Wortley Hall Walled Garden is certified with the Soil Association, GB-ORG-05. Our producer licence number is G9343. Conversion to organic status only took two years, which recognised that the garden had not been cultivated for a number of decades. The soil is a deep clay loam, so the challenge is to maintain its high fertility and good structure...and get on top of the weeds. Illustrated below are some of the strategies we have employed.
A fine crop of fodder radish, sown immediately after initial cultivation, which was done by power harrowing the turf. Fodder radish is fast growing, deep rooting and produces masses of green leaf to rot back into the soil as a "green manure".
Another green manure crop - blue-flowered phacelia. Fast growing bee-attractant that produces lots of straw to add to the soil and help keep the soil light and workable..
Red clover green manure. Deep rooting and works with root dwelling bacteria to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. The stubble is the remains of a rye crop grown to outcompete weeds, and lift nitrogen from the soil for later use. This crop was left to ripen so we could collect its seed.
Creating natural pest control in the garden by growing plants attractive to predator insects such as hoverflies. This Dyer's Chamomile provides nectar over a very long period of the summer, and looks pretty good, too.
Onion crop with Clary Sage in flower alongside. Pity you can't experience the scent from the photo! Clary Sage is used in many famous perfumes and Eau de Cologne, and also loved by bees.
To avoid the need for herbicides and reduce the frequency of cultivations, plastic mulches are occasionally used to protect the soil through the winter.
The compost heaps don't just create excellent conditioning material for the soil, they also create a useful wildlife habitat, including a warm place for grass snakes to lay eggs. These eggs had recently hatched.
Late summer. Rye green manure crop establishing between leeks and cucumbers. The rye creates an efficient blanket for winter soil protection.
Two-wheeled tractor with spader attachment. Used in conjunction with a comprehensive green manuring programme, the spader can cultivate the soil for a number of desired results without causing panning or damage to soil structure and texture. A piece of Italian technology rarely used in the UK but popular in countries with more of a small-scale market gardening culture.
After initial cultivation, raking in broadcasted buckwheat seed. Buckwheat is very fast growing, and a hoverfly-attractant - who eat aphids. Only another quarter acre to go!
To maintain fertility, especially in the polytunnel, we need to make a lot of compost every year. This heap consisted of crop waste and horse manure.
We chose to borrow some of the soil's fertility as seed, such as in the rye being collected here. We can then sow it at the end of summer around the garden, avoiding having to buy in more seed.
Spreading compost on top of a green manure crop. This strip of clover had been growing for the whole of the previous season, and so in Spring we added compost prior to ploughing. The decomposition of the clover is enhanced by the presence of the compost, making a fertile soil ready for heavy feeder crops.