Everything You Need To Know About The Soil To Table Gardening Course At Le Manoir

By Amelia Windsor

1 month ago

Amelia Windsor reflects on her day at The Raymond Blanc Gardening School

Looking to grow your gardening knowledge? Amelia Windsor tries out the No Dig: Soil to Table course at the Raymond Blanc Gardening School in Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Amelia Windsor’s Day At Le Manoir’s Gardening School

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, named to reflect a cuisine using seasonal vegetables from the restaurant‘s potager kitchen garden, has not only gained two Michelin stars for its impeccable fine dining, but also a Green Michelin star for efforts to become more environmentally focused – and rightly so. Raymond Blanc discovered this beautiful Oxfordshire location forty years ago and has since expanded it into the iconic destination that it is today. The soil and gardens are at the heart of everything, as is tending the earth to create the finest of ingredients for delectable dishes.

It was for this reason, on a slightly blustery day in March, that I headed to Le Manoir’s gardening school for a Soil to Table course run by Sam Frederik Taylor, who is one of a passionate team keeping the gardens beautiful, healthy and full of glorious produce.

The day was centred around the No Dig principle of gardening, meaning that the soil is left undisturbed and vegetable beds are prepared by simply covering the ground with organic matter, like compost, in which the seeds are sown directly (chemical fertilisers are not needed thanks to this organic material). Research has shown that digging damages the soil structure and releases tons of carbon into the atmosphere. By leaving the soil as is, its biological life is protected and will become more diverse with the added organic matter. Le Manoir became a fully No Dig vegetable garden in 2022 with the help of Charles Dowding, who is one of the founders of the method. Each winter the team simply add a layer of compost onto the surface of the beds that will warm the soil, allowing for earlier growth and a bountiful spring.

Le Manoir

The Soil to Table course began in the Hartley Botanic glass house nestled in the gardens, where we sat on high stools while Sam explained the No Dig principle and asked us all why we loved gardening – whether that be to clear our heads, move our bodies or enjoy the pleasure of growing and eating our own food. It was a joy to see how gardening had affected each member of the group and was a reminder of the endless benefits of this earthly connection.

It was by the famous apple orchards that we found a spot on the grounds to build our own No Dig bed. We started by laying down cardboard to block the light from the grass and suppress any weeds, before adding compost, which we raked level before bordering the bed with wood chip to keep its shape. Finally, we measured out rows and planted garlic before covering the bed with netting to keep pesky rabbits out. We happily made our way back to the glass house, picturing the day the garlic might be ready in July, to roast and spread on some toast with fresh tomatoes from the garden, perhaps.

We warmed up with a Raymond Blanc classic: Potage aux Légumes with vegetables fresh from the garden. We were even treated to a visit by the legend himself, who kindly came to say hello and tell us all about the exciting plans for Le Manoir. His passion was evident and it was easy to see why his establishment has become the success that it is.

Raymond Blanc in the garden of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons Sustainable Hotel Award

Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir

Before saying our goodbyes, our green fingers made ever greener, Sam showed us around the kitchen garden, where seeds were being sown by a team of dedicated gardeners, ready to become the next mouthwatering components of dishes that people from all over the world will come to taste. A reminder of the nurtured journey from the undisturbed soil to plate.


The one day No Dig: Soil to Plate course at The Raymond Blanc Gardening School costs £285pp. This includes coffee/tea and vienessoires on arrival, refreshments throughout, and a working lunch in the Hartley Botanic Glasshouse, as well as all tuition and a course certificate.

A course close to Raymond’s heart, the story and heart of the dishes at Le Manoir begin with the soil. Guests on this course delve into organic ‘no dig’ gardening and discover how to plant and grow beautiful healthy vegetables without the need for expensive equipment, fertilisers or feeds.