Meanwhile, back on the field, our adventure into no-dig, biointensive vegetable growing (also known as The Market Garden) is going well. Visitors to the farm will have seen that the 30 beds we cultivated last year have now become 71 beds for this year with many of our existing crop lines (like spinach, chard, beans, courgettes and salad) being transferred to this new style of growing. You may have already come across the garlic in your veg boxes and can expect plenty more from the Market Garden very soon!
In the Market Garden we try to do as little as possible to disturb the natural biology of the soil while the small scale allows us to make good use of compost. The zebra stripes of permanent beds are either growing a crop or covered with black silage sheet which suppresses weeds and creates a wonderful environment for worms to flourish. We are currently harvesting the last of the overwintered crops (fresh garlic) while the rest of the beds are filling up with new planting.
As expected the first year was a bit of a struggle with the weeds. Many thanks to volunteers and staff who nobly dug out the seemingly endless Couch grass and Docks between crops. We are hoping for better things this year as the no dig approach should reduce the weed burden. Generally everyone seems to enjoy the human scale of the market garden beds.
We are learning a lot, developing techniques and honing our instincts for this new way of growing. It feels a bit like learning to play a musical instrument: we have learned to bash out a reasonable tune but now we need to become virtuosi.
Will Warin, Long-term volunteer
Read about the start of the market garden project here.