Garden Update - Spring
Following drifts of snow and seemingly endless days of rain, our gardening team, Emily and Debbie, have been getting busier and busier with the arrival of a beautiful spring at the Mill. With the recent sunshine lots of sowing has been taking place, as well as potting on seedlings to bring them on as much as possible before they are planted in the ground, to make them robust against our pernicious slugs. Tomatoes and peppers have been sown and will mostly remain in the greenhouse to protect them in the warmth, along with the kiwi plant, olive trees, basil, and some of our flowers for bouquets. The greenhouse smells absolutely beautifully at the moment of a mixture of jasmine, geraniums, fragrant herbs, and soil that has been warmed under the large glass panes. Rhubarb, baby leeks, chard and winter salads, along with some of the curly kale planted last year, are all for the harvesting this month, although the rhubarb this year is still a little too sour and thin at present so perhaps needs a touch more time… We’ve been rather impatient for rhubarb crumble and custard, so the waiting game has been proving a challenge.
The kale, broccoli, chard and spinach were sown over the course of the winter and we have just begun to harvest the chard over the past couple of weeks, so if anyone has any recipe suggestions for this all would be gratefully received! I’m thinking about a chicken and chard pie perhaps, so let me know what you would like to see… The winter salads have also come to fruition, and the herbs are beginning to come out, which I am particularly excited about, as I love the ability of their flavours to totally transform a dish.
In terms of root vegetables this year, we will have potatoes, carrots and parsnips. The kales have just been planted outside, and we will start to harvest them in about a month, including cavolo nero, curly kale and red kale. The peas have been sown but have not yet been put into their beds yet, which are in the process of being prepared, and we hope to bring them to be ready to harvest around July, just in time for summer salads and barbecue season. (That being said, we’ve already commenced barbecue season with some delicious venison that we were given over the bank holiday weekend, with a spiced rub and crispy winter salads to accompany it.) The broad beans are already in their beds, with a June harvest in mind if all goes well and if the slugs can be held off their slow but steady onslaught. In the neighbouring outdoor beds sit varieties of garlic and onions, ready to form the basis of pies, passatas, sauces and dressings. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the blueberries start to improve this year as well, as they’ve been consistently on the small side for the last two years, and I’m rather partial to them in a bowl of natural yoghurt with some oats in the mornings.
Emily and Debbie have decided to turn the raised beds into a herb garden this year, which works well with the proximity to the kitchen, so a reshuffling of plants has been ongoing over the last week or so. Most of the culinary herbs will remain in the greenhouse, and the hardier and medicinal herbs will be grown in these beds outside, including parsley, dill, camomile, calendula, lemon balm, wood betony and five varieties of mint. We are expanding the botanicals and herbs this year, and continue to supply some of them to the local tea producer, Mr Tea’s Teas in Bristol. We have just completed another mint harvest, and are in the process of dehydrating the leaves ready to be used for tea.
Following the snows of early spring that we saw this year, in mid-April the garden experienced a sudden boost of life after a few warm days, and we are really seeing the effects of that in the growth of the plants. Last week, all the fruit trees started to blossom (pears, apples and quince, also the fabulous ornamental crabapple trees), along with a beautiful display of magnolia. Outside the garden, the woods are currently filled with bluebells and primroses, so it feels like a very magical time of year, nestling in the bottom of the valley and surrounded by all these flowering bulbs and blossoms. Last year, we didn’t have much of an apple crop due to the frosts that sweep the valley basin, so this year we hung hessian blankets over the espaliers to try and protect them until the warmer weather arrived. We’ve been rewarded with beautiful blossoms along each bough, so I’m hoping that this will continue into a fine apple harvest for 2018! Roll on the apple and calvados tarts.
In terms of cut flowers this year, Emily has had to harvest them a little later than usual, partly due to the snow. The latest crops comprised of beautiful tulips, daffodils and ranunculous. These are grown from bulbs and flower early, providing some welcome pops of colour after the winter. Emily’s rule of thumb is that if it is grown from a bulb, it will flower earlier in the year (for example, the bluebells and snowdrops as well), so she plans various stages of cut-flowers to ensure there are different options available for each month, and that there are flashes of colour around all the vegetable beds. It’s part of the cottage garden charm that our plants are not too heavily segregated or organised, so our cut flowers sit alongside our vegetables and herbs, which rather suits our somewhat haphazard (ho ho!) way of life down at the Mill.
Thank you Emily and Debbie, for all your hard work that has been going into our beautiful (and delicious!) garden over the cold months of the year, which mean we will have plenty of fresh and homegrown ingredients to inspire our recipes here as we move towards summer.
Following my last garden update, it has also been so exciting and lovely to hear from so many of you about your own gardens and the plants and trees you are cultivating or looking to grow, so do please keep writing in to us with your updates as we love to hear what is going on in the other gardens around the country, and some even from across the world!
See you all soon! Xx