Bridport Times November 2018

Page 34

Wild Dorset



often get asked by people what on earth I grow over the winter. There is a strong misconception that not many things can manage over the winter months and, although it’s true that there is less variety of things that grow, and those plants which are in the ground really slow down, there is still a lot that’s harvestable and a lot to do in the garden regardless! How one goes about preparing for winter is quite different depending on how the land is used. Two of us market garden at Tamarisk Farm: on my garden I follow no-dig principles whereas Rebecca, growing on a bigger scale, uses no-dig on some of the land but, as she is also working on a field scale, she uses larger areas of green manure to build up humus. On the farm’s arable ground, cereal seed has been sown so that the new plants protect the soil. Here, however, I write about my particular market garden and the no-dig principle. No-dig has had a lot of press in recent years for several reasons. It’s the easiest system for small scale gardeners to work with and research has shown that it may be beneficial for the soil structure and organisms in the soil. Put simply, no-dig means not ploughing, rotavating, digging or turning over the soil in any way. Instead, one ‘builds’ the soil, adding compost and mulch to permanent beds year on year in an ongoing process. It is, however, the autumn and winter months when I do most of the wheel-barrowing around the garden. No-dig is particularly suited to my little patch of market garden - it’s a small space and nearly impossible to get a tractor onto it. I focus on growing quickmaturing crops such as salad greens and herbs, which I plant densely into these permanent beds. There is much great composting material and mulch to be found or scavenged around the farm due to the diverse nature of what Tamarisk does. Throughout the year I am constantly making compost, using everything I can 34 | Bridport Times | November 2018

get my hands on - predominantly spent crops, weeds (avoiding seed heads and perennial weeds), straw and sheep dung that is left over from the sheep living in the polytunnels, daggings (the dirty wool scraps from shearing) and manure from the cow barns. If everything has gone to plan, I have plenty of ready home-made compost to start adding to beds when I have cleared the summer crops. We always joke that West Bexington, sloping south towards the sea, has its own special micro climate: the closeness of the sea has a buffering effect on temperatures so we get fewer frosts; the cold air tends to roll away down the slope into the sea; and the light reflecting off the sea means we get an early start in the spring. In general, that benefits us immensely, though it meant that the intense summer seemed even more so down here. These upcoming winter months are when I really feel the special joys of growing at Tamarisk Farm. The colder, darker, slower days give me a chance to take stock and really appreciate what’s around me, whether it’s working into the fading light of a cold, still evening watching another stunning sunset, getting