Winter Update: How can it be February already?

Salad harvest at Homeacres, late December

January has flown by, a busy month, including working on the final edit of our book and going on holiday. The No Dig Home and Garden – all 20 chapters and photographs –  has now gone back to the publishers and off to the designer, exciting times! This is Charles’ ninth book but my first, so procedures that are familiar to him require more time for me to work out. I’ve been writing articles for years, but a book is rather different – fortunately I’ve had the help and support of our publishers Maddy and Tim Harland at Permanent Press. Publication date is May 1st, 2017.

no-dig-front-cover

There’s a lot to eat in my garden and allotment, along with home stored fruit, vegetables and herbs. We are certainly not experiencing any sort of salad shortage here, enjoying the overwintered abundance from the polytunnel, including Grenoble Red lettuce, Pak choi, rocket, spicy mustards, orientals, coriander, parsley, chard, beetroot leaves, spinach and chervil. I’m cooking stored squashes, garlic, onions and beetroots with freshly harvested parsnips, swedes, kale, Brussels sprouts, flower sprouts and the last few cauliflowers.

Mulching the allotment beds is a key winter job which we were keen to complete before our holiday. The 5 tonnes of manure had been delivered by George, a dairy farmer, a couple of months ago in readiness (it costs around £30 for 5 tonnes). Charles and I spread the manure over all of the beds including those growing the brassicas, except the parsnip one which I am still harvesting – otherwise they would have been buried under the mulch. The manure was well rotted but quite soggy after some heavy rains, so it went on lumpier than usual. Subsequent heavy frosts will help break up the lumps and I will further break it up with a rake before planting and sowing. Usually the mulching would have been done before Christmas, but my back was ‘playing me up’ (lower back pain with shooting pains down my left leg, ouch!) so I needed to wait for that to heal. I will sow this year’s parsnips and carrots into the manure mulch, it works really well!

Afterwards, we recovered the brassicas with netting to protect them from pigeons and deer. The top of my allotment, where I also have the compost bins, is currently mulched with heavy recycled polythene to (hopefully!) kill off some invasive horseradish. Useful though horseradish is, it is on a mission to take over my allotment and I have enough for my needs growing in a large concrete container at home. The weedy path belongs to the allotment next door – they have only recently taken over and are doing a brilliant job sorting out a very neglected plot, all no dig.

Some of the remaining manure will go in containers (quite likely made from some old dumpy bags) on top of this polythene to use the space, some will come home in old compost sacks in the back of my small car (!) for the three front garden beds and the rest will be spread where it is for sweetcorn and squash.

A few days later we flew to Morocco for some winter sunshine and to explore a different culture and landscape. We especially enjoyed visiting the Majorelle garden in Marrakech: beautiful sunshine but so surprisingly cold. As you can see in the photo, I think I was wearing all of my holiday clothes at the same time to keep warm! Oh that blue is so beautiful…

We have also been busy promoting and selling Charles’ diary. Chosen as one of the top choices for presents for gardeners in the Sunday Times, it is receiving great reviews and is being sold all over the world.  An any year diary, which can be used again and again to keep a record of your growing, it is a true gardener’s diary as it starts on February 14th, the date that we begin sowing for the new year. The perfect romantic present for Valentine’s Day

 

This was another cold day, I have many layers on under that coat but still needed to wrap myself up in a tablecloth! We are at Hauser and Wirth, Bruton with Judy from DigMyVeg.

Over the next week or so I will be updating my website, especially the courses, talks and workshops that I offer, with some new topics including growing and using edible flowers (have had my first booking for this one, at River Cottage). In addition to this year, i’ve been taking bookings for 2018 and even 2019 – that feels very far away!

Photos for some of my talks and workshops

I am also researching and planning a new book, after many requests for one from people who have attended our courses.

Charles and I have been out and about promoting and talking about growing your own vegetables and no dig. This weekend we are in West Dean, where Charles is giving two sell out workshops and I have the pleasure of working in the beautiful Oak Hall, talking walks around the gorgeous gardens when I need a break from writing. The no dig trials at Beechgrove are successful (I haven’t seen them as I don’t have a TV) and we have been hearing from many other top gardens which are adopting a no dig policy. Charles’ instagram was chosen as one of the top gardening accounts to follow by several journalists in the national papers and the Facebook group I run with Jan, Jodie and Gary is attracting new members daily: No Dig Gardening – Undug.

No Dig, no till and minimum tillage methods were debated at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, a brilliant event regularly infiltrated by escapees from the ‘official’ farming conference also in Oxford, who preferred the more lively and interesting debates at the ORFC. I am planning the growing year for the beds at Roth Bar and Grill, at the Hauser and Wirth gallery in Bruton and Charles and I are very much looking forward to our courses at Homeacres, which commence in a couple of weeks.

We especially enjoy teaching people how to grow their own fruit, herbs and vegetables year round. There’s so much that one can grow in the UK (even more possibilities with a polytunnel, cloche, greenhouse or coldframe), that there is no need to eat out of season courgettes or imported iceberg lettuces. Last week Charles and I picked salad for shops and restaurants in Bruton, all locally grown and full of flavour, vitamins, minerals and beneficial organisms from the environment at Homeacres – the Terroir; do we have a word in English that encompases the same meanings?

Salad harvest at Homeacres, late December

Salad harvest at Homeacres, late December