3 September 1999

Enjoying a day with Doubleday

KENT FWC decided to visit Yalding Organic Gardens, Kent recently and wasnt I pleased to join them. It is a real treat to take a tour around these 10 acres with a backdrop of oasthouses and hopgardens.

Dorothy Highwood, newly-appointed contact leader was there to meet me before the other members arrived for lunch in the delightful café overlooking the gardens. That in itself was great, all fresh home-grown organic produce with unusual salad ingredients such as stripy beetroot, yellow beans and blackcurrants served with a choice of herb pate or quiche.

Our tour guide, Jane Love, explained that the gardens were run by the Henry Doubleday Research Association and had been started from farmland in 1992. The whole area is divided into 14 individual gardens and shows gardening through the ages. The C13th Apothecarys Garden with its splendid array of herbs leads on to the C16th Knot Garden and Medieval Paradise Garden, which would have been a favourite with the ruling classes. The early C19th Cottagers Garden shows how a variety of fruit and vegetables used to be commonplace in labourers gardens to sustain their families. Moving on from there is a late C19th brightly-coloured Artisans garden and then our tour took us between two beautiful herbaceous borders fashionable in Edwardian times.

The post-Second World War Allotment has neat rows of vegetables but as Jane explained many of the pesticides used in those days have now been banned. This leads on to the Organic Vegetable Garden Display which demonstrates how a mixture of plants can keep disease and pests at bay and offers other tips. Apparently slugs dont like broken egg shells spread around plants, I must try this method as I always think a saucer of beer is such a waste!

&#42 Comfrey leaves

The recycling demonstration shows a range of composting methods; I was intrigued by the drainpipe which was used to compress Russian Comfrey leaves, the plant that Henry Doubleday started on all those years ago to make liquid feed.

They use a lot of mushroom compost on the gardens and so there are rings of mushrooms all over the grass, Pam Burdge took advantage of the information that you can keep what you pick and shared her haul with Dympna Williams. We were all generously given a herb plant each and I cant wait to return and spend a whole day there.

Jean Howells