In the first of a new series of blog posts I intend to produce, I take a look back at what was a busy March in the Walled Garden.
It is something I am passionate about and I want to give people a bit of an insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes to operate such a productive garden throughout the season. It should be noted that the Walled Garden is just one part of the overall gardens at Hanbury, so it requires a large effort to keep both the ornamental and production portions of the site maintained and looking fantastic.
The one-and-a-half acre Walled Garden is certified organic by the Soil Association and the produce is used by the tearoom’s kitchen and also sold to visitors for donation via a small produce stall. I do love walled gardens and have a deep interest in growing vegetables, so I find it a fantastic space in which to work and I really enjoy how much our visitors and volunteers are passionate about the Walled Garden.
March has been a very busy month as preparations are in full swing ahead of the new season starting in earnest. The main driving force has been propagation, with seed sowing and pricking out building in momentum as the month went on and the weather turned into the glorious Spring sunshine of recent weeks.
In a Walled Garden of this scale and operation there is a huge array of plants to grow, with a wide range of vegetables as well as edible flowers and flowers for cutting all needing to be sown and grown, in time to go into the beds over the coming months. Planning is essential, with sowing plans and planting plans kept close to hand and my notebook becoming more and more covered in notes and increasingly illiterate scrawls.
It can feel like a juggling act to get and keep organised, and to stick to timings to ensure that everything gets done in time. Space is increasingly at a premium on the heated bench and then afterwards it is a huge assistance to have eager volunteers ready to help out with a mass pricking out of seedlings.
The first of the crops sown earlier in the year were the onions and currently around 800 of them are busy sitting in their modules itching to go in the ground. The same can be said of varieties of kale and chard, while our potatoes are chitting and set to be planted from the start of April.
Sowings in March included three types of cabbage, multiple lettuce varieties, leeks and celeriac. We also sowed our tomatoes, various herbs and a range of flowers, including Rudbeckia and Cosmos for cutting. With this sowing also came lots of pricking out, with the hundreds of leeks and lettuces required in particular taking up a lot of time and space.
However, as someone who really enjoys propagation (and luckily I do as I have tried to organise the schedule and the polytunnel – which can seem chaotic at times) I have revelled in how busy the month has been. And I am thankful to be able to call on my colleagues and our passionate volunteers to help me whenever necessary.
What did feel like a huge step was getting the first plants into the ground, as the broad beans were planted out in March. Along with the first plants, which were hugely satisfying to get in, steps have been made to get supports up for the likes of our runner beans, french beans and sweet peas. Getting these structures in place early are vital and you can start to the see the frame work of how the garden will look over the coming months.
Before any planting and supports went up though we embarked on bed preparations. As well as rotavating where possible, the beds were raked thoroughly and large stones, sticks and other debris all removed and then the soil prepared to make a good tilth ready for planting. All this preparatory stuff is hard work, but all essential as we want our beds to be in prime condition as they are going to be busy in the weeks and months ahead.
Looking ahead April promises to be equally, if not more, busy. However, it will be an inspiring time to get more of our veg into the ground, weather permitting, while the propagation will continue en masse. My intention is to give month-on-month recaps of my experiences in the Walled Garden throughout the growing season so please follow the blog, or check back, to see the next update.