Sunshine and Seedlings

Back in March we said goodbye to our previous grower, Dan, and hello to our new grower, Fred. The garden team – consisting of Fred, Johnny, Katy (garden apprentice), Ronja and Jeff (garden volunteers) have been very busy these last few months propagating plants and preparing the land for the summer with generous applications of cow manure kindly given to us by a local farmer and friend, Jerry.

Spring is a lovely time of year in the garden, full of hope and promise. The sun starts to shine more, and the days get longer making it possible to enjoy evenings on the land. It is a time of dreaming and possibility before the triumphs and complications inherent to food-growing unfold. We have been working with many different groups of people in the garden, including school groups, volunteers, and participants of Embercombe’s residential programs.

This year we have bought some special machinery for growing potatoes: a planter and a spinner. The planter has been a great success, and a real joy to use, saving a lot of energy. Our potatoes were planted by children who sat on the planter while it was pulled along by the tractor. This year we are growing our potatoes in between the apple trees in our orchard, a technique called ‘alley cropping’. It is looking like it will be a bumper crop this year, but let’s not speak too soon!

Our strawberries are coming thick and fast now and they should continue for a while as we have a mixture of varieties that will crop at different times. Coming soon will be other soft fruit such as redcurrants and gooseberries.

Our polytunnel is now full of tomato plants and cucumbers and also some early courgettes. This year we have ten different varieties of tomato including some interesting heirloom varieties. We have a variety called ‘Millefluer’ which, as the name suggests, produces huge trusses of tiny fruit. It is a cross between a wild tomato and a cultivated one, they are delicious raw in salads. We have planted lots of basil with our tomatoes as they are great companions, both in the kitchen and the garden. If only we could grow mozzarella too!

At Embercombe we try to encourage and increase biodiversity. Sometimes this means that the needs of local wildlife and the needs of the kitchen clash. We have lost a huge amount of sweetcorn and pumpkin seeds to mice and birds this year which sadly will mean that our crops of these two vegetables will be seriously compromised. We have also lost a lot of cabbages to an insect called cabbage root fly, whose larvae feed on the root systems of plants from the cabbage family, weakening and sometimes killing them.

In a few weeks time our veg box scheme will start again for 2015. This summer people who sign up can be expecting: courgettes, tomatoes, basil, french beans, broad beans, peas, salad, strawberries and other soft fruit, chard, kale, cabbages and flowers. If you are interested in signing up please contact for more information.