Our no-dig veg garden 6 months in

An unusual year

So, halfway through the year, ok a little over but close and how is our No Dig system progressing? Some of you who visited us in previous years will hopefully be pleasantly surprised at how we’ve changed. We started converting our field over to 4ft wide beds at the end of last year and putting in place a system of composting and mulching them. This is how things looked in 2012…
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The beds being converted over…
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and in 2013…
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Our team spent a lot of time getting the beds converted, and there is still more work to do, but so far we really are seeing the benefits. Working in this method allows you to grow veg in a more consistent and easier to manage way. There are some crops that at present we are not attempting, such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips. We will grow these again in the future once we have built up a decent soil depth but we are having some enormous successes with other crops such as Kohl rabi, Onions and Leeks.

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Kohl rabi ‘Azur Star’
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Onion ‘Bedforshire Champion’
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Leek ‘Northern Lights’

We also converted our tunnels over to the No Dig system last year, the soil had become exceedingly depleted and had no structure to it at all. We had started to find that even our Tomatoes were struggling to produce decent vines, so copious amounts of manure were added. Its worth bearing in mind when trying this yourself, that not all crops love a high Nitrogen soil and that it can sometimes cause a chemical imbalance, locking up certain nutrients like Magnesium. In a covered environment this can be easily dealt with but when growing organically its best to avoid overfeeding plants in the first place. We planned our crop rotation very carefully to avoid problems and we are getting great results despite the cold start to the year. Below is a picture taken in late July 2011 showing how stressed our Tomatoes were.
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and now….
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We are proud to be harvesting from them already and the difference in growth is phenomenal!

We also are providing our onsite restaurant with delicious organically grown Cucumbers, and this year we are growing 4 different types. In the cutest cucumber contest its a close run race between Iznik F1 and Passander F1, producing a perfect Cucumber for your lunch box! Or for something a little more substantial you might want to try Louisa F1 or Camilla F1.

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‘Iznik F1’
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‘Louisa F1’

We have been having an enormously abundant year for fruit as well. In late April I despaired that the weather would improve and by late May I had almost given up, but it hasn’t done our fruit any harm whatsoever. We have produced over 30 kilos of Gooseberries alone, all to be cooked up into yummy desserts by our Restaurant. Not to mention all the Strawberries, Redcurrants, Blackcurrants and soon to be available from our Farmers Market stall, Raspberries! Below is a picture of our Loganberries and in the distance the North Downs.
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One thing gardeners may want to keep an eye out for at this time of year is Gooseberry Sawfly. Able to decimate your plants in a day, they don’t just eat your Gooseberries they will go for your Red & White currants too! Organically you have very few options open to you as they must be dealt with quickly. The best and easiest option is to lay a old sheet under your bush and shake/flick the leaves till the horrible little blighters fall to the ground. When you think you’ve cleared one area move the sheet to the next and repeat process. Here’s the grim bit, once your plants are clean of the larvae and your sheet is covered in them you can then deal with the pest in an appropriate manner. How you choose to do this is up to you, but I suggest you don’t release them back to freedom. I would normally expect them a tad earlier in the year but it appears our unseasonable weather has knocked them out of kilter too.

I could include a Thousand more beautiful pictures of our lovely Veg. Garden as each one tells its own story but I run the risk of revealing my inner Nerd. Why not come and join us instead? See for yourself this unique venture into vegetable gardening and admire the best view in Kent …. well unless you climb to the top of the Tower that is.

Louise – Senior Vegetable Gardener

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