Catherine, our Kitchen Gardener shares her tips for success in the garden this month…
August to October …
Late summer through to early autumn is the traditional period of harvest, with festivals held across the country to celebrate times of plenty. Our own Walled Garden Feast (taking place on the 22 September) is an opportunity to show off the garden and its bounty, to say thank you to our extraordinary team of volunteers and to invite you all to feast on the lush growth that a summer of warmth and rain (unlike last year’s drought!) affords.
For the gardeners, it also marks a time to take stock, to look back at the growing season’s successes and failures, and begin tentative planning for next year.
One aspect of the Walled Kitchen Garden that’s been particularly successful in 2019 is the increase in wildlife. We’ve made deliberate provision for butterflies, bees and birds with wildflower planting; we’ve interspersed vegetable crops with companion flowers. This approach has been great for children too. Bug hunting is one of the most popular activities for families in the garden but all visitors, young and old, have found the bright colours and humming sounds of our little pollinating friends joyful! Of course this has the added benefit of increasing our yields too – without the insects, many of our crops would be lost.
The orchard is at its most fruitful in autumn. The tree fruits – apples, pears and, for us, quince and medlar too – are ripe and ready. We’ve been picking and sharing some of the heritage varieties not available in the shops. Stop and ask us for a Pitmaston Pineapple taster next time you visit!
• It’s possible to see an overnight frost as early as August, so watch the forecast avidly and protect tender crops with horticultural fleece or cloches if the temperature shows signs of dropping.
• As the days shorten, plant growth slows, but there’s still time to sow hardy lettuces for winter growth under cover. Oriental leaves like mustard, mizuna and mibuna are a great choice for winter salads. Sow sprouting broccoli for a early spring crop.
• Early winter is perfect for planting garlic as the low temperature causes the bulb to split into cloves. If you don’t make it to a garden centre, split a shop-bought bulb, choose the fattest cloves and place each slightly below the surface, blunt end down. They’ll be ready to harvest next July.
• However tempting it is to tidy, wild areas are habitat heaven for overwintering insects! Leave hollow stems, logs, leaf piles and unmown lawns for bees, beetles and bugs. They’ll reward you with fewer pests and a better harvest next year!
The Walled Kitchen Garden at Preston Park Museum & Grounds is open Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays except during Bank Holidays and school holidays). An adult ticket costs £2.50 and you can visit as many times as you like throughout the year.
The gardeners are happy to answer any questions that you may have and you may even be lucky enough to pick up some produce to take home – freshly harvested and chemical free!