Bedfordshire has always been an important county for vegetable production, during the 1800’s the area was producing a wide range of crops on small plots, links to London and other markets first by canal and then rail created a large increase in the number of market gardens.
The Mill Gardens keep this heritage alive, using small plots with different rotations and demonstrate how crops like cereals were grown alongside vegetables. One of our rotations is the “Norfolk Four Course” originating from the county, it was developed by “Turnip Townshend” in the 17th Century as a way of protecting the ground from erosion and returning nutrients to the soil.
Charles Townshend spent most of his life working in politics, he retired to an estate in Norfolk to concentrate on his interest in farming, rotating crops and ploughing in Clover allowed him grow more crops with better yields.
We use Barley, Wheat, Clover and root crops in the area nearest the shop. On large scale farms roots such as Turnips were grown to feed livestock, they produced manure to improve the soil and Clover is used instead of a traditional fallow year, this adds nutrients and helps to smother weeds.
By the middle of May most of the beds in our gardens have been sown and planted. Wheat, Barley, Rye and Spelt are growing with all sorts of vegetables plus lots of different ornamentals, the range varies throughout the year so there is always something interesting to see.