No-dig grower, Rae Gervis, aims to create learning hub for local produce.
“Food has always been my thing,” says Rae Gervis, as she presents a guided tour of her no-dig, compost-fed kitchen garden. It’s just under an acre but provides the basic ingredients and foundation for her numerous business activities. Rae teaches sustainable horticulture courses in the garden and runs a catering business using ingredients harvested literally from her doorstep. She sells fresh produce and preserves from her shop in a nearby stone barn. She also stocks produce from local growers and makers.
“I want to create a hub for sustainable food production. I want people to know that they can come here and get local products and produce grown to organic standards. I want producers to know that there is a place where they can sell their goods alongside others which are produced to the same values. I want this to be a place where people can understand where everything that they are handling has come from, what the cause and effect of its production is, and what its footprint is,” Rae says.
The Kitchen Garden at Ty-Mawr is part of a former farming complex, and business grounds for Ty-Mawr Lime Inc, a sustainable building materials company on the shores of Llangorse Lake in Mid Wales. The location is a little off the beaten track and Rae admits she has to diversify to survive but insists the concept of no-dig horticulture and sustainable production hub is scalable and could be highly successful in a busier location.
As the name suggests, no-dig horticulture means not penetrating the soil. Vegetable beds are covered with a thick layer of natural compost and seeds or seedlings are planted directly in it. No digging means that carbon trapped in the soil is retained and supplemented by the compost which is placed on top – meaning less is released into the atmosphere. This is also means the diversity of microorgansims with differing oxygen requirements remain undisturbed, allowing for efficient recycling of nutrients and carbon through the soil.
Another advantage of no-dig gardening is that dormant weed seeds remain undisturbed – meaning fewer weeds. “When you dig,” Rae said, “you will always see a proliferation of weeds, because their seeds are brought up to the surface and exposing them to light, a natural cue for germination. A lot of the people I teach have been afraid of growing their own food because they thought it was too much hard work. When they see this technique, they understand that it actually reduces the amount of effort required.”
Vegetables are preserved by fermenting – a process taught at Ty-Mawr, along with other courses like foraging wild herbs to making botanical gin. Add to that, wine tasting evenings, Italian cuisine evenings, camping on the shore of the lake and veg boxes to collect, and Rae’s Kitchen Garden food hub is about as diverse as the garden environment it relies on.
Visit the website here: www.lime.org.uk/products/the-kitchen-garden.