Craig and Becky grow at Ragmans Lane Market Garden in Gloucestershire and supply shops, markets and restaurants with a fantastic range of staples and seasonal speciality crops.
Ragmans Lane Market Garden covers 1.6 acres and is based at Ragmans Farm, a 60-acre organic farm in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The market garden is under no-dig cultivation and is in operation for around 10 months of the year.
Craig and Becky boast nearly a decade of growing experience between them, and that experience started around when they both met in New Zealand eight years ago.
Inspired by River Cottage, the duo returned to England and spent time at an organic farm near Salisbury. Becky spent three years there, while Craig did a one-year traineeship before spending the next two years working in different biodynamic market gardens.
In 2018 the opportunity to take over the tenancy at Ragman Lane Market Garden become available and they were lucky enough to get that chance and starting to grow there in 2019.
The range of experiences gained from working in other market gardens means they are used to growing for different customers, be it farmers markets, veg boxes, restaurants or wholesalers.
Indeed, the market garden offers a varied range of crops, from their staples to a range of speciality crops that change season-to-season and they also cater to requests from local chefs for special vegetables. Among their staples is a selection of heritage carrot, beetroot, fennel and radish varieties.
The market garden features around half an acre of outdoor no-dig beds, along with three polytunnels, and Craig and Becky grow over 40 varieties of annual vegetables. On top of that is 10 varieties of flowers for both cutting and edible flowers.
Their smaller 12 x 5m polytunnel is used for propagation and most crops are sown in module trays using Moorland Gold compost. It is estimated that over 20,000 individual modules are sown each season. Only a few crops, such as carrots, radish and mustard, are sown direct in the ground.
Craig says of growing transplants: “This method gives us most control as we can provide best conditions for germination and plants can get a head start before being planted out with the mice and slugs.”
Of all the vegetables they grow at Ragmans Lane, it is squash that was picked as the favourite to grow. Even though they admit it not as profitable a crop to grow as others on the farm, it is the squashes resilience and lack of maintenance that sees it ranked as a favourite.
“It is very satisfying and reassuring to have a store of squash for the winter months. They are also fairly low maintenance and once they are away they can compete with other plants without too much assistance from us,” says Craig.
However, one crop they admit has caused headaches is pak choi, with the tendency to either bolt or be eaten by flea beetle. Their advice to anyone battling with the crop: “Grow Barese chard instead! It is an Italian specialty which looks and cooks similar to pak choi but is easier to grow.”
Craig, who cites Oxton Organics in Worcestershire and Shumei Natural Agriculture in Wiltshire as inspirations in the UK, also recommends that more people try their hand at growing herb fennel in their garden or allotment as the crop offers lots of positives.
He explains: “The young leaves are great in salad mixes in spring and the flowers are perfect for bringing beneficial insects into the garden in summer. The seeds are also very tasty and the plant is perennial so as long as you keep it weed free it will come back bigger and better each season.”
Ragmans Lane Market Garden vegetables can be found in shops and markets around the Forest of Dean and they also supply kitchens in the local area, as well as in Monmouth and several in Bristol. For a full list see their website. Also make sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram for regular updates and to see pictures of their fantastic produce.