In addition to the early application of seaweed, Raymond brought in chickens to help build the fertility of the soil. They live in fixed shed between greenhouses and are put out into movable cage (the “tractor arc”) for 3 hours each day. Three chickens were re- homed from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust.
Ray and Sylvia didn't start planting any fruit trees and bushes until two years after the windbreak went in. Rather than planting the whole area at once, they brought in a few plants at a time. In our exposed conditions with poor soil, sea buckthorn and eleagnus are doing particularly well. They also transplanted some wild apples that grew nearby in the dunes, and they have established very well. Of the two wildings growing nearby the selected one produces a very acceptable cooker/dessert apple.
“Another plant I've brought in is the Californian beach plum, which (as the name suggests) is ideally suited to reclaiming coastal dunes.” Bringing in ‘aliens’ has raised concerns among some people in the local conservation group who are worried that their garden might overrun the dunes and push out rare native plants. Beach plum prunus maritima , which grows for 700 miles down the beaches of the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A. has taken well. On the controversial subject of ‘alien introductions’ recent research has insisted that Nature always globalises its genes given the chance, and has been pointed out by leading horticulturalists in the County most of our flora are introductions.
On the ground below the tree and shrub layers, there's a mixture of native coastal plants and non-natives adapted to the conditions. A great number of aromatic herbs grow well here, concentrated on the highest terrace at the back of the house and many of the relatives of commercial crops occur naturally by the coast. Examples are sea beet and wild cabbage, the former giving rise to our sugar beet and beetroot The wild perennial relatives of brassicas thrive here without the danger of clubroot.
What do Ray and Sylvia do with all the produce? A lot of it is eaten fresh, in salads, on cereals and as snacks on the go. Surplus fruit is turned into juice, often using a base of apple juice with sea buckthorn, grape, hawthorn or quince fruit giving it a distinct flavour. Their pantry is stacked with preserves of rosehip, autumn olive, sea buckthorn and the various hawthorns, made either as pure fruit concentrate or in a mixture with apples. Sylvia also keep a stack of “beach rose jam” made with rosa rugosa for visitors.
Some fruit is dried on a low heat in the rayburn oven and turned into chewy, flavoursome “food leathers”. Leaves are strung up or spread out on trays above the wood burner and later used for teas and flavourings.
“We do have food from the garden all year round. We pick the last apples off the trees in December from Jonagold, and even in January there can still be berries on the sea buckthorn bushes. The first fruit in a mild winter ripen on E. Ebbinge in January and fruits on the myrtles can last all winter. There is a lot of stored produce throughout winter, and from early March onwards the first spring greens