Our Herb Project
What was it like, one year ago, in the old manège behind Homefield? The poly-tunnel, a lovely gift from friends was set up, and plants were raised there in spring and veg grew in it all summer. Top soil was bought in and two long raised beds created, but the rest of the area was looking a bit dismal and bare. Then the community asked for a herb garden to be formed, as that area seemed a suitable place to grow herbs and small size crops.
The new team first met in October, and Antonella, Heike, Rebecca and Elise found out that they share a love and interest in herbs. In February the first little seeds were sown in trays in the windowsills of Beckwith, Stormy Hall and Lusmore. The seedlings were tended and grew until they could be transplanted into the beds that Hans had created out of the bought in soil. Planned with care with the help of ex co-worker Birgit.
More seeds were sown directly into the soil. And some plants were found in the wild, while sage and lavender had been grown by Emilija and Marcello the previous year in the vicarage garden. From Hans fennel, chives and more. Monday and Tuesday afternoons, were Herb garden work days and at other times when needed. Slowly the little plants became visible and showed their diverse shapes, colours and fragrances.
The soil was still so loose that sometimes the beds were washed away, and had to be scooped up from the paths. But as plant roots became established this improved. The spring was sunny but also dry, and Antonella patiently used the hose. The plants stayed tiny, growing only a little at first. Meanwhile, we had been contacting builders, to make the garage suitable for an indoor work space for the herb garden. Several came along, but when lockdown started, they all disappeared. In April Rupert started to come once a week to the garden, helping with various tasks, like picking marigold or chamomile flowers, for drying. He worked with Antonella and everyone else kept socially distant, as one does. Drying herbs happened in Stormy Hall, where we used various methods. One is, the old double fridge that Hans adapted to be a drying cabinet. Heike kept on doing fiddly jobs like taking leaves of branches, twigs and stems, before or after drying.
Our meetings were often on zoom, but sometimes we sat wrapped in blankets on Lusmore patio, distantly of course, filled with hot tea from a herb tea trial. Rebecca showed enormous vigour in weeding stubborn stuff growing in the beds and in the paths and ready for any job. Also, with sieving compost, given to us by the kind people from Castle House. This was so needed, as it gave an injection of earthworms as well, which were missing from the garden until then.
Since the beginning of July, we have been offering fresh herbs to houses, and when the box scheme started up again there were weekly bunches added, until the season changed.
Now the garden is preparing itself for the winter, the last bits have been harvested, green manure sown in the beds that would have been empty during winter. And lessons have been learned from what went well and what didn’t.
Various herbs have been preserved by drying, both from the garden and collected in the wild. We will be offering some to the community soon. Some are herbs for use in the kitchen, some others are going to be part of herbal tea mixtures. We are doing some trials at the moment.
Some other products are being researched, made, and may be on offer as well. Still keeping
This winter we hope to develop the South part of the garden, and also get the intended building work done, learn more about selling herbs, increase our knowledge about herbs and what you can do with them. And you know what? Some little birds have moved into the garden now! They seem to like it there.