Rob and Kim Hurst have been cottage garden plants growers extraordinaire since 1976. They are our neighbours, but also the inventors of Fertile Fibre. After 12 years they sold the business to us so they could concentrate on their nursery. We popped in for a chat about gardening and also for their tips on using peat-free compost. Read on to find out more:
What type of plants do you grow at The Cottage Herbery?
“We’re cottage garden plants growers. We also raise contemporary, naturalistic and herbaceous plants plus grasses. All grown organically of course.”
What’s a typical Cottage Herbery plant?
“We’re not sure you’d call any of them typical! We grow Cardamom plants, Lemon grass, Chilean Guava and Parsley. Plus a range of hardy herbaceous flowering plants.”
What gardening challenges do you face at The Cottage Herbery?
“We sit above the Teme Valley, so are quite exposed. The biggest challenge was turning a farmyard of concrete pads, sheds, corn bins, and a Dutch Barn into a green, thriving thing of beauty. We also had to adapt the larger agricultural building which had been the original home of Fertile Fibre.”
Why did you invent Fertile Fibre compost?
“Back in 1992 we were running out of our home-made compost. There wasn’t anything suitable for us to use on the market. So we set to and started making our own peat-free organic growing medium. The result was Fertile Fibre.”
What are your memories of Geoff Hamilton, the renowned gardener and conservationist?
“Geoff was always so encouraging about peat-free compost in those early days when others thought we’d lost the plot!
A fond memory is arriving with an order of Fertile Fibre on a chilly winter’s morning at his garden at Barnsdale and wandering towards the greenhouse. There was no point going to the house as he wouldn’t have been there! He was there in a Fertile Fibre sweatshirt and greeted me with ‘They’re really nice and warm, aren’t they?’ ”
Video ‘Geoff Hamilton: A Man and his Garden – A Friend of the Earth’
You can learn more about Geoff’s fight to persuade gardeners to go peat-free and use coir-based compost at 11 minutes 38 seconds into the video. He even visits Sri Lanka to see the source of our coir.
What’s a good tip when using Fertile Fibre compost?
“When you first open your bag of Fertile Fibre, tip it out onto your potting bench and ‘fluff’ it up. You will be amazed how the volume increases before your very eyes.
Don’t compress the seed compost too much, just level it with a sharp tap on the potting bench and get sowing! The same goes when potting up as it makes for better water absorption.
Are you growing Mediterranean plants or anything that requires sharp drainage? Just mix a couple of handfuls of horticultural grit in with the potting mix!”
Have you a favourite compost mix?
“Well it’s actually the perfect pair of seed mix and the potting mix. You need both. The seed gets good seed germination and helps your cuttings to root. Then when all your young plants are ready, pot on into the potting mix. It’s so versatile you can grow anything from a lettuce to a colourful border plant in it.”
How can people buy plants from you?
“Come along to see us at our Open Afternoons or at various plant and flower fairs. All our events are listed on the Cottage Herbery website. Alternatively you can order seeds by post.”
What’s next for the Cottage Herbery?
“We continue to be committed to growing peat-free and being naturally organic. We’re adding special Open Afternoons on a monthly basis. This is so visitors can see the transition of the garden, flower beds and nursery through the growing season. Included in this will be our eclectic mix of vintage containers. All planted in Fertile Fibre of course.
As we look forward to more than 40 years at the Cottage Herbery, we hope to show more people that growing quality plants sustainably is possible!”
See Rob in action online
Rob kindly agreed to demonstrate how to pot, water and work with Fertile Fibre compost in our most recent mini ‘how to films’. You can see the full range on the Fertile Fibre YouTube Channel. Here’s one he made earlier: