The ‘hungry gap’ is disappearing fast, it’s a busy time in the gardens. Though we’ve been enjoying our leeks, celeriac, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, chard and spinach, now we’re looking forward to a bountiful crop of the new season’s vegetables and herbs. Two bays of tomatoes have been planted in the glasshouses; beetroot, carrots, salads, peas, beans, courgettes, peppers and aubergines have been sown, the list goes on. We’ve just experienced the sunniest month of April, bringing warmer days, though the nights can still be cool and the winds from the east remind us there is still an ‘r’ in the month!
Delicious young rhubarb is being harvested and enjoyed with a perennial herb called Sweet Cicely. Sweet Cicely acts by cutting the sharpness of the rhubarb when cooked together and so reduces the necessity for adding as much sugar. It’s a very easy herb to grow, and tends to prefer a shady or partly shady position in the garden.
There is an abundance of bees and hoverflies around the gardens, busy collecting their supply of nectar as they perform the most important job of all – pollination! The pear trees are covered in blossoms, as are our Japanese White Cherry Blossoms, which never fail to give a spectacular display by the pond and by the entrance. The apple tree blossoms are following and certainly, it looks like a promising year for fruit.
The Kitchen Garden is filling up.
Over in the Kitchen Garden, the black polythene has been removed in some areas and Eileen is planting out lots of baby carrots, baby beetroot, parsley, spring onions, chives and Florence fennel (Bulb Fennel) raised in modules indoors. Broad beans haven been staked.
There are a few interesting perennial vegetables in this garden: firstly: Welsh Onions, they increase by division of the bulbs; they’re delicious added to an omelette or salad.
Wild Leeks or Babington’s Leek, wild and tough, so no maintenance is needed. They are harvested over winter by cutting at soil level; the leeks regrow from the bulb. They are thinner than conventional leeks, more like baby leeks, and have a mild garlic flavour. These are smaller than an onion and taste garlicky. The flower head reaches up to two metres and is loved by bees.
Lastly ‘Cottager’s Kale’, a cut and come again plant which fills the hungry gap. The young leaves have the flavour of kale and the texture of spinach. It can only be grown from cuttings. We have it protected with netting from the pigeons.
Edging plants include French Marigolds (Tagetes) chives and Garlic Chives which are: edible, act as a deterrent for pests such as white fly and blackfly and when they’re in flower later in the year the bees and butterflies love them.
In this garden also, foraging foods such as Sweet woodruff, Bitter cress, Feverfew, Herb Robert and Tansey.
In the herbaceous borders, the tulips are in full display, reds, yellows and whites. Susan Turner, our Head Gardener has been busy with her team, weeding these enormous beds and staking all the perennials now so that they have the support required for later in the summer.
Below in Wilson’s Wood, the wild garlic or Ramson (Allium ursinum) is plentiful. Its delicious garlic flavour is perfect for salads, pesto or soup; the white delicate flowers provide a presentable and tasty garnish. A similar wild plant, the three-cornered wild garlic or three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum ), is also in flower. It too can be used in the same way for cooking. This year beautiful tiny wild purple Violets are to be found, particularly in the woodland areas.
Please Note: Care should be taken when foraging, be sure you know what you are picking; not every wild plant is edible.
The leek seedbed has been sown in the glasshouses. The first potatoes are almost ready for harvesting; the plants are in flower in a few weeks they’ll be enjoyed by all at the school.
We’re growing 30 different varieties (including many Heirloom varieties) of tomatoes this year, including varieties ‘Pitenza’, ‘Cindel’ and ‘Sakoura’ to name a few. Two bays have been filled; another bay will be planted later in the season. Spinach and Chard have been sown directly and the Basil plants are hardening off on the benches for planting shortly.
It’s time to sow courgettes, the growing room is filling up with modules and pots of every type and variety of young vegetable and flowering plant.