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New for Chapters in 2021 is the restaurant garden, located just 8miles from Hay-on-Wye (and more importantly 4 miles from our house) it is the perfect sized space for us to manage alongside the restaurant and is brimming with potential. The aim of the garden is to give us a space to grown interesting vegetables and herbs, to keep our food miles down and to guide menu changes as we witness the seasonal changes.

Already in the space are several fruit trees including apple, quince, pear and fig plus one of our favourite ingredients Jerusalem Artichokes. Jerusalem Artichokes are great as they are a perennial vegetable so will make a return each year – for minimal effort!

Following the no dig method is proving tougher than expected but according to the experts you put the hard work into it in year one and it is much easier ongoing. The pictures below show the ‘before’ shot taken in January and the stages of creating a no dig garden. First a good layer of cardboard to suppress the weeds followed by the compost then the wood chip to create the paths.

Within a few months the ground had settled and the plants and taken root. The slugs had more than their fair share of the seedlings but as the weather warmed up and the rain stopped the garden really got going. Through June, July and August there were regular harvests being made of soft fruits, chard, cavolo nero, pink fir potatoes, courgettes, turnips, kohlrabi, spring onions, cabbage and patty pans.

Growing the food for the restaurant has so many benefits, from keeping us physically fit and ensuring we don’t spend all day doing computer admin it also means we know everything about the ingredients that will become the beautiful dishes you expect from Chapters. We control where the seeds come from (with aims of saving seeds each year to develop and produce interesting heritage varieties), what is used for pest control (no nasty chemicals are found in the garden) plus it means we have a solution to the problem of food waste within the restaurant as we now have 5 compost bins which are used in heavy rotation to turn what minimal food waste we do get into mulch to grow more food.

Forward planning to 2022 is already starting as we try to remember the mistakes made and ideas that we want to implement. Increasing the (already great) number of wildflowers planted is one aim as is using the space better by planting larger numbers of veg in bigger sections. Using succession planting will ensure we can have enough veg for each menu throughout the year. In addition to this we will dedicate a lot of space on the veg for winter storage as this is where our suppliers can struggle.

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