"The Answer Lies in the Soil"

"Something new inspires me with every trip back to Ryton", says TV gardening presenter Rachel De Thame, who first visited Garden Organic at Ryton on Dunsmore near Coventry, as part of her horticultural studies at the English Gardening School.

The U3A gardening group were similarly impressed on the July 1st visit to the organic gardens voted by BBC Gardeners World viewers 'favourite garden in Central England'

The fine summer's day gave an opportunity to enjoy a day exploring the 10 acres of inspirational gardens, home to the leading UK organic charity.

The guided tours covered many of the individual gardens, displaying every aspect of the organic approach.  The gardens show in a glorious way how gardeners can work with nature to achieve a space that is wildlife friendly, environmentally sound and still create beautiful and productive results, including practical solutions to combating pests and diseases without resorting to chemicals.

A convincing display comparing soil treatments is shown in four test beds of vegetables, the one with no treatment having poor growth and the others all thriving due to the effects of various forms of soil treatment and natural fertilizers.

Of great interest was the Biodynamic garden, which utilises the effects of the sun, moon and planetary forces to plan ground preparation, sowing, cultivation and harvesting.

The is a small organic garden originally created for the 1989 Channel 4 series 'All Muck & Magic' shows all the essential features of organic growing can be included, even a pond feature.

Garden Organic began life in 1954 as the Henry Doubleday Research Association, its founder being Lawrence Hills and his wife Cherry.  They devoted their lives to popularising the benefits of the plant 'Comfrey' which is rich in essential nutrients making an ideal compost and natural fertilizer, and to the overall organic and traditional approaches to gardening.  The resurgence of allotment gardening and the self sufficiency movement in the 1970s prompted the move to Ryton.

Lawrence and Cherry Hills are remembered in the Memorial Garden a sensory garden using plants with bright colours, scents and perfumes, sound and movement.  Their work is now continued by staff and volunteers who continue to promote the benefits of natural approaches to horticulture and campaign to preserve the use of old varieties of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

The Rose Garden, much admired by the members features a combination of over 50 Modern English roses along with Old Rose types, interplanted with herbaceous perennials and bulbs in alternating beds of spring and aurumn flowers to be at their best before and after the roses' flowering periods.  The magnificant display of rose bushes is helped with a mulch of two barrows of garden compost per 10sq m.

In all there are more than 25 different garden areas showing the wide variety of ideas, as well as plant sales, shop, and cafe and a visit is well worthwhile.

John Payne.