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Garden Organic has opened the doors on a new organic demonstration and learning garden that will help a new generation of people grow in a more environmentally friendly, sustainable and healthy way.
The national horticultural charity, which has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for over 60 years, encouraging people to grow fruit, veg and flowers organically and sustainably, has developed the garden at its home in Ryton, Coventry.
This new garden addresses ways of dealing with the challenges of climate extremes such as flooding and drought and demonstrates the practices and principles of successful organic gardening.
The charity’s Head Gardener Emma O’Neill provided a sneak preview of the layout of the new garden.
She says: “The garden contains three distinct areas – a kitchen garden, floral garden and a main working area.
“The kitchen garden (potager), has fruit and vegetables on show within a large four bed rotation system. The display predominantly features unusual or endangered varieties of vegetables saved by the charity’s Heritage Seed Library.
“Vegetables include remarkable gems such as Freers Mummy Pea, rumoured to have come from the tomb of Tutankhamun, and the Black Valentine dwarf French bean, first recorded in 1897 and grown at Highgrove by HRH The Prince of Wales’s gardening team, who have acted as volunteer Seed Guardians for Garden Organic for a number of years. HRH The Prince of Wales is the Patron of the charity.
“This area demonstrates the important techniques of organic gardening including no dig techniques, water saving, green manure use, composting, organic lawn care, and methods of encouraging beneficial wildlife.”
The area also features raised beds and a container garden providing inspiration for those with limited space or in rented accommodation, along with a collection of over 16 different types of comfrey on view. Comfrey is an organic gardener’s best friend as the plant makes a wonderful organic liquid fertiliser, with exactly the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to support the plants in your garden.
The floral garden, consisting of three large beds, will demonstrate organic flower growing, with beds split into planting that tolerates hot and dry to damp and shady conditions.
Emma added: “Some fantastic flowers on display which tolerate dry conditions include the Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Dr Jean Varnier’- Pink lacecap, the Achillea ‘Red Velvet’- yarrow which produces masses of red flowers all summer, and the Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’.
“Flowers that can tolerate wetter conditions and poorer draining soil include the Persicaria affinis ‘Superba’, red bistort, which provides colour all year round and Alchemilla mollis, or lady’s mantle, which likes damp soil but tolerates most conditions.”
Planting has also been chosen to attract beneficial wildlife such as bees. The Tetrapanex papyrifea - Chinese rice-paper plant - which has fabulous foliage and fluffy flowers is a magnet for bees, as are the coneflowers Helenium 'Wyndley' and Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'. Also on show will be the Imperata cylindrical ‘Red Baron’ which has brilliant red spikes and is great for attracting all pollinators.
This peaceful area includes a display of around 30 alpines dedicated to Garden Organic founder, Lawrence Hills. Lawrence was a specialist grower of alpines and created beautiful displays for the Chelsea Flower Show.
Finally, visitors can explore Garden Organic’s main working area, including the glasshouse and polytunnel, shed and compost bays - the beating heart of the organic garden.
“One part of the polytunnel will contain an experimental area measuring 1x1 metre in which we will determine how much veg can be grown in such a very small space,” Emma said. “Quick growing crops such as radishes, mixed lettuce and spring onions will be grown. We aim to show gardeners that no space is too small to grow your own organic vegetables!
“The compost bays will show how to create the vital nutrients for your soil to thrive from your own waste materials. While the glasshouse will demonstrate best practice in propagation and seed sowing.
“The garden is bordered by a combination of fencing and hedging (deciduous, evergreen and wildlife-friendly) and has been aligned to include borders in full sun, partial sun and full shade.
“We also have a pond area, bug houses and a bee hotel to attract a range of beneficial creatures to the garden. Every organic garden needs a range of predators, and beneficial insects to thrive”.
The charity’s aim is to provide practical advice and encouragement to inspire gardeners to grow in an environmentally sensitive manner.
The work on the new garden has been supported by Viridian Nutrition – based just a few miles from Ryton. Working in collaboration with Viridian’s nutritional experts, the team has included a number of plants showcased for their therapeutic properties. These include lemon balm which research shows is beneficial for improving memory and concentration and offers calming and uplifting properties, and borage, which has been shown to support vascular health.
Jenny Carson, Senior Nutritionist at Viridian, said: “We are very proud to be able to work with Garden Organic and help with the creation of their new demonstration and education garden. It’s amazing what plants can do to support our health and wellbeing and growing these organically is best for both people and planet.
“Viridian Nutrition and Garden Organic share many of the same values; education, organic principles and an ethical approach. We hope this new garden will continue to encourage more people to think, buy and do things organically.”
This new garden is a more compact replacement for the original garden at Ryton which was closed in September 2019 following the sale of the charity’s extensive headquarter site at Ryton to Coventry University. The charity has remained on site leasing a much more manageable space from the University.
The charity is offering a wide range of courses and tours within the garden and online webinars and website information will continue to teach the principles to those too far away to visit. Masterclasses covering subjects such as gardening for biodiversity, climate change gardening and seed saving are all available to book now at www.gardenorganic.org.uk/events
Visits to the garden are by pre-booked tours and courses only and information on how to book a visit to the gardens can be found at www.gardenorganic.org.uk/plan-your-visit-ryton-organic-gardens
This story was published on: 09/07/2021
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