ground.

* Once dry, backfill the bed with soil ready for planting.

If you don't have space for a raised bed, Ebchester's herb "book" is an excellent alternative.

* Make the base from two rectangular wooden boards (marine ply), each supported by four short legs. With the help of a basket weaver, Ebchester created a wicker surround for each board, about 20cm high. An alternative is to use four wooden planks fixed at the corners and to the base-board.

* Once the two halves of the book are complete, position them as closely together as possible and drape a piece of matting or black lining over both halves, covering the centre join. If placed on soft ground, the middle four legs can be pushed down to angle the book.

* Fill each half with compost, and plant herbs in rows using a different herb for each line. Cover soil with bark chippings to retain moisture.

* Attach a piece of plaited rope (leaving a knotted tassel on the end) to a thin plank of wood. Nail it to the book at the join, creating a spine and bookmark in one.

* Write the names of each herb on long, narrow pieces of wood and place underneath each "line" of the book.

Martha Godfrey is project manager of the Growing Schools garden. Contact: schoolsgarden

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