Walled Garden Diaries: Here We Go Again

The time has come to look ahead to the coming season in the Walled Garden at Hanbury Hall.

I had to take a break from penning these Walled Garden Diaries series of blog posts in 2020. It was a shame as the monthly updates I did the previous year were popular and also an enjoyable experience.

However, as we all know far too much, last year was a difficult year. In terms of my time at work, it meant a period of furlough and the Walled Garden taking a back shelf in terms of the garden as a whole.

Walled Garden under snow in January

The excitement and anticipation that came with putting together all the plans for the garden ultimately came to nothing. In the end only some potatoes and broad beans were planted and the rest of the veg beds lay empty, bar from a green manure spread to cover the ground.

Unfortunately, there was not the manpower or timescale to look after the Walled Garden and, at the time when the garden was down to just one staff member, that should have been prime sowing and planting period.

The beds and tunnels were bare, gathering weeds. It was difficult to see every day and I know visitors were disappointed. However, now we stop looking back and turn to face forward as this is a new year and things, fingers crossed, should be back to something akin to normal within those brick walls.

For 2021 the plans have been put together to get those beds full of vegetables and flowers again. Seed catalogues have been browsed and orders placed to get everything in place for a great year of harvests. The hope is that we will be able to sell produce to visitors again on the trusty old donations stall.

There will be a good range of crops growing, from the staples such as potatoes and onions to the ever-popular beetroots, leeks and squashes. There is going to be more celeriac and courgettes than previous years – they have showed themselves as good sellers so justify the increase.

Onion seedlings

Elsewhere a few eyebrows might be raised by the sight of Crystal Lemon Cucumbers growing outside and a curved ‘s’-shaped support for the runner beans.

In the polytunnels there will be cucumbers, tomatoes, both chilli and sweet peppers, as well as a section of sweetcorn being grown undercover and, hopefully, some sweet potatoes.

There has been some cutting of crops that had been seen in the beds over recent years. This is mainly when it comes to leafy greens, such as chard and kale, and also herbs. The issue has been how quickly they wilt on the stall and then left unsold, ultimately for the compost heap. A preference has been placed on crops that are easy to harvest and have more ‘shelf-life’.

As well as the veg, there is going to be two long beds of flowers for cutting as well as a few areas dedicated to our dahlias. The dahlias were the stars of the garden last year as they did manage to get planted out early before lockdown and then provided a fantastic display for visitors.

I have been working on the exciting aspect of putting together the planting plans and also the sowing plan. Also, the first seeds have been sown, including the onions and broad beans. It is always enjoyable when sowing season starts, but with the sheer number of plants to grow for the Walled Garden and the formal gardens, much more will be direct sown than in previous years.

Read my previous post here about why I think it is important to do a seed sowing plan, along with some advice as how to go about it.

A newly-woodchipped tunnel edge

Work has also been going ahead to prepare the area and make it look nice ahead of the incoming season. This includes some of the not-so-glamorous tasks such as sorting and tidying areas and spreading woodchip around the tunnels to spruce things up.

There has also been a continuing slog of weeding that we’re almost on top of (the ground conditions have not been kind to us), while the pruning of the fruit bushes and raspberries are almost complete.

The main bed received a good layer of mulch at the back end of last year. It got a combination of leaf mould we collected and also compost made in-house which, in conjunction with the green manure that was dug in, should provide a lot of nutrients for the plants. It was good to have volunteers helping with the shovelling and spreading on those days.

So, the plans are in place, the first plants are growing, and optimism is high ahead of the new season. Fingers crossed it will be productive and this won’t be the first and last of the Walled Garden Diaries blog posts this year. As usual I will continue to put progress pics on my Instagram and cover things here on the blog.

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