What our gardeners have been up to this week…


The week just gone has been a busy one in the CAT gardens. Our team of gardeners have battled inclement weather to finish the culinary herb display which will take pride of place in the restaurant courtyard. Eventually, the wooden posts will have the names of and information about the herbs carved into them, encouraging visitors to CAT to learn about edible herbs. The end result – which will also feature plants trained to grow around frames – will be a ‘gallery’ aimed at getting people to look closer at each individual plant.

Our gardeners have also sown garlic in Roger’s field. Sowing garlic in October gives the new plant a chance to establish roots during Winter, ready to shoot up rapidly in Spring. The garlic cloves were sown to coincide with Monday’s full moon, and will be ready to harvest in Summer. Two varieties were sown: elephant garlic, and CAT’s own special variety which hails originally from the Pyrenees, which Roger has been saving the seed of for 25 years.

And finally, our gardeners have been busy saving seed from a variety of plants. Below is a fennel plant growing in Roger’s field which will be harvested soon for seed.

The story of salad (a photo story of the life cycle of a salad at CAT)

What’s the life cycle of a salad? It’s concerning that we often don’t know the origin of our food – where it comes from, how it was produced, harvested and processed, and how the waste from production has been dealt with. As we grow some of our own food at CAT, we’re privileged to be able to see the whole process in action. Below, we trace a salad from the field to the fork – and back.

Monday 9.30am. Roger, CAT’s gardener, and his team of volunteers pick salad for the restaurant and staff kitchens. Roger’s Field, behind the eco cabins, provides greenery for staff lunches and for visitors to the centre. An experienced organic grower, Roger doesn’t use pesticides on his field, instead finding other ingenious ways of preventing his produce from being eaten.












Monday 10.00am. Gardens volunteer Pablo picks salad. Volunteers are a fixture of life at CAT, and many have left inspired during the 25 years Roger has been tending his field.















Forum and Feast Conference. Saturday, 05 November [Booking deadline extended]
Book now. Box office deadline extended.

Digest information by day in the food waste forum, and dine in style by evening at This is Rubbish’s “Feast” finale
At the conference you will have the opportunity to explore the issues behind food waste in the UK, find out about European and global food supply chains, digest the latest facts and figures, and investigate solutions that will help create a zero carbon Britain.

Monday 10.30am. Beans ready to be taken to the kitchens. A variety of plants are grown in the field, carefully selected for their compatibility with the Welsh climate and soil. It’s also important that they will mature at different times, to make sure that the field will produce a constant supply throughout the year. And, without the need to grow varieties that will withstand long-distance transportation, Roger is able to grow plants high in nutritive value.


Monday 11.00am. A volunteer takes the freshly picked salad to the kitchens. It’s a a short distance – a mere five minute walk, which contrasts sharply with the distance food will usually travel to reach a plate. But is the answer always buying local? Listen to this podcast with Peter Harper to find out more.













Monday 1.00pm. Staff and volunteers load up plates at lunchtime. The freshness of the salad, picked only three hours previously, makes it highly nutritious; produce loses its nutrients quickly after being picked and so, where possible, it’s important to eat recently harvested food.

Tuesday 9.00am. Biology volunteer Rowan collects food waste from the kitchens. Competition for seconds means that there are rarely leftovers. However, there’s always some unavoidable waste from preparing food, which provides an important source of nutrients when composted.












Forum and Feast Conference. Saturday, 05 November [Booking deadline extended]
Book now. Box office deadline extended.

Talks, discussions, case studies and exhibition stalls allow you to network, meet the experts, and discover more about the future of food. In the evening, we have organised a three course sumptuous supper served at a candlelit table, accompanied by live music and entertainment.

Tuesday 2.30pm. Gardens volunteer Pablo empties food waste into the Rocket composter. The Rocket makes composting significantly easier, dramatically speeding up the process. It acts like a large mechanical worm. Food waste is put in one end, where the same bacteria found in the gut of a worm breaks down the matter, emerging at the other end two weeks later as humus. The decomposition process heats up the matter, the heat in turn killing any undesirable organisms present.








Tuesday 2.00pm. Gardens volunteer Pablo moves the humus fresh out of the rocket into a rat proof cage to mature. While humus has nutritive qualities, it needs to be let a bit longer to continue decomposing, as in its rawer state it’s not as beneficial for crops as fully decomposed compost it. The humus is then left for several months, until it’s ready to be spread onto the field.










Tuesday 4.00pm. Roger’s field soaks up the afternoon sun. Compost is an important source of nutrients for the field, encouraging fertility and productivity.

Gardening blog: a plentiful harvest from the CAT gardens


Autumn is always a time of great satisfaction for the gardeners at CAT, after a summer of hard work comes to fruit. We have been happily harvesting a variety of annual vegetables, salads, perennial herbs, feasting on apples, and collecting up lots of leaves for leaf mold.

This week the time came for our eagerly anticipated grape harvest from our vines (Vitis vinifera “Black Hamburg”) in the polytunnel, which gave over 5kg of deep ruby red grapes ready for wine making. The blackbirds had sneakily gobbled up a lot of the grapes before us, so we have been experimenting with putting paper bags over the bunches of grapes to protect them. This worked successfully and even seemed to speed up the ripening of those bunches of grapes. 

A protein rich crop for Wales?

This year we grew our first trial crop of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain-like crop originally from South America. Quinoa is a very good source of nutrients, and contains essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorous and iron. So, the potential for Quinoa to provide a protein rich bulk crop in Wales is an enticing prospect, and we wanted to find out how well it would grow here. As quinoa was originally grown in high-altitude environments in South America, we were unsure how well it would fare in wet Wales.

Having received some quinoa seed from another local grower at a seed swap in Newton last Spring, we knew that it could be grown in Wales, but we were still unsure about the yield and quality. By harvesting time in September, we were surprised and satisfied with the crop, and harvested a good crop from just a1m2 bed in the Whole Home garden at CAT. Similar success stories have been found in trials run by Garden Organic. Next year we plan to grow a larger trial crop using our own seed, and hope to encourage other local growers to grow quinoa too.

Seed Saving

We have also been busy squirreling away our own seeds ready for next year. So far we have successfully dried, threshed and winnowed a good range of seeds including calendular, nasturtium, morning glory, feverfew, coriander, kale, and more. We’re also running a few seed saving experiments with tomatoes (varieties “Yellow Perfection”, “Yellow Pear” and “Gardener’s Delight”).

Tomato seeds need to be processed slightly differently as they are coated in a jelly which inhibits the germination process. You can get rid of this jelly by leaving the seeds in a jar of water for two or three days until a layer of mold has developed. Next, rinse the seeds in a sieve and leave to dry, then store the seeds somewhere cool and dark until next year.

Roger’s top tips for seed saving are: leave the seeds on the plant for as long as possible to get all the goodness from the plant, and make sure to store them out of reach from the mice! For more top tips and information on saving the seeds from different types of vegetables visit the Dyfi Valley Seed Savers.

Finally, now is the time to get your winter salads in for a splash of green in the dark winter months. Good hardy salads include Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mibuna, Mustard greens and Rucola.

Happy gardening!