The Hollies Market Garden was started in 2007/8. A field of about one acre with a southwest facing aspect was picked for the purpose. Having an interest in permaculture and having heard of the ‘no-dig method’, we decided to turn the field into cultivation beds by mulching the soil rather that tilling with a plough or Rotavator. This felt to us like a more gentler way, and a more gradual way of establishing the garden. We first started mulching on the northern and eastern side of the garden by laying down large sheets of cardboard which had been acquired from a local bicycle shop. Farmyard manure from a neighbouring farm was laid on top of the cardboard, and on top of this was laid a layer of straw. The cardboard is compostable, and before it decomposes it blocks off the light from the sun preventing photosynthesis thereby causing the grass to rot. Straw is placed on top of the manure to help prevent weeds from coming up from the manure.
On this newly mulched space we placed our first polytunnel and set about growing our first veggies. This process of mulching continued over the next few winters, eventually putting up another polytunnel, a shed, a potting shed and a small propagation tunnel. The acre is now almost cultivated in its entirety in a raised bed system. The expansion of the garden was a gradual process allowing us time to learn, to diversify our range of vegetables and to build up a costumer base.
In the summer of 2008 we started attending the Bandon farmers market on Saturday mornings. At first we went with a little amount of produce, then built up costumers and increased gradually over time the amount of vegetables we could sell. Many of our costumers still come weekly to buy our seasonal range of vegetables on offer. In 2009 we started attending Clonakilty farmers market on Friday mornings. We have also offered weekly veg boxes, and supply some produce to shops and restaurants.
We offered our first gardening courses as part of the Hollies educational program in the spring of 2009. We run a variety of courses aimed at beginners starting out, to more experienced gardeners who want more out of their garden or who want to implement more ecologically sound practices. The year to year running of the garden has had huge learning and much inspiration for us. We continue to experiment with growing techniques and new varieties of veg. Promoting biodiversity and environmental and ecological integrity are very important to us and are at the heart of every decision we make about the future planning and direction of the project.