Who first got you into gardening?
It’s in my blood I guess, even my family name is horticultural! Although addicted to reading, I also loved being outdoors, tending stock, and growing. As a child, I encountered the organic movement at its farm and Soil Association headquarters at Haughley, which lay only a few villages away. My influences early on were garden and natural science authors, particularly William Cobbett, who recommended personal trial and experiment, and Laurence Hills, founder of HDRA, now Garden Organic.
What is your veg heaven and hell?
Heaven has to be asparagus. For years I’ve selected from ‘Kidner’s Strain’ for female plants with huge-sized spears but other than that and a bit of weeding it grows itself and is so welcome early in the year.
Hell has to be new potatoes. I love these with super early crops in tubs undercover. I get the first meal at Easter, followed by more from tubs, then from the polytunnel border, before lifting the first outdoor crops. But the effort!
How have you adapted your gardening style over the years?
I am now for starting off more crops in small cells and pots and planting out rather than sowing in situ. Even though the latter gives better results the former is so much more reliable and allows for better weed control for longer. This fits in with the incorporation of weeds and green manures from mid-winter till spring under woven ground covering geotextiles, which can stay in place longer when planting not sowing.
One development is that I’ve always welcomed wildlife on every scale with the intention they would control each other, and for the fertility their proliferation engenders. I now strive to encourage these even more.
How is your garden at home laid out? And tell us about your double polytunnel?
I spent months planning on paper before commencing so that everything would be in the most suitable position, so I would have places most often visited closest to the kitchen and vice versa, and most importantly to have my veg beds (40 each 4 x15ft) exposed to full sun and aligned north/south. However, this is not a show garden but a laboratory, so some areas have changed many times.
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