We must have been asked a thousand times, ‘Why don’t you grow carrots?’ The answer is simple, the garden is situated on the old riverbed of the White Esk which has wound its way across the valley for millions of years. As a result the soil here is full of stones. If you dig down you soon come to a layer of pale clay then after that it is pure grit. With so much rain this could be seen as fortuitous and as a result drainage has never been a problem. It’s very rare to see water sitting on the beds. Leeching the nutrition though is a problem and does mean there has to be a substantial addition of bulky organic matter each year. The effect of this has seen the pH of the beds reach a uniform 6.5, whereas in the meadows it is only 5.5, and under the conifers it remains at 4.5.
There are a number of composting areas on-site and a substantial composting block comprising 12 upright covered bins located down at the old farm. All the kitchen and dining room slops are mixed with muck from the yak shed, topped up with farmyard manure brought in by a local farmer. Traditionally the stacking commenced on Boxing Day but this hasn’t happened for a while now. We must be going soft. Often Rinpoche would return from China with tales of what he’d seen there. On one visit he’d been shown some huge composting blocks for processing human excrement! This makes a lot of sense but could be problematic with the authorities, so we’ll have to think about that one. On another visit he’d seen some timber framed wormeries, but fortunately this is something we don’t seem to have a problem with. There are millions down there which seem to find their way from bin to bin and munch their way through everything.