By Nick Condron
As August arrives, the appearance of browning leaf tips reveals that it may already be later than we think in the natural cycle of the seasons. Plant growth is beginning to slow down, along with the urgency of jobs around the Garden. It’s a perfect moment to follow suit and take time to savour the ripening of fruits and berries, and the warmth of late summer blooms such as the beautiful begonias flowering in our shade house.
It’s also an opportune moment to appreciate the success of our recent annual Music Day fundraiser, which in spite of the unexpectedly wet weather, managed to raise about £7,000.
We’d like to thank all of the wonderful music acts who so generously performed for free: Charlie Hannah (Starfish Men); debdepan; Charlie Don’t Surf; Crabs; Daisy Beau; Harmony Bo; Char.B; and Adrian Sherwood. As well as Gadds Brewery for kindly supplying the beer; Julian at The Lifeboat and the Wantsum Brewery for the cider; The Good Egg and everyone else who provided salads and cakes; Jamface Jams for contributing chilli jams and sauces; our recently departed chef Julie, for her delicious botanical cocktail cordials and apple and rhubarb shrubs; all the volunteers who worked so hard to make it happen, and of course, all of you for coming along and making it such a very special day as always for the Garden.
One particular spot in the Garden where the rain is being put to very good use is the bed beside our compost heaps, where we’re using the Indigenous American ‘Three Sisters’ companion planting method to grow popping corn, climbing beans and pumpkins side by side.
It’s a great way of gardening more sustainably as it increases biodiversity, attracts pollinators and enhances soil fertility rather than removing it. The large pumpkin leaves shade the soil, helping to retain moisture and stop weed growth, whilst the corn provides climbing support for the beans, which in turn fix nitrogen in the soil that helps the other two crops to grow.
Whilst we’re already enjoying a steady supply of beans, along with courgettes, lettuce and tomatoes from elsewhere in the Garden, we’ll be leaving the pumpkins in place to grow as large as possible, and looking forward to harvesting the popping corn ears once the husks are brown and the kernels are hard and shiny later in the year.
A crop that we have now cut down is our Fava beans, which we experimented with by leaving them on the plants to dry for as long as possible this year. We’ve now left them, still attached, laid out on a table in the polytunnel to dry some more, until the beans fall out of their cases naturally and we can store them away for use in soups and other kitchen dishes.
Nearby, we’ve got a seed bench full of fresh pots of micro salads and herbs that we’ve germinated late in the year from any leftover seeds that we had. They can be harvested by simply snipping off the tops and then they’ll come again until they run out of steam.
This past month we’re very pleased to have welcomed Conker as a new member of staff and, with their keen interest and background in holistic therapy, they’re really enjoying applying horticulture and art to this end in the beautiful surroundings of the Garden.
One activity they’ve been particularly engaged in with other members of the Garden is cutting and drying various flowers, including the Oriental Poppy heads; the everlasting Helichrysum and Stachys, which always look so colourful hanging decoratively from the ceiling of our main cabin; and Lavender in the herb garden, which once dried will be used to make soothing scented bags and pillows over in the craft cabin, that will be available at our autumn open day later on in October.
We very much look forward to seeing you then, but in the meantime, please remember we’re open to visitors Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. So do pop in for a look around and some of our delicious produce and flowers if you’re passing. Happy gardening!