Hello, I’m Steph, welcome to NoDigHome.
In this blog I’ll be sharing experiences as I work towards transforming my home and garden. I’m exploring different ways to make life as healthy, abundant, self sufficient, low impact and thrifty as is realistically possible for me. Homesteading on a very small scale!
No dig is very much part of my lifestyle here – I work as a no dig kitchen gardener and also write, teach and give talks about it. The gardening keeps us healthy and is an effective and economical way of growing abundant organic food. Taking less time with fewer weeds, it is a gentle way of working with nature to produce lots of delicious food.
I live in Bruton, a very small market town in Somerset, which has recently gained a reputation as a ‘hip’ place to visit. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, this small town has several art galleries – most notably the Hauser and Wirth gallery at Durslade – and an amazing number of excellent places to eat. We have lived here for 14 years, so for us Bruton has been home for most of my children’s lives. It is the longest that I have lived anywhere – I am originally from West Yorkshire, grew up mostly in Hertfordshire and have spent most of my adult life in different parts of south west England.
My growing places are the allotment, which is short walk up the road and the front and back gardens at home. These gardens are quite big for the size of the property, which is a smallish 4 bed ex-council house – the back garden is about 100 ft long with a rather ancient but good sized aluminium greenhouse, a 12x40ft polytunnel and a large shed. I’ll be describing them in future blog posts. You can see some of the panes falling out of the greenhouse in the photo for this post – it is quite old.
My garden is not perfect! Although I am a professional kitchen gardener, so have skills, knowledge and experience and my allotment and polytunnel are lovely, other parts of my garden look … neglected: that is putting it kindly. The garden and parts of my house have suffered from problems including extensive storm damage (including hailstones in January 2014 larger 2p pieces that smashed several roofs and my greenhouse), water damage from leaks, smashed fences, part of the kitchen roof fell in during the past winter…) This required a lot of repair work and up until October 2015, I was working crazily long hours outside the home (and then had the bulk of the chores, cooking and all of the parenting to do) so could only fit in some essential gardening at home. Fortunately no dig methods are so effective that I have been able to produce a lot of food and keep the main growing areas fertile and weed free.
Now the structural work has been finished (I am hoping nothing else falls down!), I am re-designing the front and back gardens to make them even more intensive, sustainable and effective growing spaces. As well as food, I grow plants for the potions I make, for wildlife and some just because they are lovely.
I am trying to make my back garden as self sufficient in compost and other forms of fertility as I can. Bruton is surrounded by dairy farms so I am able to buy beautiful well rotted cow manure locally which is delivered to my allotment. However it is very hard work getting it to my garden, which is higher than the pavement (it all has to be carried up 5 steps). We either have to bring it home in old compost sacks in the boot of my little car or in Charles’ trailer, but then it has to be heaved up those slippery steps in a wheelbarrow – not great for backs.
To enable more homemade fertility, I already have several compost bins at home, some comfrey and a Hotbin – more about that in future posts.
There are lots of plans for making my home more sustainable too – as much as one can with two teenage boys. Over the years my house has ‘shrunk’ as the children living there have grown to adult size, so we are gradually decluttering, sorting through everything and deciding what we really need. According to my sons we need fewer empty jam jars, but as a keen preserver, I don’t agree!