a character forming season in a Welsh mountain garden

Nov 25, 2018

Host Richard Lewis of Middle Ninfa has been in touch to say

Each year is so different here and the diversity seems to increase almost yearly. Let me explain. We live on a smallholding about one thousand feet above sea level on the edge of the Black Mountains in southeast Wales. It is, I think, about the driest pocket in Wales, in a rain shadow but we are exposed to strong easterlies at times and snow hangs about.

As our soils are both steep and sandy they drain extremely quickly. I built terraced beds to minimise erosion and mulch all year  with bracken or rough grass to conserve moisture as well as minimise weeds. We have access to horse manure, courtesy of Fly, our characterful Welsh cob who entertains both campers and Wwoofers. And we make tons of compost

Unfortunately we lack adequate water. This year it was impossible to create a puddle with a garden hosepipe. We spent two to three hours per day watering in the peak of the drought – to no avail…almost. We lost about 95% of all the vegetables we sowed or transplanted outside. In addition to parsnips, carrots, spinach etc, we lost onion setts and all but one pea plant and one beetroot from the first sowing. We did manage to keep pots of seedlings alive in the polytunnel, greenhouses and a small protected area outside. These we transplanted at intervals, a few at a time. The second and third sowings fared better and the weather improved in August (well, better for the garden anyway).

In the weeks since then the survivors have absolutely thrived. We have spinach leaves so big and luscious that three of them make a portion. Some of the beans [of all types] have thrived while others failed completely. Half a row of runners produced what three times the area normally gives and better quality too. A few brassicas have also thrived whilst most died. Tomatoes are the best ever, also chillies. Most of the top fruit failed this year but apples were the exception producing boxes of fruit of our best ever quality. Flowers have been wonderful as ever. Strange season. It would be interesting to hear how others have fared.

By the way, we have just had our second near-last-minute cancellation from a WWOOFer, both due to illness, so we’ve had no help since start of September and no booking now till April. Anyone feeling like giving a hand with the winter woodland and other tasks would be very welcome!

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