With the Natural Gardener
In my home garden, I've been running a reclamation project for about the last 10 years, converting an old concrete covered farmyard into a wildlife haven and productive garden. I have a number of experimental areas, using a range of different ecological techniques to grow food and other plants in a sustainable way and I am currently developing much of this space as an educational resource - as an inspirational base for gardening workshops and garden tours.
If you'd like to get involved with this, it would be brilliant to welcome you along for our Gardening Tuesdays - I'm opening up the garden to volunteers on the second Tuesday of every month, where we're working on developing these educational areas. We work through the cycle of the year together and I'm passing on the techniques I've been using to build a garden that is full of food, wildlife and that is building in health year after year.
If you'd like to come and join in, you can download a short application form below, read on for more information or get in touch if you'd like to know more.
What is the Garden Like?
The garden here includes family areas close to the house and productive and wildlife spaces further out and it’s these productive and wildlife spaces that we’ll be working in. These include a vegetable garden, forest garden, mini meadow and coppice.
Hover over the images below to find out more about each of these areas.
Area by Area
What Will You Be Doing as a Volunteer?
Over the course of the year, we work through a seasonal rotation of tasks and tackle these either all together, or in small teams. All equipment can be provided, but if you have your own, I'll always let you know what's needed in advance of each session. No prior experience is needed, in fact this is a great way to learn more about gardening, as full instructions for each task will be given. While there are always particular seasonal activities that need doing, talk to me about any particular skills on the yearly plan that you’re interested in developing and I can make sure you get the chance to do that. Possible tasks are outlined below season by season.
Managing green manure, weeding, dividing plants, layering shrubs, planting, mulching, compost management, building basic garden structures, pruning stone fruit, scything winter grass
Planting and tending veg, weeding, mulching, compost management, water management, fruit pruning – soft fruit and trained apples
Planting, coppicing, willow weaving, pruning soft fruit and tree fruit, making new beds, mulching
Tending veg, harvesting, taking down structures, sowing winter green manure, mulching, scything the meadow, planting
We're meeting up for regular sessions on the second Tuesday of every month, running from 9.30 to 12.30. We stop mid morning for a drink and snack and there's always plenty of chance to chat, ask questions and get to know some really lovely fellow gardeners!
Once you've signed up as a volunteer, each month, (weather permitting), I’ll be in touch to let you know what type of activities we’ll be doing this time. I hope you can come along every month, but if you can’t that’s absolutely fine - just let me know each time whether to expect you.
If it becomes possible for me to run more volunteer days and you’d like to spend more time here, I’ll be sure to let you know. Likewise, if I need to change the day from our arranged pattern, or if it becomes impossible for me to continue running these sessions, I’ll aim to give you at least a month’s notice of this, so you have time to adjust your plans.
How is the Garden Managed?
The garden began as a concrete farmyard. We stripped back the concrete around 10 years ago and spent a number of years working on soil improvement before we were able to successfully begin planting up the forest garden and getting a good harvest from the vegetable patch. This restorative work is ongoing, with a yearly programme of activities going on to look after the plants we’ve put in, as well as new planting happening each autumn, winter and spring.
Everything is managed with good ecology and sustainability in mind. My gardening approach is a combination of conservation management practices, such as managing meadows and coppicing, along with traditional gardening skills – growing veg, lifting and dividing perennials, pruning for flowers and fruit and weeding. We’re chemical free, peat free and where possible, use hand tools, such as scythes and shears in preference to powered ones.
Health and Safety
If you do decide to join us for Gardening Tuesdays, there are a few health and safety features to be aware of.
We’ll be using standard garden tools and sometimes this might also involve very sharp tools, like the scythe, or potentially hazardous tools, like the mattock, so while working out in the garden, it's important to always take care and be aware of where everybody else is in relation to yourself and the tool you’re working with. We’ve got first aid equipment on site should it come to it! And there’s ready access at all times to an outside toilet with sink and clean drinking water.
It goes without saying that the ground is uneven in parts, and we have tufty grass and sometimes brambles or nettles leaning out over pathways, so you are encouraged to always keep an eye out under foot when you’re moving around.
If you have any problems with anything – any difficulties using tools, or find anything around the garden that you feel needs attention from a health and safety perspective, please come and tell me about it, so I can sort that out. This was an old farmyard and we do dig up all sorts of funny items, including some that need care to dispose of safely.