Sustainable PYO Farming in Esher
It’s a great start to the summer pick your own (PYO) season. There are over 150 acres of crops locally at Esher, at Garsons PYO Farm. It’s the biggest PYO in the country. Crops currently being picked include sunflowers, raspberries, strawberries, sugar snap peas and broad beans. The season goes right through to late October when visitors can choose their own pumpkins from the fields.
The Thompson family has farmed on the same land in Esher for over 140 years. This has been achieved by caring for the local environment and understanding how to look after the land in a sustainable way. By working with nature alongside using the latest farming techniques, the result is good quality, flavoursome fruit and vegetables.
The Farm is in the floodplain of the River Mole. All fruit crops are trickle irrigated by a system of underground pipes, which places the water directly amongst the plant roots. This dramatically reduces water usage. The land at Esher includes fifty acres of traditional river flood meadows, which are good for the environment and increasingly rare these days, especially so close to London. These are rich in native flora, used for grazing and cut in late summer for hay.
Pests are reduced and crops are kept healthy through the wide range of crops grown, along with an active programme of crop rotation. Organic manure is used and biological methods are preferred for pest control, so pesticides are only used as a last resort. Every year, the fruit and vegetables are sampled by Trading Standards and have always been passed as entirely safe.
Phacelia flowers are grown alongside the sweetcorn because it is a host for lacewings, which feed on sweetcorn aphids. Natural predators are encouraged for strawberries, raspberries and runner beans. In the orchards, pheromone traps are used to monitor moth populations. This is a natural approach, which reduces the need to apply controls.
Fruit crops and orchards have grass alleyways and there are grass car parks and a grass picnic area by the riverbank. Not only does this give a lovely rural feel, it acts as beetle banks and insect corridors so beneficial insects can pass between crops. In recent years, several kilometres of new hedges, windbreaks of indigenous trees, and new copse areas have been created.
Flowers to attract butterflies and beneficial insects are new this season. The types and colours are attractive to caterpillars, butterflies, hoverflies and bees. If you’d like to try it in your own garden, varieties to attract butterflies include alyssum, reseda, malva and chrysanthemum.
Flowers for beneficial insects include achillea, alyssum, calendula and tagetes. They attract insects such as hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds. These are beneficial to the farm, naturally reducing the number of harmful insects like aphids. In addition, the blooms attract bees and hoverflies to help pollination of crops.
Farm fresh produce
Picking local PYO fruit, veg and flowers can help achieve a reduction in food miles and you’ll benefit from fresh air and exercise, along with the delicious crops you’ll pick! It can also be educational and a lot of fun for children.
If you’re interested in visiting the local PYO crops, check the latest picking information here .