When I started to create the fruit and vegetable garden at Byther Farm we had a very limited budget, which meant I needed to be imaginative about how I could turn my vision into a reality. It is possible to create an attractive, productive fruit and vegetable garden without spending very much money. It may cost more in time or energy, but I think the satisfaction of knowing ‘we did that’ outweighs the input. Throughout the process the most important element was not so much what I did physically, but the time spent building relationships with people.
Our smallholding is 0.3 hectare (0.8 acre) in size with around 0.2 hectare (0.5 acre) given over to food production, including a young food forest with the duck houses and ponds, a raised bed vegetable garden, floral beds, polytunnel and a small market garden.
The soil was in very poor condition when we moved here and I’ve worked at improving its structure, fertility and the microorganism life within it. The raised beds have been filled with a little bought-in topsoil, but mostly with garden compost that we’ve made, used duck bedding, composted chicken bedding, woodchips and leaf mould. The area that is now the small market garden was prepared by the chickens who lived on it for three years, scratching the surface and improving its fertility with their manure
From Free Stuff to Closing the Loop Creating the structure of the garden, the fences, raised beds, paths, and arches, could have cost a great deal, but I looked for free and low-cost recycled materials to use. Through Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace we acquired pallets, wood, water butts, paving slabs, a sink for the garden, hoses, hand tools and plants. More importantly, we found like-minded people and new friends.
A local tree surgeon delivered wood chips to us free of charge, while other friends offered grass cuttings, a garden gate, off-cuts of stock fencing wire and even a gas barbecue for the patio. The more we talked to local residents about what we were trying to do, the more we were offered recycled materials. The generosity of local residents meant that before too long we had piles of stuff that, if we didn’t use, we would need to dispose of. For a while, we walked the fine line between ‘useful resources waiting to be used’ and ‘junk yard’. Following the set-up period, which lasted around two years or so, I decided to work towards