Charles Dowding Open Day at Home Acres

Open Day

Open Day

First a confession : in the age of sat nav all sorts of odd things happen. Yesterday Charles Dowding had an Open Day at his home, we had last visited in 2012 at Lower Farm .

Flourishing beds

Flourishing beds

We went with a couple of friends from Blaise Community Garden who were interested in learning more about the no-dig method and it was only after about half an hour, that Brian remarked this isn’t the same garden we went to last time. I was slightly baffled and Brian continued   –  it’s a different house and the garden was on a slope and it was bigger – I looked around and thought, yes, when we arrived it looked a bit different and I remembered there had been a yard and apricot trees up against the house, so we asked Charles who said with a huge beam and trying to keep a straight face that he had moved and he was very glad we hadn’t gone to the old house!

Vegetables to be envious of

Vegetables to be envious of

So how do these things happen?  I am used to gardens changing, to old overgrown places being restored from woodland and decay to open healthy spaces, I have seen a few of those in my lifetime and I have a poor visual memory also; I would make a bad historian and I ignored the name change and the landscape and the house and focussed as always on the plants and the beds and ignored the bits that didn’t fit with my memory. In a way they weren’t important. But it was yet another lesson in how fallible memory can be.

Anyway, Charles has worked his magic and his skill in three years to make a new garden and productive growing space and it is as wonderful and enviable as the photos show here. Lots of information on his methods can be found on his website No dig Gardening – Charles Dowding and in his books.

These are some of Brian’s photos from our visit yesterday which I hope convey a sense and taste of the place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apple Trees in a strip bed

We were particularly interested in his notes about growing fruit trees in strip beds and keeping them carefully pruned so they didn’t get too tall and the fruit remained pickable by hand.

apple trees

apple trees

Polytunnel tomatoes

Polytunnel tomatoes

The tomatoes grow beautifully up strings in the polytunnels, there was a very interesting experiment with a tumbling tomato growing in a mushroom box on a shelf that seemed to be going well.

tumbling tomatoes

tumbling tomatoes

I was very envious of the celeriac and the cabbages were remarkably hole free and quite glorious. Brian wanted his beetroots, I wanted everything!

polytunnel envy

polytunnel envy

There were flat yellow beans that we had for supper; a variety called Golden Gate.  There were borlotti drying on their stems, masses of basil and herbs, oca, salsola, tree spinach, a huge feathery asparagus bed, all sorts of wonderful vegetables in amongst the carrots, parsnips and more.

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags (and the lower half of Sara Venn)

onions drying

onions drying

Could I do it? maybe not, but I can always dream !

13 thoughts on “Charles Dowding Open Day at Home Acres

    1. Joanna Post author

      That’s ok, I do what I can and it makes me very content and joyful and keeps me interested in life – everyone has different interests.

  1. narf7

    Course you can! We are putting in 24 fridges to turn Sanctuary into a sort of sideways, doorless white goods graveyard this year. So far it’s been a bit of a disaster as it has been SO wet we couldn’t get up to Sanctuary (until recently a rapidly flowing stream…) and the 4 fridges that we laid on their sides inside Sanctuary almost sunk in the jelly like mud…but we are ever the optimists and our idea is to “wick” the fridges and use them as amazing, cheap, sustainable garden beds that will require a minimum of watering in our long dry summers as well as giving the veggies we grow in them as much water as they want (they self feed via the roots). If we can haul half fridges up a steep driveway and into Sanctuary (whilst trying to keep Earl from escaping via regular toeings with our gumboots…) then ANYONE can. You can do it! Thank you for this lovely reminder that “green” is just around the corner for us and that when the soil dries out, I might just get my driveway back as at the moment it has 20 sideways fridges half full of water reminding me of the task ahead…wish us luck, “we are going IN!”

    1. Joanna Post author

      I can’t even visualise this Fran, it sounds extraordinary! You are talking to someone who ain’t much good at hauling stuff though. I tend to move everything in very small loads. I hope the water and weather behave for you. Will come and read your blog xx

  2. ardysez

    You and Brian sound like myself and Don. I have a terrible visual memory for places and he has an excellent one, so I’m sure we were meant to be together. My memory of colour is excellent, however, so how does that happen? I have come to think of gardens like you have shown us, as works of art. I never used to have a thought about it, but in recent years I have realised as well as the knowledge of soil and climates and plants, there is much intuitive and creative input to gardening. Lovely photos, thank you both!!

    1. Joanna Post author

      There is so much creative input into gardens you are right there, people draw and sculpt with their land use and their plantings. There used to be a fantastic colourist garden designed by two Canadians at a place in Somerset that I adored but it has been dug up and is now just a dream. Good to know that other people have poor place memory, it must be something in the brain xx

  3. gillthepainter

    I’m absolutely sure you can do it too. Especially the frootie tree training. I can envisage a successful micro orchard in your garden space.
    If it were me, I’d grow a fig tree too – I can’t remember seeing one at your home, but my memory is weak sometimes too, it’s not lack of interest either.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hello Gill! Miss you and all my attempts at fruit tree pruning have been pretty disastrous to date. I do have a fig right by the back door and a pear tree and a decrepit apple tree and a quince (new) in a pot! The memory thing is funny isn’t it? Xx

  4. Karin Anderson

    Interesting and enviable! Our garden is overshadowed by several old maples, the only spot that has longer sun exposure is on the driveway, not enough place for growing vegetables, even on trellises. I have two dwarf fruit trees (apple and sour cherries), two gooseberries, a raspberry jungle and a few blueberries.

    1. Joanna Post author

      This garden isn’t overshadowed at all and I think that is part of its success, that and the good soil that he builds for growing all his wonderful crops as well as method and careful timing of sowing and planting out. But yes very enviable!

  5. heidiannie

    My gardening days are over- but my appreciation of beautiful gardens remains quite strong. Thanks for sharing this garden- my enjoyment of the beautiful pictures Brian took and your narrative of the property being completely different is full. I am not great at recognizing large changes as I tend to pay attention to the details, so I understand how this could happen. Great to hear from you!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hello Heidi, I am delighted to hear from you as always. I can tell you many stories about places I visited as a child or a young woman; the woods at Claremont, which we rampaged around in with our family dog at weekends, only to go back for ‘a woodland walk’ twenty years later to find it transformed or rather returned to a formal landscaped garden is the most striking of these. Coupled with my dreadful sense of direction and general inability to remember routes unless much travelled, the world is a constant surprise sometimes ! xx Jo

Comments are closed.