The gardening challenge at Hill Top

People and petals - a tricky mix © Photography by Ward

People and petals - a tricky mix

Gardening at Hill Top is a great job, but from slugs and snails to six feet of rain, it certainly has its challenges.

All those visitors
The garden at Hill Top is just a normal Lake District cottage garden created by Beatrix Potter for her own use and enjoyment and it certainly wasn’t designed with the thought of a hundred thousand visitors strolling up the garden path every year.

The main path up to the house is slate-flagged so can easily cope with the wear but it’s only narrow, and at busy times visitors often step off the path onto the edge of the borders leaving a compacted muddy strip which needs to be ‘tickled over’ with a garden fork on a regular basis.

The grass path in the vegetable garden is not accessible to visitors but other grass areas often struggle to cope with the pounding of all those feet.

Slugs and weeds
Hill Top is gardened almost entirely organically (weedkiller is used very sparingly), so pests like slugs and snails, which love our damp climate, have to be either picked off by hand or given a treatment with a natural nematode predator or eco-friendly slug pellets. All but the most persistent weeds are pulled up by hand or chopped off with a hoe on a sunny day.

We can't forget to mention rabbits
Rabbits sometimes find their way into the garden and once they realise the tasty treats on offer it can be very difficult persuading them to leave again. Our visitors love seeing them but the gardener clearly has a different point of view, as he runs around flapping his arms to persuade them to go back to their burrows in the fields outside the garden.

Precipitation - also known as rain
The growing season in this part of the country is a short one, with very little happening before May and the first signs of autumn creeping in from the middle of September.

The average annual rainfall at Hill Top is around 2000mm (London gets 730mm), and although this means we rarely suffer from drought, the soil is often waterlogged and unworkable - and the gardener miserable. Fortunately the stony soil is well drained, and after a day or two of dry weather, digging, sowing and planting can begin again.