At tomdigsthis we are all about organic gardening and encouraging people to grow as much of their own vegetables, herbs and fruit as possible for a healthy diet and all the good exercise that comes when you do it.
We also include flowers in this because they do so much not just for us but for the general health of an organic garden too. Encouraging pollinating insects such as bees for a start.
Like the farm, the garden is certified both biodynamic and organic by the international certification body Demeter. This means we have to adhere to certain standards. The obvious ones like no chemical use, therefore no inorganic pesticides, fungicides or weedkillers and the less obvious but just as important ones like no GMO’s.
The organic world takes a pretty strong stance against GMO’s for lots of valid reasons. The great Dr Stephen Hawking recently suggested that viruses emanating from GMO’s are likely to pose a grave threat for humankind.
So to get the fertility into our soil we use a lot of homemade compost. It is a mix of all our kitchen and garden waste and a bit of cow manure from our organic cows. It keeps our soil healthy and alive and in turn this is passed on to the food we grow to keep us healthy.
We also use the biodynamic preparations which add another layer of fertility. These activate the soil life and also aid plants in the take up of light through the use of silica in the form of ground quartz crystal.
So we are giving all the life on the farm maximum assistance and support in the way of fertility because this is what we want to go into our food.
The garden comprises a big vegetable patch with about 30 raised beds, a polytunnel of 10m x 4m and an ornamental garden around our house where we grow perennial flowers.
All this keeps us in a lot of food for most months of the year. Growing a wide variety and following clear rotations also help to keep the soil healthy. The soil is meant to grow stuff, that’s its job. The important thing that I have learned over the years is not to work it too hard, especially if it is not a robust soil. If you have the compost and manure to add that’s fine but if it is a thin soil then go easy, widen your spacings between plants and be satisfied with a slightly lower yield. There is always enough.
The pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the soil is slightly on the acid side of neutral which is perfect for most of what we want to grow. In terms of pH most soils, unless very sandy or the polar opposite – heavy clay, are likely to have an ok pH for fruit and veg. Again it is down to you to add what is needed to alter it. There is not too much point in getting worked up about it, you have what you have. It is more in the ornamental plant department that pH becomes a factor, usually with the bigger trees and shrubs.
We grow a wide range of crops because a varied diet is best for good health. A few potatoes, some cabbages and cauliflowers, lots of purple sprouting broccoli and calabrese and a load of leeks. Onions, shallots and garlic are essential along with the peas and beans to put back the nitrogen. They capture this vital gas from the air and hold it in the bacteria on the nodules of the roots. Then they disperse it to feed themselves and other plants around. Along with photosynthesis it is one of nature’s great miracles.
There is salad galore, lots of strawberries, a raspberry patch and greedily four asparagus beds. Herbs are everywhere mainly the annual ones like dill and basil. These we grow in the polytunnel too as they get bigger there. Thyme, marjoram and chives grow closer to the house. The bush fruit is dotted around the garden – red and blackcurrants and gooseberries.
All in all it is a wealth of good nutritious food and we are very grateful for it. All over this website, through the courses we offer and the sheets we have written about what we do, you will find all the information needed for you to grow crops the way we do and nourish yourself and your garden.