Growing Awareness - working in The Barn's gardens

16th December, 2019
by Julian | 3 Min Read
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Welcome to the latest garden news-post with our Apprentice Gardener Amy Cairns, who also cares for the gardens at The Barn too.

A new face (and hands) in The Barn's gardens

We are saying goodbye to the old year and the old decade. Plants are dormant, sleeping in the ground, trees are bare, birdlife is abundant as woodland birds scavenge for all they can to feed themselves through the cold months.

Autumn in the garden here at The Barn was a time of transition, not just for the seasons, but also between gardeners. As Luci moved towards motherhood, taking her maternity leave from October, I stepped in as gardener. Now in midwinter, with three months of learning the ropes, getting to know the land, and how things flow at The Barn, I'm feeling settled and grateful for the opportunity to spend time here. There is a special magic in the air which affects every person who passes through this beautiful valley overlooking The Dart. And there have been plenty of beautiful misty mornings where it is a real treat to ascend the steep hill up to the vegetable beds to catch a glimpse of the river.

Winter in the garden always comes with its own challenges. Whilst the frenzy of sowing, planting and harvesting is a but a distant dream, there are still important jobs to be done. Here at The Barn myself and the retreatants, who work in the garden every day as part of their practice, have been working on some winter projects:

  • Installing new wooden edging for the raised beds in the polytunnels
  • Bringing on and planting out a vibrant mix of salad greens in the polytunnels to provide nutritious, fresh leaves throughout the winter and into spring
  • Nurturing winter crops like swede, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels sprouts and cavalo nero kale
  • Enjoying harvesting and cooking the last of the bulb fennel, beetroot, chard and outdoor salads
  • Covering the vegetable beds with mulch (compost, manure and straw), covering with black sheeting, and fleecing plants for frost protection
  • Being on guard against pesky pheasants and that old enemy, the slug
  • Turning the compost bays and covering well with plastic sheeting and old carpets to keep the heat sealed in

Looking into the coming months, I am working on putting a rainwater harvesting system in place in the garden using run-off from shed and wood store rooves. This will improve resilience in the garden and help us to cope with hotter, dryer summers that are more prevalent with Climate Change.

Meanwhile, January is a time for planning what crops to plant in spring, ordering seed, tidying the tool shed, and making the most of a relatively quiet time in the garden to look ahead to the coming growing season.

May you all have a happy and healthy new year!

Pictures by Amy Cairns

Find out more about Sharpham's gardens here