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The Source
Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Our Garden Principles for Soil Health & Biodiversity

Our polytunnels and veg beds are filled with seasonal food that feeds our guests throughout the year. Growing a wide range of veg, herbs and fruit, from humble winter greens to goji berries and hearty tromboncino. Arek, our head gardener, shares more about our biodynamic and no-dig principles...

Opposite our 13th century retreat house are our produce gardens. Our proud polytunnels and veg beds are filled with seasonal food that feeds our guests throughout the year. Growing a wide range of veg, herbs and fruit, from humble winter greens to goji berries and tromboncino. 

Whilst our gardens are small, they encourage diversity. We use biodynamic, organic and no-dig methods of crop production to enhance the soil health. Through these principles also we improve the nutrient-density and taste of our produce.

Our soil health strategy is based on four principles:

1. Disturb the soil as little as possible
2. Keep a diversity of living plants in the ground as often as possible
3. Keep the soil covered and protected as often as possible
4  Apply biodynamic preparations 

We are continuously developing methods of building soil fertility using organic compost, overwintering green manures and ‘home made’ mulches that include wood chip and grass clippings. 

Our practices are guided by our hyper-local, soil-to-gut 'food philosophy’. Continuing the cyclical relationship between our gardens and kitchen, almost all of our organic kitchen waste is composted on site and returned back to the soil. Our methods also work towards enhancement of biodiversity, reduction of fossil fuels and waste. 

Above the ground, we predominantly use open-pollinated and heritage seeds. Beginning to save our own seeds in order to have more resilient and stronger plants adapted to our soil and climate context here in Somerset. 

The growth and development of plants, or even germination of seeds, is greatly influenced by astronomical factors such as cycles of the moon and planets. Within the gardens we try to work with the cosmic forces and follow a biodynamic calendar that indicates the celestial rhythms. This information allows us to choose optimum time for sowing seeds, transplanting plants, harvesting, pruning, applying biodynamic preparations etc.

These different biodynamic preparations, originally founded by Rudolf Steiner, are thought to bring healing and vitality to the garden. Two main preparations that we use quite regularly are horn manure and horn silica. Horn manure is made from cow manure and is used to improve soil micro-life and formation of humus. Horn silica is made from finely ground quartz crystal and is used to strengthen plant development and enhance ripening. 

I believe that when one gets involved in making biodynamic preparations the processes and methods involved will stir-up lots of questions and without realizing your alchemical journey, that awakens and deepens connection to nature and life, has just begun.

Written by
Arek

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