Every season has a different role to play to ensure the flourishing of our food garden. After a hot, dry summer, winter is the time for us to add rich compost and manure – returning nutrients to the soil for the next growing season.
On sunny days, we prune fruit trees and trim back any plants that have grown wild. We hope for plenty of rain, because – this spurs growth of winter grasses, which boost the soil’s carbon content. Rains also encourage the leafy greens we’ve planted to prosper – including cabbages, broccoli, kale and fennel. Our root crops such as beetroot, carrots and onions also thrive at this time of year.
Crop rotation and companion planting is important to enhance different nutrients and scare away pests. We like to plant cabbages, broccoli and kale after beans. In between these, we plant marigolds (to distract bugs) and spring onions (which protect the soil from disease).
Carrots and peas grow very well together. Radishes and lettuces give a quick crop and complement each other in a garden salad. Strong-smelling herbs such as organum and thyme planted in and around the vegetables add a lovely flavour to meals and help keep pests out.
We return any parts of the vegetables we don’t use to our worm farm so that it can become rich compost. All weeds (there are plenty this time of year!) are put in a big drum and filled with water to ferment for a week or two. This will break down into strong plant food. The weeds are trying to repair any nutrients that may be out of balance, so it is important they are composted and returned to the garden.