Although I came to it relatively late, in my 30’s, it’s fair to say I feel it’s now in my blood. It gives me so much pleasure, satisfaction and calm sanity.
Having planned to become a full time gardener a few years ago, part of the deal in changing that plan and opening the pub together was that I got my hands on a garden I could build from scratch. At The Queen o’ t’ owd Thatch I had two blank canvasses - the beer garden at the front and the kitchen garden at the back of the pub.
I like having plans and ambitions and set an aim of being able to say that everyday there would be something on the food or drink menus that came from our own garden, whether fresh or preserved, and now, just into our third year of trading I’m getting close to being able to say just that. I love the seasons and seasonality of food.
When you’re faced with a lawn and want to create a garden to grow things in then you know that you’ve got hard work ahead. Lifting the turf began in earnest in Autumn 2013 to create beds for vegetables, herbs and cut flowers. It revealed compacted clay - unsurprising for this area - but turning the soil in Autumn means the winter frosts can help break down the clods, making it easier to turn in the compost and other organic matter that, between yours and the worms’ hard work, will eventually create a soil that roots and shoots can work their way through.
I knew I wanted to make compost from the vegetable kitchen waste we’d produce - so much better than throwing it away - and so built 3 large bins to get the compost going from day one. There’s been some trial and error in getting the mix right but now, 2 years on, we have an almost continuous supply of garden compost to enrich and open up the soil in the beds.
It’s now mid January and the 3rd winter of these gardens. I don’t think the gardening year ever really ends or starts but at this time of year I love getting all the preparation work done in anticipation of things to come. Tidying up the edges and paths, digging over the beds, turning the compost heap and sorting out the shed. It sounds so boring on paper!
Things are still growing and producing though - today I harvested black kale which accompanied the pork loin dish on our menu, the turnips are fattening up and we’ve still got perpetual spinach being, well, perpetual, and providing some vivid green leaves for the sea bass dish. Most exciting for me is the neat double row of broad beans we sowed early November which give so much promise for the harvest to come.