Winter in the Walled Kitchen Garden
You may not think that winter is the busiest time of year in the Walled Kitchen Garden, but rest assured that the gardening team are kept running around throughout even in the coldest weather. Crops such as Brussel sprouts, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, winter cauliflowers and winter cabbages still need harvesting for use in Clumber Park’s Café and Garden Tea House.
Other outdoor jobs include clearing all the flower beds of annual flowers and vegetables, plus lifting and dividing many of the perennials in the impressive herbaceous borders.
Organic matter is added to improve the soil - then comes digging, rotating and levelling and firming beds ready for seed sowing in the early Spring. There are apple trees to be pruned as well as soft fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and gooseberries.
However, its not all outside work. in the glass house the not so insignificant job of pruning the grapevines has to be done.
Insect pests such as mealy bugs have to be controlled, but because Clumber's gardens are organic, no pesticides can be used, so this job includes manually scraping them off the bark with a knife - a laborious, time consuming task.
The vines rods are also untied from their supports and lowered to the ground - a tricky job when you consider the 72 rods, each about 12ft in length making a total length of 400 ft. This encourages the vine to produce shoots along the whole length of the rods, rather just on the lower sections.
Peach and nectarine trees produce flowers in February, before pollinating insects are about. To ensure fruits are formed, flowers are pollinated by hand, gently touching each open flower with a paint brush.
As Head Gardener, Chris Margrave said "It's also the time when we draw up our cropping plans - using both modern varieties and heritage traditional and heirloom types of wide range fruits and vegetables. The aim is to produce a succession of crops for the restaurant, but also to have an attractive and inspiring Walled Kitchen garden for visitors to enjoy".