Autumn in the kitchen garden

Colourful autumnal produce from the kitchen garden

During September and October, Gillie our kitchen gardener and her volunteers will be harvesting the remaining fruit and vegetable and planning next years crop.

What happens in the kitchen garden over autumn?

It depends really on the weather that we’ve had through the summer and if we’ve been effected by any pests or blights. We’ll be heading into the tail end of harvesting. This began in May with the rhubarb and asparagus, through June with broad beans, strawberries and into July with more beans. For September we’ll be focusing on squash, runner beans, courgettes, autumn raspberries, early apple varieties and carrots. Parsnips, sprouts and broccoli are usually picked in October or November.

Apples growing in the orchard at Hidcote
Apples growing in the orchard at Hidcote
Apples growing in the orchard at Hidcote

Activities include harvesting and clearing; which is a constant cycle (e.g. clearing old lettuce, parsley and annual flowers form the cut flower patch). We may also be looking at how the sweet peas are looking - we love to keep the colour from these going as long as we can. Ordinarily we’ll keep growth covering the soil for as long as we can, to protect it. This year we may sow a green manure, such as Hungarian winter rye as it’s very good at protecting the soil. To protect the beds from pests, we’ll put netting over soft fruit like the strawberries to protect from squirrels and birds, but we never use pesticides.

Where does the produce go?

About 75% of produce from the kitchen garden goes to the kitchen at Winthrop's café to be enjoyed by visitors. The squash is particularly useful for the soups and stews cooked by the team in the café. The rest is sold through the potting shed next to the kitchen garden. 

Seed guardians

The seed guardian scheme is set up for the Heritage Seed Library by Garden Organics. They want to protect and save heritage varieties to keep them going and conserve them down the generations. Members of the Heritage Seed Library can select three to four seeds per year that would be very difficult to obtain outside of membership. As a seed guardian we build up the stock every year that the Heritage Seed Library need more of. We grow some ‘orphan varieties’ with the sole purpose to get seed from them, not necessarily to harvest them. We’ll leave the seeds to ripen on the plants and then pick, dry and send them off for the Heritage Seed Library. In September we will be picking old peas and tomatoes and ‘pulping them.’ Part of the rotting process breaks down chemical inhibitors to make them more viable seeds, meaning they will germinate better. With the help of our volunteers we will be sifting through ‘fungal yuck’ to get these seeds to save the varieties for the future.