Viveka Gardens is a place to connect to oneself, spirit and others through yoga practices, nature and food growing. There is a great joy for me in working with the land and there’s been a steady progress making some changes since 2016.

2016-17 saw the thinning of the existing woodland that was planted about 15 years previously with the help of yoga student and woodsman Jim White and his team. We made sense of the space and created a circuit path through it, and got some fire wood. Starting from the spring equinox, I worked making changes to a place that had been a livestock farm. The orchard provided an abundance of apples and pears for eating and sharing, and as well as some varieties to store until March, some were sold to our organic market gardening friends at Harvest Workers Coop and Down Farm.

2017-18 was the season of tree and hedge planting on a massive scale – 600 trees and 600 hedge plants in and on the margins of the Hare Field – with the help of many volunteers and our first community event: read this report. The summer saw a drought and a good crop of hay when otherwise there was little for sale. A yoga student farmer friend said ‘cut it!’, though I quibbled about losing possible vegan organic status. It was cut and sold to another student who has an ethical stud, and to a sheep sanctuary. Already inspired by the amount of insect life and a range of meadow flowers arising once grazing has stopped, I began to see how the field could be meadow-ised. We had our first apple pressing day. This brought together neighbours, community, yoga students and other friends, and raised some money for a much loved local couple who had lost their business.

2018-19 saw the field cropped again for hay and inspiration came from the Moor Meadows group to develop the meadow for biodiversity. Nicky Scott of Chagford invited me to collect yellow rattle from the meadow he ‘curates’ and this was sown in the Hare Field to parasitise the dominant grass and make way for more flower species. In the kitchen garden we gave up trying to suppress the pernicious weeds such as dock and nettle with cardboard and mulch, laid a suppressing membrane and put in some lovely raised beds, built by my neighbour here, Andy. We had great crops of squash, beans, chard, carrots, potatoes, herbs. With our second Orchard Day, another lovely time of coming together a Viveka tradition has been established. And with gardener yoga student Marlowe and another trusty team of workaway volunteers the mixed herbaceous borders got a clearing digging over and mulch, ready for spring planting.

2020 -21 during the pandemic there were no major projects but there was more biodiversity in the meadow-ising fields, the new trees mostly grew above head height, the hedges thickened, there was super duper veg from the raised beds in the kitchen garden and the ornamental garden grew floriferous with home-sown annuals. A deck was built that linked the Bliss Barn to the kitchen garden.

2022 saw the installation of four roofwater collecting troughs with bench seats on top, a good size to sit or lie on in the sun. The troughs hold a good amount of water for plunging in watering cans to water both kitchen and ornamental garden.

2023 had a volunteer retreat with a main project of chipping wood for mulch and compost.  Orchard Day – now an annual tradition – where friends and community bring their apples for juicing, took place with served copious soup, cake and tea to raise money for Care4Calais and Crediton Food Bank. We had the usual cropping with squash that lasted till Christmas, lovely bitter radicchio and a range of beans, among others. Pixy stock plum and a mirabelle trees were added to the front garden – juicy!!

Future projects:

  • planting design for the ‘North Garden’ which has an inherited palm in it
  • a forest garden in the paddock
  • wildlife pond
  • polytunnel
  • bog garden in a soggy patch maybe with a board walk
  • espaliered fruit trees for the kitchen garden
Originally, there was an ambition to make Viveka Gardens equally a market garden as retreat place, but God had other plans for her efforts. Nonetheless, vegan organic food growing lives on as part of the unique flavour here, with cropping in the kitchen garden, and the front ornamental garden (who needs these distinctions – pollinators don’t!)…and eating. Fiona likes to grow varieties you wouldn’t otherwise get in the supermarket, such as radicchio, beans and squash other than butternut, for extra taste and gut health.

Fiona worked in community growing in London, innovating projects, teaching horticulture (RHS certificate, C&G awards), giving training under the Capital Growth scheme and mentoring Master Gardeners for Garden Organic. She trained on organic market gardens, did an apprenticeship at vegan organic maestro’s Tolhurst Organic, has a diploma in garden design and a degree in Biological Science – all the plant options. More than knowledge, though, sowing, tending, watering and bringing to harvest invite a slow attention. Time in the fresh air and hands touching soil are restorative.