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Workshops and events 2019

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Following on from the highly successful workshops and foraging days of 2018, we have a whole raft of days to look forward to in 2019.

In chronological order:

Tuesday 9th April               Foraging with Liz Knight

Wednesday 24th April       Wild Gardening with Sue

Wednesday 1st May           Foraging with Liz Knight

Wednesday 22nd May       Organic Veg Growing with Sue

Monday 3rd June               Foraging with Liz Knight

Wednesday 19th June       Compost Making with Sue

Monday 1st July                 Foraging with Liz Knight

Wednesday 24th July        Compost Making with Sue

Tuesday 27th August         Foraging with Liz Knight

Monday 16th Sept              Foraging with Liz Knight

Wednesday 25th Sept        Wild Gardening with Sue

Monday 7th October          Foraging with Liz Knight

Monday 4th November      Foraging with Liz Knight

Liz talking birch sap and ox-eye daisies

Foraging with Liz:  Days start at 10am and finish at 2pm and include a mainly foraged lunch.  Cost £65 per person. Click here for more details.

Wild and tame

Wild Gardening with Sue:  Days start at 10am and finish at 3.30pm. Lunch included. £55 (20% discount for RHS members. Click wild gardening 2019 for more details.

The “Forestry Bin” as a major compost talking point

Compost Making with Sue: Days start at 10am and finish at 3.30pm. Lunch included. £55 (20% discount for RHS members. Click compost workshops 2019 for more details.

Organic and tasty!

Organic Veg Growing with Sue: Days start at 10am and finish at 3.30pm. Lunch included. £55 (20% discount for RHS members. Click veg growing2019 for more details.

I shouldn’t really be mentioning Christmas 2019 just yet, but Sue will be running a “make your own Christmas holly wreath” session in early December.  More details nearer the time.

The standard to aim for!

In addition to Sue and Liz’s days, we will be announcing some Forest Bathing Days with Carina Greenwood in the near future, once all the details have been ironed out.  In the meantime you can find out about Forest Bathing – or Shinrin-yoku to give it it’s proper name – here at Forest Bathe

Book up soon as all the days have limited numbers so that we can ensure that everyone gets really involved.

“The answer lies in the soil!”

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That’s what I seem to remember was always the answer that the likes of Percy Thrower and his ilk used to trot out on Gardeners Question Time in the old days.

….. well maybe, but it’s what you put into the soil that is what makes it so good.

With that in mind Sue held the first of her Compost Making and Using courses here at Nantybedd Garden today.   A dozen trusting souls reached deep into their wallets and diced with the timber lorries to spend nearly six hours talking about … Compost!

So great was the anticipation that the ‘car park’ was full a good 20 minutes beforehand – maybe lured by the smell of Sue T’s scrumptious cake with the early morning tea.

Eventually they settled down to discuss why they felt they needed help.  It seemed to be a long talk.

Getting into the swing of it

This was followed by a presentation of the do’s and dont’s, the sources of learned composting and how ’tis done here at Nant y Bedd.

Fortunately the delicious quiches for lunch were a bit delayed as the discussion around the slides ran over by quite a bit!

Lunch included not only the aforementioned quiches, with our own eggs and some interesting foraged ingredients, a salad largely gleaned from the garden and yet more scrummy cakes, this time from that multi-talented gardener/ painter and cake maker Caroline.

The spread!

 

Chance to chat over lunch

After lunch there was an opportunity to work off the excesses on a tour of the various compost heaps around the garden and an indication of how and where to use compost, leaf mould and other such mulches.

The “FC Bin” awaiting pumpkins

Needless to say the cats got in on the act, with Smudge rounding up stragglers and Oreo hitching a lift.

With perfect timing, Sue rolled back the cover on one of the heaps and there was ….

… a slowworm, enjoying the warmth

But it wasn’t all theory.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been instructed to place piles of ‘stuff’ up in the pig field.  Now I know why!  The assembled company was asked to help in constructing a ‘windrow’, a sort of open compost heap.

Here’s how you do it!

After this it was back to the garden room to discuss what was learnt.  A Nant y Bedd Garden postcard was issued to all present, along with a pencil, to record the three things that each participant would be doing in the future to make better compost.

A bit more tea and a (futile) attempt to finish off the cakes and the assembled cast was given a sachet of QR Compost Activator to go home with – but only after they had visited the plant stall and bought a compost duvet or two.

If you think this is for you, there’s another course booked on 27th June with a few places left and one pencilled in for September.  Get in touch, now.

Compost Making Course

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Practical Organic Compost Making and its use

Wednesday 30th May 2018

10am – 3.30pm

with

Sue Mabberley at Nant-y-bedd, Fforest Coal Pit, Abergavenny, NP7 7LY

Composting is a key element of organic growing. Transforming waste products from kitchen and garden into microbially active compost to enrich the soil is an immensely satisfying process.

The raw material….

We will begin the day with an indoor session on the theory behind the process of successful compost making and different approaches including traditional bins and how to make a compost windrow.

Following a delicious 2-course home-made organic lunch we will move into the garden to make a compost windrow and tour the garden to see composting in action – bins at different stages of the process, including leafmould bins and compost and leafmould in use in the garden, including potting compost mixes.

… the finished product

The workshop will cover:

  • why we should all make compost
  • the basics of a controlled aerobic composting process including what materials are suitable for composting, the importance of mixing materials and temperature control
  • how to sort out a compost heap/bin which isn’t performing
  • how to speed up the process
  • how to use your compost in the garden, potting mixes and mulches and no-dig veg growing
  • how to make leafmould and its uses in the garden

Level of expertise required?

The workshop will be equally suitable for novice or seasoned composters.

 Bring with you

Sensible shoes and outdoor wear.

Go away with

Lots of ideas, free sachet of organic compost activator to get you started and loads of enthusiasm – we guarantee!

Booking a place

Places are limited to 10 to ensure maximum opportunity for discussion.

To book please phone Sue on 01873 890219 or e-mail sue.mabberley@btconnect.com

Cost £45     Special introductory offer

 The course will be led by Sue Mabberley. Sue has a First Class Honours degree in Environmental Systems, has professionally devised and delivered practical environmental training courses and most importantly has gardened organically at Nant-y-bedd Garden for nearly 40 years making fantastic compost.

 

 

Stringing the onions and other seasonal tasks

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We had some lovely garden visitors today who were very interested in my method of stringing up the crop of onions to store them for use over the winter – so here’s how…

I’ve been using this method since coming across it in John Seymour’s book (the organic gardening guru of the 1970’s)  entitled the Self-sufficient Gardener, dated 1978 – how time flies when you’re enjoying your garden.

The finished strings look like this:

2016 strings of onions in the kitchen

2016 strings of onions in the kitchen

This is how to do it.  Knot together the ends of a 3 foot length of string (depending on how big a bunch you want to make) and hang the loop from a hook.  I find that the Sheila Maid clothes airer which is above our wood-burning cooker is perfect for this.

onion strings hanging from the Sheila Maid clothes airer

onion strings hanging from the Sheila Maid clothes airer

Weave the dried stem of the first onion through the loop and then add the second onion, weaving it in and out of the string.  The weaving must be tight and the second onion should finally rest on the first.  One by one add onions, weaving first to the left and then to the right.

Adding more onions

Adding more onions

Strung in this way, and hang up in our kitchen, our onions usually last us through the winter.  Needless to say, they must be thoroughly dried before stringing.  Ours have been on the windowsills since they were harvested to ensure they were properly dry.  They store best if they have a good couple of days baking in the sun after they have finished growing.  It wasn’t that sort of summer this year.

Now that the windowsills are onion-less and we’ve had the first light frosts, it’s time to harvest the pumpkins and squashes, so that they can finish ripening indoors.  Just about plural – 6 pumpkins and 2 squashes.

Pumpkins and squashes on the windowsill now

Pumpkins and squashes on the windowsill now

Varieties this year are Tom Fox – nearly always reliable even in a cool summer like this one – from seed saved in 2015.

Pumpkin Tom Fox

Pumpkin Tom Fox

Squash Crown Prince – again from saved seed.

Squash Crown Prince

Squash Crown Prince

And squash Turk’s Turban which I haven’t grown before and was hiding under a leaf so I didn’t know it was there until we had a frost.  We’ve already eaten this one in a lovely mixed root vegetable roast with lots of herbs and fennel and cumin seed.

Turk's Turban squash

Turk’s Turban squash

I find that pumpkins and squashes keep perfectly well on a windowsill – just need to keep an eye on them and as soon as they show signs of going soft then they need to be made into delicious pumpkin soup and/or chunked up and put in the freezer.

Other seasonal tasks have included raking up autumn leaves to make gorgeous friable leafmould to add to potting mixes or use as a mulch (despite dire warnings from Special Plants Nursery guru Derry Watkins).

raking up autumn leaves

We have 2 sets of 2 leafmould bins in different parts of the garden.  This year’s leaves won’t be used for at least a year.  One set of bins takes mostly sycamore which breaks down quickly, whilst another takes beech and oak, which take longer.  The leaves need air and weather so the bins are open and made of chicken mesh, whereas the compost bins shown here (which take weeds, lawn mowings, straw and muck from ducks and chickens, kitchen waste such as outside leaves of cabbages, carrot tops etc – but nothing cooked – are wooden and always covered.

Some people (non-organic gardeners particularly) might think I have a sad life but I love making compost and leafmould.  It’s very satisfying turning a ‘waste’ product into a resource.  Might run workshops on the subject next year…

But I have also had a bonfire – there are some things you don’t want in your compost heap.

bonfire

bonfire

We all know that it’s important to move the material from where it’s been sitting awaiting the right time to burn it, to another place.  The photo above shows bare soil in the foreground where the material had been moved from.  I disturbed a frog and a slowworm which I moved elsewhere, where they can happily feast on our multitude of slugs.

Celery

Celery

Started harvesting the celery.  Terrific crop this year – probably because I spent all summer carrying cans of water to it from our extensive rain-water harvesting system.  Even though the summer has been cool we’ve had very little rain for months and celery, and celeriac, really prefer to have their feet wet.  Makes lovely celery soup.  Yum.

Yummy celery soup

Yummy celery soup

Thinking ahead to Christmas, I have been collecting and drying cones for use in Christmas holly wreaths.

baskets of Sitka spruce cones

baskets of Sitka spruce cones

And then there’s planting Spring bulbs.  We are about half way through.  Planting lots in pots this year because we appear to have a resident badger which visits nightly and likes eating them.

baskets of Spring bulbs still to be planted

baskets of Spring bulbs still to be planted