Yeo’s very own Sarah Mead took some time out to give us an update on the Organic Garden.
“You know what they say, the best laid plans… Well if ever there was a year that didn’t go to plan, this is it! As we rounded the bend into 2020 we were looking forward to a really extraordinary year in the garden… Boy, were we right?!
The biggie for us was that we were going to have a garden on main avenue at Chelsea Flower Show. A chance to bring a bit of The YOG (Yeo Valley Organic Garden) to the big smoke and to talk to anyone within range about the garden, the cows, the soil…. you get the picture. A chance most importantly, to invite people to come and visit us at home and see what we’re about for themselves. The garden has been opening for almost 26 years in one way or another, but it’s true to say it’s been getting more popular since we opened the cafe and decided to get a bit more focused in marketing it. We were anticipating a potential increase in visitors this year, not least because of the “Chelsea effect” but also because Andi, our Head Gardener, was starring in the Netflix series ‘The Big Flower Fight’ and we are also featuring in a book ‘The Secret Gardens of Somerset’ (due to be released in September). We decided we should get ready…!
The main development in the garden was to put a small shop at the entrance, allowing visitors to buy some dairy from the cows they could see in the fields by the carpark. We had wanted to have some sort of retail space for years – now definitely felt like the time to make it happen. We relocated our elderly ticket hut, extended our carpark and set about building in readiness for the crowds!
The garden would normally open under the National Garden Scheme in April and from then on roughly twice weekly until the end of September, not this year obviously and whilst we have had to delay and rethink over the past few months, I am delighted that the garden is now open again, for pre-booked slots on Wednesdays and Fridays. We decided to limit the numbers considerably so that visitors could take their time and not feel they were queueing to look at a bloom! The shop is open and is already a huge improvement with an on-site florist, plants for sale and of course yogurts! The Garden cafe is normally busy but now it’s for takeaway tea and cakes. It’s very different from what we imagined but it’s wonderful to see people in the garden and we feel very lucky to be able to welcome them all.
We garden 100% organically and have an annual Soil Association inspection to prove it! To me this was a no brainer, the garden sits in the middle of organic farmland and, although we had been gardening without chemicals for years, it felt right to get the official paper work… rather like sitting the exam after years of revision! Of course like anything there are downsides as well as up. Its more time heavy – we cant use any weed killers so everything has to be hand weeded including the car park!
Sometimes things go wrong and plans falter, sometimes the wildlife is a bit too wild (badgers love sweetcorn!). All that being said, it feels as if every year we learn on the job and luckily mother nature is a very patient teacher. We have learnt to take a more relaxed approach (hard for me as a complete control freak) and to turn the other cheek where pests are concerned. If we can stand and stare rather than stand and spray, inevitably something wades in to help us out. Our soil is in good heart and the garden is throbbing with life. We are always planning and planting so life in the garden is never dull, that’s for sure!”
If you’d like to come down to see the organic garden, you’re very welcome! Click here for more details on open days and how to book in.