It seems the whole world has been turned upside down this spring, but outside nature carries on as normal, the birds are singing, the grass is growing and the first green shoots of spring are beginning to appear. It’s hard to resist listening to the radio or continually checking my phone for the latest news but the constant flow of information can be overwhelming. For me the best antidote is to get outside, clear my mind and just listen to the sounds of nature. Life goes on.
Seeing empty supermarket shelves is a sobering reminder of how reliant we are on other people to feed ourselves. Every year 70,000 migrant workers come over from Europe to help on our farms and the majority of our fresh produce is shipped over from Spain and Italy. The supermarkets only keep 36 hours-worth of stock in reserve. We need to get back to basics and re-start that wonderful British tradition of growing our own, it’s time to dig for victory!
There is no better way to stay healthy than get out and tend to your garden. With the weather warming up, the light increasing and plenty of unexpected free labour from bored children, now is the perfect time to get going! Why not dig up a patch of your lawn and create a new vegetable plot? There is still plenty of seeds and compost available in the supermarkets, I’m sure you’ll be glad of fresh, free food in the months ahead.
If you can get hold of some seed potatoes you can get planting right away, you don’t need great soil, just add a little fertiliser and plant each tuber about 15cm deep and 30cm apart. You can use a cool windowsill to grow beetroot, leeks and pea seedlings in pots of multipurpose compost, ready to be planted out into the garden after a month or so. Kale and cabbages will give you a year round supply of fresh greens if you start now, and from May onwards you can sow more tender crops such as French beans, runner beans and courgettes to give you a harvest later in the summer.
In the walled garden we’ve got a busy year ahead. Caring for such a huge space without the help of our beloved volunteers, students and part time gardeners is going to be tricky, but we’ll cope because we have to. Of course, growing as much fruit and vegetables as possible will be our main priority. We scrapped plans for a new trails bed and every spare inch of ground will be taken over to grow food. Very soon asparagus shoots will appear, and the tart-but-sweet tender stems of forced rhubarb will be ready for the first crumbles of the year. The glass houses are filled with tiny seedlings promising a garden full of food before too long. We’ve already planted 150 metres of potatoes, hundreds of onion sets, broad beans, peas, lettuce and lots more.
At home we’re bracing ourselves for a very long Easter holiday and trying to come up with ways to keep the kids entertained and ourselves sane. Freddie and Amelie have been busy planting up the vegetable beds, weeding and watering as well as taking cooking lessons, flower arranging and drawing. Not being able to see their friends is going to be tough but they can stay connected via the computer and at least they can still get out and run off some surplus energy. Under the watchful eye of her brother, Amelie has learnt to ride her bicycle and is very happy zooming around the garden whilst I watch on waiting for the inevitable crash, grazed knees and tears!
Whilst is seems so sad that there is almost no-one here to see our lovely tulips and daffodils or the bees buzzing around the fruit blossom, the Walled Garden has survived two world wars, the Spanish flu and countless other trials and tribulations, the Coronavirus won’t be the end of it. Over the next few months we want to do as much as we can to help, later in the year we’ll have plenty of produce available and we’ll be filling our website and social media platforms with cheerful pictures of life in the garden as well as hints and tips on our website and social media platforms so you know what you should be doing now in your garden so please get in touch if you need any help or advice.
The Walled Garden is an oasis of peace and tranquillity, a great place to get away from it all and forget the woes of the world for a while. When everything calms down and life starts to return to normal please do come and visit us, this wonderful space wouldn’t exist without the support of our visitors. In the mean-time from us all at Gordon Castle, stay safe, look after yourself and get gardening!