Deryck Duffy

Deryck Duffy taught BD around the war years and was part of keeping the thread intact across those perilous years.

He organised the conference of October 1943 and also the Westhall Farm School after leaving Clent as the war began

I’m putting DD as ‘missing-in-action’ in that I don’t have much information about him but would very much like more – if you have some please get in touch on




Deryck Duffy
(Reprinted from Notes and Correspondence, Spring, 1953. It is the story of the miniature garden devised and put into practice by Deryck Duffy during the 1939-45 war. It is followed by Mrs. Helen Allen’s account of the practical application to her own gardens of Mr. Duffy’s plan).
The purpose behind the layout of this minature garden was to determine the quantity of protective food that could be grown on any type of plot available to the town dweller in time of crisis, no matter whether the site was under cement, asphalt or soil. The experiment was born out of the dark days of the war when our sea-borne supplies were threatened, and Professor McCance had devised for the Medical Research Council a siege diet consisting of brown bread, milk and vegetables.
The situation chosen for the experiment was North of Aberdeen (latitude just south of Leningrad), where climate prevents the successful ripening outdoors of peaches and apricots, used in this experiment as test trees. One of the chief problems in this area is lack of warmth, and particularly the difference between day and night temperatures. The site was a cemented floor, from which a lean-to glasshouse had been removed, on the south side of a 12ft high wall through which two windows and a door opened into garden sheds behind. The cement floor, 120. wide, and running along in front of this wall for 30ft, was a fair representation of the plot available in front of a small town house; a difficult climate, a small plot, and the most difficult surface cement being the setting aimed at. Between the cement surface and the wall was an open strip of soil 3fn, wide, from which flowering creepers grew and were trained up the full height of the wall. These were removed, and the soil was heavily mulched after being trenched and having a supply of bone grit added. Starting from the west side I planted one Wellington peach, five redcurrants, six cordon apples, two wall-trained goose berries, one fig and one apricot; the peach and apricot to serve as test trees for ripening and to be replaced later by something more utilitarian. These fruit bushes and trees were trained on wires stretched along the face of the wall to provide an air space between wall and foltage. Trenches were then cut through the cement face from north to south that is, at right angles to the wall-leaving a path between each trench. The width of trenches just allowed for the placing, when filled with soil, of a row of Chase harn cloches. A cement surface is usually fairly thin and not difficult to break. leaving loose rubble underneath, Breaking and filling the trenches took one man six days to complete. A small amount of rubble was left in each trench for drainage, and on this was placed some clay and then a 3in, layer of rotted manure, leaving a 12in, depth of soil. A specific mixture was prepared for each crop to be grown, using mixtures of silica, clay, lime and compost as indicated in the Agriculture Course, thus providing the best soil conditions for the plant to be grown. The trench prepared for roots, carrots, beet or parsnips, was filled with a mixture made up of 95 parts of washed sand and 5 parts of finely riddled compost, and moistened with Prep.500 Before root seeds were sown a stick the thickness of a large pencil was pushed down to the manure base and the pencil hole was filled with very fine compost. Three seeds were then sown over this drill, later to be thinned to one. This procedure allows the tap root to grow straight down while a perfect carrot forms in the sand, about 10in, long and 2in, in diameter. The largest beet taken from this trench weighed 144th, perfect in taste and texture; carrots, too, were succulent and without a hard core Rich compost manures were used for the brassicas, while lettuces phives, radish, corn salad and parsley had ne specific bed in this plan, but were planted or sown out with other crops, wherever e permitted On the east end a larger area of cement was removed and a compost hot-bed established under a garden frame used for propagating seed and growing late salad plants. A small greenhouse might be used instead, with soil heating obtained from wires led from the house. At the west end, as wind-break, a double wall 18in. high was built with ledges on each wall to allow for a row of large barn cloches to cover tomatoes planted out in half- rotted tomato compost after taking a crop of lettuce, radish, etc. Salads can be produced in abundance all through the season by intercropping. From this experimental plot, lettuce, etc., were sold to a value covering all seeds and labour after feeding a family of four.
The tallest variety of pea obtainable, and runner beans, were sown at the trench-end nearest the wall: a hole was made with a dibber and filled with manure compost and in these holes four peas or four runner beans were sown, later to be trained up string tied to the top of the wall and spreading out in a fan shape. The foliage later provided shade for the fruit against the wall. Marrows and gourds for winter storage were sown at the other end of the trenches and trained up posts with nets holding the marrows as they formed. Herbs were grown in odd crannies at the base of the cement floor, and potatoes were produced on a lattice system used by the Inca Indians, producing 10cwt. from a floor area the size of a kitchen table. Cresta strawberries, which fruit all through the summer, were grown through holes in barrels, using a compost which included pine needles. The two tubs produced about jowt of fruit for jam and dessert.
At the west end of the garden where the cement ends, space allowed for a triangular box made from rough boards; filled with a special compost mixture, this bed was used for seed re-generation: eyes of potatoes, a carrot, leek, and one or two other plants being grown for seed as required. Under siege conditions, Scots-kale, which is one of the most nutritious and valuable of garden plants, would replace other brassicas. Stems of fruit and plants were sprayed with a mixture of 500, bone ash, clay, cow dung and powdered silica. The silica spray 501 was applied as necessary. Roof water was deflected from drains into water butts, from which, after being sun warmed, it was led to the trenches by hose or watering can. A sunk barrel provided liquid manure.
On the north side (at side or hack of house) compost heaps were prepared between the wall and a double row of tall raspberries which give shade in summer. The important providers of vitamin C. blackcurrants, were also grown here. In October cabbages were cleared from one patch 12ft. x 12ft., and a small sectional house was erected, rather like a large dog kennel enclosed by a wire run 6ft. high, to house 12 cross pullets. The house, lined with fibre glass in some parts for warmth, had two perches, a hopper to hold two weeks supply of crushed grain and balancer meal, but holding whole grain mixed with silica and limestone grit, and a laying designed to allow they had to toll on to straw, from they suld be collected by lifting and outside the house. A how to water tank, Insulated against frost, was secured inside the house in a horizontal position with a ball bearing on the lower elps over a small hole. This allowed the birds to take a drop of water whenever they wanted it. A small hole in front and near the bottom edge of the grain-and-grit box permitted the hirds to extract a grain or two at a time without waste. Thus the meal hopper provided a fortnight’s supply without replenishment. These arrangements allow the person in charge to go off for a week or 10 days if necessary, leaving the birds safe and provided for. Straw and waste leaves thrown into the ran provide an ample supply of muck and compost for the following year’s gardening. Two worms per hen per day from a compost heap breeding Brandlings, supply all the protein necessary for health and eggs. Prior to clearing the ground for spring gardening, when the hens went into the pot, they laid 500 eggs, more eggs per person (for a family of four) than received under the ration. A proportion were stored in water glass for the summer months when the plot was again given over to gardening.
Space permits only the briefest outline, but it will be seen that in this experiment obstacles such as the cement floor were turned to good account: the cement surface acted as a stone mulch and conveyed the sun heat during the day to the soil in the trenches. Stones were piled round fruit trees, and when possible slates were laid between plants in the trenches to hold moisture and further the stone-mulch effect. Cloches retained warmth and with ample supplies of water something akin to sub-tropical conditions were created. The soil temperature, by day and night, was always 5 to 8 degrees higher than that of soil in open beds 9ft. away. The value of rock mulching, ecological soil mixtures and controlled Bio-dynamic methods, was proved: 180 ripe peaches and 80 ripe apricots from the control trees were harvested, indicating the efficiency of the warmth storage methods. This type of garden plot appears capable of providing a family of four with eggs, veget ables and soft fruit, thus releasing a large acreage for additional supplies of milk and bread. The garden is very easy to work, it offers great scope for original ideas, and it is not unsightly, par ticularly when window boxes are added for the flower supply.
Trenches in the Miniature Garden
In ordinary soil dig out about ifft, and put at the bottom a layer of pebbles or rubble. If the soil is heavy clay the trenches will have to be a little deeper to allow for drainage to be arranged. If roots are to be grown fill the trench as follows:
(1) Four inches rotted manure
(2) A sprinkling of bone meal
(3)Fill with washed sand misture (90% pure sand and 10% riddled compost)
If the preparations (the Bio-dynamic preparations) are used, aleal vegetables should result. For brassicas and lettuce use a rich compost with some lime in
a. also for any plants for “leaf” When sowing the seed spray the soil with 500 before making the drills and rake it in. If the ground is dry water it first before applying the spray in order to create the right conditions.
Potato Clamps
The idea is as follows:
(1) A base made as a hot bed with layers of organic material. (A gardener would make it just as he makes a hot bed)
(2) Twigs and small branches on top of this
(3) Pebbles or broken stones
(4) Sand
(5) About two inches of earth.
Plant the tubers about four inches apart and cover with a little earth. The clamp is better away from a wall, in the open and with the ends running north and south. Bear in mind that the clamp will need watering and put it near the supply.
From Mrs. Helen Allen
In the first Duffy garden we had in 1950-55 we kept a few hens during the winter months as we had no access to farmyard manure. They lived in a small portable house with a wire run (like a rabbit run) attached. It was easy to move them up and down the trenches as the width of the run fitted exactly over them. They were moved in rotation two days on each patch and were shut up at night. We never fed the hens by remote control as Duffy suggests. The little house was cleaned out each week and the droppings and peat litter incorporated into the compost heap, the rest of the material being kitchen waste, leaves and grass cuttings treated with dried blood (two tablespoons to a can of rainwater watered on to the heap of grass cuttings helped to break them down before layering on to the compost). The compost preparations were, of course, also used. By moving the run over the trenches in rotation there was not any concentration of raw chicken manure and when spring came the soil was dug over and some fine mature compost put on top to receive the seed. This worked well and returns were good, the roots being better than we have so far achieved in our present garden. In November, 1971, we moved into our newly built bungalow in Forest Row and began to plan the garden. Space being restricted, we decided once more to set out a miniature vegetable garden on the Duffy plan, Wooden fences were erected to give shelter from the cold north-west and north-east winds and ensure as much sunshine as possible. Concrete slabs alongside the narrow beds acted as a stone mulch; the beds themselves were deeply dug and then filled with the soil mixtures advocated by Duffy. Since we are both in the “senior citizen ” age bracket, most of the original heavy work was done by paid labour. As we are able to get ample cow manure for composting we do not keep hens. Nor do we bother with strawberries in barrels or potatoes in a clamp, though both these proved satisfactory in our first garden. Our gardening has to be fitted in with many other commitments; even so, once planted, our little patch has supplied us in 1972 and 1973 with an abundance of vegetables, salads and herbs. Gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and cultivated black- berries have cropped well. The excellent quality of the produce and the convenience of being able to gather it a few yards from the back door, have more than repaid the maintenance involved. We feel that this plan is still a most practical way of meeting difficulties such as those of the present time, when supplies of vegetables and fruit in the shops are lower and lower in quality but cost more and more.