Stephanie Hafferty

Guest blog for Mr Plant Geek

Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, saw some photographs of the seasonal, plant based food I make on Twitter and asked me to share some recipes on his website: here they are.

I have selected recipes which make the most of fruit and vegetables currently available in the UK – either cropping now, or home stored from our summer gardens and allotments – and included a deliciously filling autumnal muffin recipe. Ideal for chilly days on the allotment, harvesting, mulching or planning 🙂

Read the blog here.

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Michael has been gardening since he was a toddler, is passionate about plants and has an unusual range of t shirts!

Michael Perry, Mr Plant Geek

Photograph copyright Michael Perry

 

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Open Afternoon at Homeacres No Dig Market Garden

It’s our open afternoon today (Sunday September 3rd) at Charles Dowding’s no dig garden, Homeacres. I was busy all day yesterday making cakes, including many with hidden vegetable ingredients!

Vegetables on 1/4 acre no dig beds with greenhouse & polytunnel. Fruit trees, lawns and flower borders.

Trial areas: dig/no dig, no rotation, different composts

Free entry, light refreshments, donations Send a Cow and Youth Charity Foundation, Thailand

Homeacres, Alhampton, nr. Castle Cary/Shepton Mallet, BA4 6PZ
Alhampton Inn is open for food

Please park in the village and walk up the road (parking on the lane only for those who need to, please, it is very narrow!)

 

All of the information is here. Admission is free, tea and cakes for donations to our charities.

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In the summertime…

After the excitement of our book’s publication, the past few months have been a wonderfully busy time. The book has been doing so well, spending most of the time as the #1 best selling book in organic veg! The publishers have reprinted it and it is now for sale in America and Canada. We are so happy with the feedback, such lovely comments and great reviews.


During May and June have been on some fantastic garden-related trips with Charles, which explains why I haven’t had much time to update my website!

Charles gave a no dig day course at Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill, where we also took the opportunity to explore Sissinghurst with the vegetable gardening team, who run a no dig garden at this beautiful National Trust property.

The next day, we visited another wonderful no dig garden, Blooming Green which specialises in cut flowers. Charles gave a no dig course here too. The lunch was fantastic!

The last weekend of May was incredibly busy. First we flew to the amazing Ballymaloe in Cork, staying with Darina and Tim Allen, where Charles gave a day course (he returned again a few weeks later to give another one, we love Ireland!) We got to meet a lot of the cookery school students too, and sit in on one of Rachel Allen’s inspirational demonstrations.

And then on to the GIY organic centre HQ in Waterford (another no dig course!) on the Sunday. It is still under construction.

Flying back home that evening, we arrived late Sunday with just enough time to sleep and water our plants before attending a fair at River Cottage where I gave a talk about edible flowers and Charles, no dig gardening. The lunch was delicious. I enjoyed meeting the many stallholders and admiring the abundant kitchen garden.

We’ve had several sell out no dig day courses at Homeacres, visits from gardening and permaculture groups, various talks including the Permaculture Convergence and we took part in the Alhampton village open gardens.

And then…. off to Copenhagen for their first Garden Festival! The Danish version of Chelsea was small and very friendly, an absolute pleasure to visit. Fortunately the Danish speak excellent English as my Danish amounts to just one word: snegle (slug/snail!) Charles gave two no dig talks, introduced by Annette Heick, a well known Danish TV star. I enjoyed the many exhibits and meeting other gardening authors, including the fascinating Aiah Noack, author of a book about edible flowers (so we had a lot in common!) and who is currently writing a permaculture book for Scandinavian countries. We stayed with Bo and Eva Egelund, who recently celebrated the launch of Bo’s no dig guide to self sufficient gardening, Den Selvforsynende Familie (The Self Sufficient Family). It is a beautiful book, I just wish I could read it! I am rather in love with traditional Danish houses…

And there has been gardening too! Unsurprisingly I am a bit behind where I’d like to be in the garden and with all of this travelling some bindweed has taken the opportunity to grow in my front garden, but with mulched no dig beds that is easy to trowel out. I’m hopeful that things will be back on track soon. The polytunnel and greenhouse are full, my allotment is almost full – just some more brassicas to plant – and my neighbour Audrey jokes that my back garden is turning into a jungle, now that the fruit trees are all leafy and producing fruit.

After slipping back into winter occasionally – or rather that is how it felt, with suddenly cool temperatures and a few days of gales – it now really is summertime. My garden is full of delicious soft fruit: boysenberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, whitecurrants, loganberries, apricots and blueberries are ripe now, other fruits will be ready soon. I’m especially looking forward to my early Victoria-type plum.

The first aubergine is ready in my polytunnel, where I am growing 12 different varieties! Cucumbers too and some sweet Sungold tomatoes.

The kitchen garden beds I manage at Roth Bar and Grill, at the Hauser & Wirth Somerset Gallery are full of edible flowers, herbs and delicious vegetables. Growing most of the plants in modules helps to keep the beds full as there is usually something ready to plant whenever I clear a previous crop. The beans were badly hit by the gales, but have recovered and should be cropping soon.

Raw smoothies made in a powerful blender are a favourite at this time of year. After we have picked the leaves on a Friday morning, whilst Charles washes them I prepare a brightly coloured breakfast packed full of vitamins and flavours. Beetroot adds a wonderful dimension of colour.

This week I’ve been sowing Florence fennel, chicories, more dwarf French beans, chard, herbs and different kales. I’m not quite sure where I’ll fit them in!

 

Open Afternoon at Homeacres

We have an open afternoon at Charles’ no dig market garden at Homeacres tomorrow, one of Alhampton’s many gardens to open, on Sunday 18th June. Read More

April update

Two very exciting things are happening today (Friday 21st April). Our book, No Dig Organic Home & Garden has arrived at the publishers! It will be with us in Somerset on Monday; Charles and I are very much looking forward to seeing the book. We’ll have a lot of signing and packaging of the pre-orders to do 🙂

Also, this evening Charles is being featured on Gardeners World – even Monty’s dog Nigel has been Tweeting about this (he might have got no dig a bit confused…!)

The crew filmed for a day on August 10th 2016. It was fascinating watching the process. A whole day’s filming has been condensed into a feature of around 6 minutes. Charles’ son Ed is on the left of the first photograph below – he makes most of Charles’ popular You Tube videos.

Tonight the programme will also include footage of Charles with Geoff Hamilton back in the 1980s, when a whole episode of Gardeners World was filmed from his then garden, an 8 acre organic no dig market garden.

Neither Charles nor myself have a television, so we have arranged to visit friends in his village to watch the programme. I wonder what people new to the idea of no dig gardening will think of Charles’ gorgeous garden? I’m sure it will encourage them to explore this lovely way of growing abundant vegetables whilst caring for the soil and nature.

We found out yesterday that Charles has also been nominated for Best Organic Innovator in the Soil Association BOOM awards – he is on a bit of a roll at the moment!!

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy in my home garden and allotment – sowing, pricking out, potting on, planting. It has been a very dry spring, so new plantings are requiring more hand watering than usual. In my greenhouse I have two heated benches: one is made from two heat mats and the other is made from a soil warming cable buried in sand on a bench. All have thermostat controls and I also use thermometers to check the heat of the compost. The rest of the greenhouse is unheated. Other warmth sensitive seeds are germinated in smaller lidded heated propagators in my house, on window sills. They go out onto the heat mats when I pot them on.

I’ve been loving the abundance in my polytunnel – the cabbages and kale in particular are so delicious and fresh and the early carrots add an extra exciting flavour to meals. Gradually these plants are being eaten and cleared and the ground mulched in readiness for the summer plantings, including some experimental early dwarf French beans which will be planted in the polytunnel this weekend – just as the temperatures are set to drop! I am ready with fleece and bubblewrap to protect them and will also be keeping an eye on the extra early polytunnel potatoes (Swift and Rocket), protecting if the temperatures really do go as low as the forecast suggests. All the other potatoes are in beds in the front and back garden.

The coriander is flowering, more food for the bees and other insects and soon a delicious crop of green coriander seed. I write regular updates about my garden, allotment and work garden on my blog, NoDigHome.

Charles and I spend Wednesday mulching my front garden beds with manure from the allotment up the road. Charles has a trailer, which is much more convenient than putting it in sacks and into the back of my very small car! It was still a lot of hard work, especially for Charles who had the job of heaving the wheelbarrow up the 5 steps to my front garden. The osteoarthritis in my hands means that my ability to heave heavy wheelbarrows up steps has diminished somewhat, so I was especially appreciative of this help.

These beds are on top of horrible soil full of builder’s rubble and goodness knows what else from the 1970s, which is why I decided to use wooden sided raised beds here – it makes a much better growing area for vegetables, even if it does increase habitat for slugs and snails….These were all hiding next to the timber of the middle bed, where the flowers in the side area had grown up against the wood, creating ideal snail habitat.

Half of the middle bed had already been mulched with some of Charles’ mushroom compost because I wanted to sow carrots there a week or so ago, so we spread the composted manure over everywhere else. The bed nearest the road already has second early potatoes and some overwintered spring onions in it: the potatoes will appreciate the lovely mulch, which I can also use to earth them up as they grow.

I’ll be planting some brassicas in the bed nearest to the house over the weekend; haven’t yet decided what will go in the other half of the carrot bed. Possibly a catch crop of radish and then beans or courgettes, when the danger of frost has passed in May.

There’s so much to choose from in the garden and larder – these dishes were made last week from freshly picked or home stored vegetables and fruit. (Except the bread!)

I had a great time visiting the RHS Cardiff show on April 8th. Charles gave a standing room only talk about no dig gardening and I had the opportunity to catch up with my daughter who is studying for an MSc at Cardiff university. It is a wonderful city and this event is one of the nicest RHS shows I’ve been to. As you can see, I loved the colours of the tulips!

Upcoming events include:

Charles and I will be signing copies of our new book, demonstrating some homemade potions and giving tours of the kitchen garden at Roth Bar and Grill, Hauser and Wirth, Bruton on May 1st. We’ll also have some plants for sale for your own allotment or garden.

And on May 7th, we’ll be launching the book and giving talks at the South Downs Green Fair.

We’ll be at the River Cottage Spring Food Fair, giving talks on no dig gardening (Charles) and growing edible flowers (me).

I’m speaking at the South West Permaculture Convergence on June 10th

Charles’ garden at Homeacres is open as part of the Alhampton Open Gardens on June 18th

Spring Equinox

It’s the first day of spring – Happy Ostara! Today’s grey skies and pouring rain transformed into gorgeous sunshine and blue skies mid-afternoon and the forecast for tomorrow is lovely. Birds are busy, bees foraging on early flowers, everything is growing so fast! Read More

Winter Update: How can it be February already?

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! Read More

Interview in Green Gardens

I was interviewed last month by Green Gardens about no dig gardening and other aspects of my work. Read More

No Dig Organic Home and Garden

I am so excited to see the press release and cover for the book I have written with Charles, No Dig Organic Home and Garden. Signed copies are available from Charles’ website here. Read More

Autumn update

Suddenly it is autumn! It has been a while since I wrote a post mostly because like all gardeners I’ve been busy in the garden, enjoying the summer’s abundance!  Also for the very exciting reason that I’ve been working on the book I am writing with Charles – the first draft is now almost ready to send off to the publisher – Permanent. The publishers have the title, ISBN, cover and press release sorted – more on this soon. Read More

Open Garden – Sunday 4th September

 

Open Garden at Homeacres on Sunday, Charles’ amazing no dig market garden. A great opportunity to find out more about no dig gardening, growing vegetables and to try some of my cakes! Read More

Summer harvests from the kitchen garden

Summer abundance fills my garden and kitchen, the delicious harvest of mulching, sowing, pricking out, planting, weeding, watering and caring for so many vegetables, herbs and fruit. I am not quite at the point of ‘we can’t keep up with it’, thanks to three young adult children with super-human powers of consuming cucumbers and tomatoes, but preserving will start soon. I have written an article about summer gardening and cooking for Permaculture Magazine, out in a few days – with recipes for meals to make now, preserving summer flavours and tips for the summer garden. Read More

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