Penpont walled garden
I managed to bolt out of Birmingham for the shortest of short breaks, one night camping at Penpont, next to the river Usk in Wales. The weather was good, a little drizzle but good bursts of sun and the water was cold but the swimming good. The best bit though was the walled vegetable and cut flower garden on the farm where we were staying.
All the produce is sold in the farm shop and to local restaurants. The head gardener, James, was busy harvesting the last of the broad beans, but I managed to drag him away to explain his use of green manures. He was mainly using clovers (a mixture that include Kent white) under the tomatoes, under leeks, under squashes and between the corn. Once the crops are finished he takes a flail mower over the clover, gives the patch a good soak and then leaves it fallow for winter. No watering, no feeding just lots and lots of clover. He said at certain point he looked like a mad man as he painstakingly sowed between baby leeks, bent double and tip toeing between rows.
The soil is lovely there; a good red sandy soil that is enough to be jealous of in its own right, but the harvests were really good. Fat heads of Arno garlic (hard to get hold of, so order soon it's the best garlic I've ever grown - milder in flavour than some with good sized cloves), beautiful beetroots, multi-coloured chards, celery, celeriac and sun-warmed peaches in the old lean-to greenhouse. The potatoes had been hit by blight, but you could barely tell from the tubers. Oh and rows and rows of tomatoes in polytunnels that were painful to see, as all mine had gone down with blight at home.
James said that I was not to be swayed by the good weather as temperatures on some days had dropped as low as 11 degrees Celsius. The garden however is surrounded by a huge brick wall, his corn is taller than me and I haven't seen such good winter squash in a while, so I'm assuming those cold days weren't inside the walled garden.
Every bed was flanked by a band of cut flowers, also sold at the farm shop. The walled garden was neglected for years and was filled with Sitka spruces until about five years ago when it was turned back to vegetables. Although there is quite some way to go before it is back to its prime, on that bright day it was quite an edible picture.