The market garden contains the majority of the vegetables that we sell from site or at the Farmers' Market. It is cultivated by trainees, volunteers and staff using organic and permaculture principles.
Enjoy looking at the pictures and learning about the many activities and tasks that we carry out at Earthworks. There are 31 pictures that will show in automatic sequence. You can select any picture by clicking a number, or go back or forward by clicking on the arrows.
Adjacent to the Market Garden is our polytunnel. This was last renovated and re-covered in 2002. It will be re-skinned and fitted out in 2011. The polytunnel is extremely useful as an intensive growing system. It ensures that we have a consistent supply of produce for as long as possible. In addition, everyone has another warm, dry place to work in the rain and during the winter months.
We have two shade tunnels which contain plants that are for sale. The plants have been grown by the trainees on site from seed or cuttings. In the hot summer months the tunnels provide about 40% shade and reduce water lost through evaporation, again saving water.
Our orchard was planted at an Earthworks community event in 1996 (although many visitors remark that it seems the orchard could have been there forever).The orchard contains 30 heritage varieties, many of which are native to Hertfordshire. Named varieties include Brownlees Russet, Bushey Grove and St. Albans!
We also have a few pear and medlar trees. The trees are pruned every year and mulched using our own compost. Apples are harvested and sold. Many are taken away to be blended, pressed and bottled. This results in the delicious and refreshing Earthworks Apple Juice which is available from the site or the Farmers' Market stall. Some of the apples also go into Earthworks chutney.
This building was erected in 2004. It has a reclaimed timber frame and part thatched roof. One wall is cob (clay/straw/sand) and the others are plastered straw bales, which are highly insulating. The building is currently being used as a log store.
The straw cob building involved a huge collaborative effort from trainees, volunteers, staff and local businesses who provided teams of people to provide extra labour!
We are very fortunate in that local tree surgeons and wood yards donate waste logs and timber. During the winter months especially (when most horticultural activity ceases), the trainees sort, chop and bag the logs for use as firewood and kindling. Some of the wood is used to fuel the wood stove in our hut but the majority is sold to local homes and businesses. This provides a reliable income during the autumn and winter when we have less produce and fewer plants for sale.
Re-development of the woodworking area began in 2010 and should be complete in 2011. We are constructing a new workshop and storage sheds to meet the demand for local woodcraft and firewood. Earthworks acknowledges the generous support of "Awards for All" which provided a grant for this capital project.
Around 400 native species were planted in 1996 and the woodland is now well established. If you come to the site you can try to identify some common species. You should be able to find oak, ash, beech, hornbeam and horse chestnut. Log piles have been created to provide habitats for grass snakes, small mammals and over-wintering insects. We have also erected some bird and bat boxes.
Earthworks has two wildlife ponds. The first pond is close to the site building. The newest pond was constructed on our behalf by Groundwork Hertfordshire in 2008 and was funded by Lafarge Aggregates. This pond has a long viewing platform to make it more accessible to children and people with mobility problems.
Both ponds are constructed from butyl rubber liners which were covered with gravel at the edges. They are stocked with native aquatic plants and have become valuable habitats for many small animals. If you visit the site, try to spot the newts, frogs snails, pond skaters and water boatmen. On very hot days there are dozens of dragon flies and damsel flies.
The meadow was originally sown with various species of wildflower including ox eye daisy, clover and species of veronica and vetch. In 2010 the meadow was replanted with a number of similar plug plants. It is cut in mid to late summer and the cuttings are raked over to spread the seeds before cut vegetation is removed for composting. The meadow comes into its own in the summer months and attracts bees and butterflies when the flowers open.
Earthworks has a couple of allotments on the adjacent Highfield Park site. These plots increase the amount of vegetables that we can grow to supplement the produce grown in our own market garden. As elsewhere the produce on the allotments is grown using organic and permaculture principles.
Close to the main wildlife pond and our bug hotel you can find our fruit garden which contains rhubarb beds as well as bush and cane fruits. In summer and autumn we enter our fruit cages to harvest blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries.
The Bug Hotel was an interactive project which involved the local community. It was created by trainees, volunteers, local children, a student nurse and an Earthworks project co-ordinator during one of our Annual Fairs. The Bug Hotel provides a habitat for ladybirds and lacewings which eat the aphids that would otherwise attack our crops. It also provides a home for certain species of bee which pollinates the fruit in the orchard and fruit garden close by and the flowers in the wildflower meadow and our ornamental garden.
Our beautiful ornamental garden is the main setting for our annual Open Garden and Harvest Fair events. It is also much used by a variety of site users during the spring and summer months when they sit outside for tea break, lunch, parties and barbecues. (We pour so much work into our site that we need somewhere fantastic to relax!)
The garden is tended throughout the year, often by dedicated volunteers who have an encyclopaedic knowledge of perennials. It is a major source of cuttings that we propagate and sell on to the public..
The Re-Circle Garden was created to allow people with mobility problems or those in wheelchairs to have easy access to raised beds. These beds are used to grow plants for decoration, pollination and for sale as cut flowers. There are also some veggies planted each year and a couple of permanent fruit bushes.
The ground was inlaid with a mosaic which made good use of tile off-cuts. This mosaic was devised by trainees and volunteers who also bedded the tiles into the concrete.
Excavation for the underground vegetable store began in 1998 with help from students at Marlborough School. The concrete base and walls are topped by a strong wooden framed roof with plywood, roofing felt, plastic layers and then 6 inches of soil. Being underground, it keeps a fairly constant temperature: cool in summer and frost-free in winter so it is good for storing vegetables all year.
The beach garden makes an attractive and unusual entrance to the store.
Here we compost all vegetation from the Earthworks site and some from the Contracts Team, apart from small branches and perennial weeds which are burnt on a bonfire. Compost bins are numbered in the order in which they are filled. The piles are mixed and turned 2 - 3 times a year. Horse manure is used as an activator and the compost is usually ready after six months.
The willow arch was planted in 2003 by pushing cuttings into the ground and then weaving them together. Spring shoots were then woven into the structure. Enjoy the shade given on a hot summer's day by this living, growing sculpture.
We used the same traditional skills for the willow arch on our willow hide and willow sculpture. The hide provides dappled shade during the sunny months and is the ideal place to "get away from it all". We have installed a little bench so that people can sit quietly and watch everyone else working away.
The willow sculpture is a mobile piece of art – see if you can spot it next time that you visit the site!
Earthworks' very own modern art! These are some of the charred remains of our first wooden site building which was destroyed by fire in 2000. We are a sentimental bunch!
Trainees and volunteers constructed our toilet block in 1997/8. Solids collect in the lined pit of this long drop toilet and wood chippings are added. The mixture is broken down by micro bacteria. Liquids drain down to the reed bed system, together with 'grey' water from hand washing. When the solids are fully decomposed, they are used to mulch the fruit trees and vegetable beds. Although our home-made toilets have served us extremely well, they are becoming dilapidated. We have been fundraising for replacements and these should be installed in early 2011. We are grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for a generous grant that will make this possible.
We enlisted the help of Marlborough School students in St Albans to build our reed bed system. The liquid from grey water (water used for washing hands and dishes) and our composting toilets flows here through a series of three butyl rubber and gravel-lined tanks with reeds growing in them. The organic waste is broken down in the water and the reeds take out other impurities and toxins such as heavy metals.
The 24 volt LVM Aero-6-gen wind turbine was erected in a disused street light pole in 1999. The wind turbine is linked to a 24V solar PV panel in a hybrid renewable energy system which charges batteries.
Earthworks has a number of large water butts located close to the site building. These "harvest" rainwater which is used to water plants throughout the site. The butts help us to conserve water thus reducing our consumption from the mains.