The last of the updates from the Walled Garden was back in early Summer and, at that point, I don’t think I was prepared then for the heatwave that was about to hit the country. To be truthful, up in north Cumbria we got off lightly compared to other areas of England and Wales, but it was still a challenge, and coping with temperatures of that magnitude posed problems. If it is a precursor of summers to come, it raises questions about how to work in and manage a productive garden like this one. Making sure the crops had enough water was very tricky, it was unbearable to be in the glasshouses as the heat took your breath away, and even completing simple gardening tasks was a tough slog.
But we got through it unscathed and it was a learning experience. I think most Walled Gardens will be putting plans together looking at how they do things a bit differently if 40 degrees is going to become a regular thing. The extra watering aside, most crops were not affected too badly. Obviously, the lettuces bolted and halting brassicas from flowering was a battle – but that is merely a few crops out of what we grow that were negatively affected. There were success stories, as the tomatoes and chilies were absolutely loving life and ripening at a rapid pace.
The Walled Garden beds are now full of a glorious and wide range of vegetables at various stages of their life. Thanks to successional sowing and planting, there is a good mix of crops ready to harvest, those busy bulking up, and seedlings that are fairly new into the ground. There has been a steady succession of crops being harvested each week, while the last of the plantings have gone into the ground. The sowing has steadily slowed, with all left to be planted the last of the brassicas that will sit there over winter ready to help fill next year’s hungry gap.
Some of the earliest crops have now been ripped out, with the broad beans having supplied for many months and the peas providing a decent harvest. Those two crops have been removed and now a green manure has been sown in their place. I have implemented green manures as part of the crop rotation in the Walled Garden. The field beans sown in their place will fix nitrogen as well as break up the soil thanks to their deep roots. Other green manures that will be sown around the garden include crimson clover and Phacelia.
It has been a good year for soft fruit and we have picked lots of strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, and jostaberries over the summer. The blackcurrants in particular had a bumper year. There was also a good harvest of yellow and red plums that were sent to the chefs. When it comes to vegetables, regulars in the harvests over recent months have included beetroot, turnips, globe artichokes, cauliflowers, carrots (though it’s not been the best carrot year admittedly), and kohl rabi, as well as the aforementioned broad beans. There has been of course a lot more, but I fear it would be a boring blog post if I just listed crops I’ve harvested.
In recent weeks we lifted all of the garlic, onions, and shallots from the Walled Garden. While the garlic was a mediocre haul, the latter two performed really well. Earlier in the year I did fear for our onions as attempts to grow them from seed struggled and I had to buy some replacement sets. Even those sets sat there doing little for longer than I would like. But all those fears were unfounded as in total we harvested around 650 onions, most of them a really good size. It is estimated there is close to 200 kilos of onions and on top of that are around six crates worth of shallots. The chefs won’t go short of onions for a while.
Other things that worried me were the squashes and pumpkins, but they too finally took off after a slow start. They are now smothering the bed in which they are planted and, with a bit of rummaging through the foliage, there looks to be a lot of good-sized fruits in there. In particular, the tromboncino summer squash have done really well. It’ll be in a few weeks when we do the harvest and see quite what our squash haul is for the year.
A major job being undertaken is the summer pruning of the apple and pear espaliers. The pear trees were done at the end of July and the apples started towards the end of August. I mentioned in a previous Walled Garden Diary that the over 200 espalier fruit trees needed a lot of work over winter to revitalise them and that continues with the summer work. But I am happy to say, that despite them being hit hard in the winter they have responded well with lots of good growth and what looks like a decent crop of apples and pears.
One final thing to mention is that on August Bank Holiday Monday we had our Garden Open Day. We flung our doors open to visitors to host a successful event. There were tea, cakes, and savoury snacks on sale to visitors in the Walled Garden. We sold plants propagated in-house. And we had talks and tours around the garden. While it was stressful to try and get the Walled Garden ready for the event, everyone was full of kind words and I heard lots of positive feedback from visitors who seemed to enjoy their trip.