How are we being kind to the Yeo Valley Organic Garden?

Friday 11th November 2022

In celebration of World Kindness Day, we headed to the Yeo Valley Organic Garden to talk to our very own Sarah Mead- Head Gardener, and Nathan, who is also part of the garden team.

They shared with us their interpretation of World Kindness Day in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden and gave us some tips that we can all use at home.

How are you being kind to the garden?

“We are a 6.5-acre organic garden.  We are certified by the Soil Association and have been gardening here organically for over 20 years. I would argue that on World Kindness Day, being organic means we are being kinder to the garden and even better, kinder to ourselves. We allow mother nature to take the lead and put ‘Nature First’ in every decision we make. In this way, we are being kind to the environment, all the creatures, and the biodiversity within it.” – Sarah Mead, Head Gardener.

Yeo Valley Organic Garden

“We deliberately select lots of plants that attract pollinators into the garden.  We have a stream and a pond, which is also of huge benefit to wildlife. I think being organic is automatically a kinder way of gardening.” – Nathan Apperley, Gardener.

Is organic more about prevention than treating plant diseases? If so, what are the Good Gardening Practices that you have adopted to prevent plant diseases?

“Being organic, we don’t use any chemical fertilisers or pesticides.  We take a live-and-let-live approach and never reach for the spray gun.  Where pests and diseases are concerned, we try to be patient and wait for mother nature to solve our problems.  For example, if we have (and we often do) a healthy colony of black flies on our broad beans or dahlias, we wait until the ladybirds come and devour them. By using pesticides, you are breaking the natural food chain in the garden, which is a complete no-no for us.” – Sarah

Taking care of the plants

“That said, it is not always easy, and every year we have new challenges in gardening organically.  Diseases in the vegetable garden can be difficult to combat.  Here at the Yeo Valley Organic Garden, we make garlic and equisetum sprays and are always keen to pick up new ideas from our garden visitors.” – Nathan

“We have real challenges, and it will be completely wrong to say that organic is easy, but it is less interventional. We’ve adopted a hands-off approach. We also don’t mow as much as other people, observing ‘No Mow May’ and leaving our grass to grow longer with the exception of grass paths.

There are certain battles in organic that you just don’t fight. You pick your battles in organic gardening.  Here in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden, we are never going to have a bright green stripy green Wimbledon lawn.  In fact, all our lawns are pretty much made up of clover, which is prolific here because of the rich fertile soil (excellent for our cows).  The benefit of this is that in drought, the clover stays green, whilst the grass is burnt to a brown colour.” – Sarah

Sarah and Nathan also shared some very useful tips on how to take care of our own green spaces at home:

Enjoying the garden

“Don’t see organic as an exclusive all-or-nothing club. Gardening is a joy, and you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about the way you do it. We are a nation of gardeners and as such, if we could all be a bit kinder to our green spaces by adopting organic principles, we would have a huge and positive impact on the health of our environment.  Something as simple as putting out a bird feeder would be enough. Small changes can make a big impact.” –  Sarah

“Don’t be too tidy! If you can allow an area of the garden to be a bit wilder by not sweeping up all the leaves, you will be creating a habitat for insects and wildlife.  Less work for the gardener, and lovely for the wildlife.” – Nathan

“Make compost! That’s a win-win. It’s a free resource and a guaranteed way to improve your soil and reduce your weeding. ” – Sarah

“Ultimately all our green spaces, whether they be garden, park or window sill, play an enormous role in reminding us that in nurturing nature, we also nurture ourselves and the people around us.  Get out into the garden with a cup of tea, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and show yourself a little kindness on World Kindness Day.” – Sarah

If you want to learn more about organic gardening, visit our Blog Page where you can find more gardening tips and tricks.

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