Market gardener, Mel Luckhurst, is a small-scale, independent, self-taught grower located on the fringes of Trink, just a stone’s throw from the Dairy.
What started as a small vegetable garden producing a handful of greens for the family has evolved into a thriving business where salad, vegetables and flowers are grown and sold locally. The idea is to grow and crop good, fresh and tasty food and sell it as close to the garden as possible.
The south-facing garden includes a small recycled polytunnel which houses the more delicate tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and the like in the summer and is used for propagating and salad-growing through the winter. Other salad crops, vegetables, and soft fruit are grown in permanent beds outside, surrounded by flowers and trees planted to support and encourage birds and insects.
One of the main outputs from the garden is the mixed leaf salad bag. Throughout the growing season, Mel sells fresh salad bags direct, through independent shops like Trink Dairy and to local cafes and restaurants in and around St Ives. Freshly picked, the aim is to deliver salad on the same day within a 10 mile radius of the garden.
In a normal season, Mel grows and uses over 30 different leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers for her salad bags, and because they are seasonal, the mix is always different. The salad is packed in renewable and compostable bags that are entirely made from plant materials. Plant materials which break down to grow more plants to complete the cycle.
Alongside the salad beds, Mel grows cut flowers that are unlike anything you would buy from most florists. They have the added benefit of deterring predators and attracting pollinators to improve the size of the salad crops. These are also sold locally in bunches and to some of Cornwall’s most talented wedding florists.
As far as possible, Mel uses traditional organic principles to grow and is always keen to develop techniques to improve soil health and increase biodiversity. She largely follows a no-dig approach (preserving the soil structure by not tilling) and increasing the soil’s organic matter every season with home-made compost. After all, it’s good soil that helps produce flavour and taste. No pesticides are used in the garden and the crops are watered with harvested rainwater. The plants grow happily at their own pace with no mechanisation, just working by hand.
Seed-saving is also key to the cycle of growth in the garden. A trio of Kune Kune pigs help to deal with any old plant material and Fern the pony makes her own valued contribution to the compost heap.
“It’s a constant learning process with its ups and downs”, Mel says. “You realise from year to year which varieties grow well and which don’t. And then you have time over the winter to try to make the next harvest even better.”
For more information follow or message @mel_luckhurst on Instagram.