Garden Diary - May 2016

New potatoes, baby beetroot, carrots, courgettes, lettuce and salad greens, broad beans, radishes and lots of herbs are being harvested from the Glasshouses and the Kitchen garden this month. Growth in the gardens is phenomenal these past few weeks, temperatures are up, and occasional showers together with the long days; conditions are perfect for growing delicious organic vegetables.

Summer has arrived, the fruit trees are laden with blossoms, the gardens are flush with new season’s foliage, the new students are well into their 12 week course and are enjoying among other things sowing seeds and harvesting fresh organic produce from the gardens only a stones throw from their accommodation.

The Kitchen Garden has really come into its own this year, the enriched soil has given rise to healthy corn-on-the-cob, rows of runner beans, globe artichokes, salsify, Welsh onions, courgettes, broad beans, Florence fennel, carrots, beetroot, sweet pea and a variety of herbs, one of which is Hyssop officinales. Hyssop is a strong-flavoured aromatic herb from the Mediterranean region, similar to rosemary or lavender, both the flowers and leaves are edible, you can use it like other fresh delicate herbs in salads, pastas, stews, fruit dishes and summer soups. Hyssop makes excellent honey: bees are attracted to its beautiful blue flowers. This garden has an array of colour with flowers such as: Sunflowers, Forget-me-not, Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Calendula, French Marigold and Primroses.

In the Ornamental fruit garden, the gooseberries and the fanned peach trees (Peach ‘Peregrine’) are the first to show their crop of young fruit. In the canopy above, the apple, and pear trees have are covered in blossoms. Rhubarb is being harvested from this garden, along with Sweet Cecily and Wild Garlic (Ramsons). The yellow and white blossoms of the Poached egg Plant (Limanthes douglasii) are an excellent companion plant, they attract bees and hoverflies in their dozens, the plants provide a rich supply of nectar that will bring these natural predators of pests and pollinators into the garden. Hoverflies are especially useful as they eat aphids and black fly. Here also, the strawberry plants are in flower. Calendula officinalis (pot Marigold) has been planted out, having been raised from seed in the glasshouses, they also act as an excellent companion plant, by repelling the aphids with their strong scent and attracting the pollinators.

The Herb Garden is by now producing lots of different herbs, Sweet Cecily is in flower and the leaves and flowers are used in the cooking of rhubarb and gooseberries, by reducing the tartness. The name means 'smelling of myrrh', but Sweet Cicely is renowned for its aniseed taste and is a valuable sweetener, especially useful for diabetics. Fern like foliage emerges early in spring and dies back in late autumn and smells of aniseed when crushed. Umbels of tiny white nectar rich blooms are loved by bees and butterflies. Other herbs such as thyme, parsley, salad burnet, tarragon, garlic chives, chervil lemon balm, chives, bronze fennel, sage, rosemary, lavender, varieties of mint, horseradish, lovage, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and red dandelion greens (Italico rosso) are harvested daily.

The Cornus kousa tree is spectacular in the Old Pleasure Garden with its tight clusters of small white flowers surrounded by four large oval cream bracts. In flower at this time of the year also is the Crinodendron hookerianum (Chile Lantern tree), Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’(tiered like a wedding cake) and the Snakebark maple (Acer capillipes) with it’s drooping racemes and it’s attractive bark. At the pond, the crimson Primula candelabra make a welcome splash of colour, since the cherry blossom has finished flowering. Some of the Magnolias are still showing their magnificent blossoms.

The Glasshouses are full by now; bays are filled with different varieties of heritage tomatoes (e.g. ‘Casady’s Folly’ ‘Clementine’, and ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’), Broad Beans var. ‘Hangdown’ and ‘Witkiem’, French beans, var. ‘Cobra’ and ‘Neckar Gold’, sweet peppers, salad greens (successional sowings every two weeks), cucumber var. ‘Styx’ and miniature cucumbers, var. ‘Picolino’, courgettes var. ‘Cocozelle’, peas (var. Ambassador), potatoes, beetroot, sweet corn, radishes, var. ‘French Breakfast’, and carrots, var.’Napoli’. The leeks raised in the leek bed are almost ready for planting out. New potatoes, Colleen and Casablanca are being harvested, and potatoes planted in March will be ready in a month or so. More tomato seed has been sown this month for a later harvest of tomatoes. Fruit trees, such as peach, nectarine, apricot, fig and almond are already bearing young fruit. Weeding is part of the daily routine at this time of year. The gardeners keep on top of the new weed growth with the use of the oscillating hoes and the flame burner.

In the Vegetable Field, the No-Dig Area is filling up with vegetables. Lettuce, Florence fennel and Broad beans are doing well. We have used straw on the pathways either side of the beds to avoid compaction and the beds have been designed to aid the garden buggy to drive over them without disturbing the soil. Elsewhere in the field, red cabbage has been planted out and netted to protect them from the pigeons. The strawberry plants are in flower; it should be a good year for strawberries

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