The gardens are fairly extensive – four and a quarter acres in all – much of which has been divided into different ‘outdoor rooms’ with plenty of paths for walking meditation and benches for silent reflection.
We have an orchard with apples, pears, plums, damsons and greengages, and 15 raised beds (20ft x 4ft) for vegetables. Earlier this year we established a soft fruit garden for gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, tayberries and blackberries, 2 rhubarb beds and a 50ft asparagus bed.
So in the summer months the kitchen garden provides much of the food for the students who come here for retreats and other courses.
A recent project was to make a herb garden just outside the kitchen, which is not only decorative and fragrant but has added a new dimension to the meals as we are currently experimenting with the interesting flavours.
The gardens are completely organic and we do not use artificial fertilizers or poisons. We make our own compost and also make a liquid plant food from comfrey (to provide potash) and stinging nettles (for nitrogen). We also use seaweed concentrate and have recently discovered rock dust, a nutrient-rich natural soil enhancer made from volcanic rock. All the grass clippings from the many lawns are combined with shredded paper to make a very effective autumn mulch for the beds. We are very keen to recycle as much as possible to preserve the earth’s precious resources.
We now have four beehives in the orchard, two National hives and two Horizontal Top Bar Hives. The main reason for this is to give a much-needed helping hand to our ailing bee population, rather than for collecting honey. To keep up with our progress take a look at the Bees pages.
We are using ‘Natural Beekeeping’ methods, after the method advocated by Phil Chandler, author of ‘The Barefoot Beekeeper’. If you would like to know more about this take a look at our Courses section or visit Phil’s website, www.biobees.com.
For more images of the garden go to the Garden tab and click on the ‘Photos of Garden’ drop-down menu.