Hello everyone and a warm welcome to our first post from Gardener’s HQ at Ballintubbert Gardens, (BT).
The daffodils are in full bloom, the hyacinths are filling the air with their gorgeous scent and we are kicking into gear for another season here at BT.
My name is Jenifer and I’m in the lucky position of being Head Gardener here at Ballintubbert!
The gardens have had a long and interesting history. They have been owned and shaped by many different hands, notably the Little family, soft fruit farmers in the 1970’s, John Hurt in the 1990’s, who commissioned Irish landscape architect Arthur Shackleton to create what we now call The Shackleton garden. In the early 2000’s Fergus & Orna Hoban, who with the much loved & highly skilled, late Andrew Farrelly created most of the gardens we see today. Tent aficionados & event specialists LPM Bohemia took over in 2015 and we have been on a renovation, renewal and reinvigoration project ever since. We are all very keen gardeners and on an endless learning journey !
There are many different areas to the garden that we will discuss in future posts such as The Lutyens Garden inspired by Sir Edwin Lutyens, renowned designer of Heywood Garden, Co. Laois, The Shakleton Garden, the Arboretum, Robinson’s meadow, the Secret Garden, to name but a few.
But, this first post is all about our beloved second vegetable area....Potager West.
I am so excited about Potager West because... Ladies and Gentlemen - last week I got raised beds in there and established paths !…
SO SO SO HAPPY! !!! Cannot wait to start sowing.
Two lovely strong lads, Tom and James, came over from England to work on the main marquee but I managed to steal their expertise into creating raised beds as well ! They worked hard turning old roof rafters and scrap timber into solid frames, lined the paths with old carpet to keep the weeds down and wheel-barrowed in tons of soil to fill the new beds.
Many thanks lads, I couldn’t have done it without you.
For those of you who haven’t seen Potager West yet... it is currently our main growing area approx 12 metres wide and 30 metres long. Divided into 4 areas intersected by narrow brick paths. It is sheltered on 3 sides by a high Yew hedge and a lovely south-facing ‘hot wall’- creating a micro climate which the espalier pear and fig trees in particular enjoy. This year I’m going to try outdoor tomatoes along it as well as a myriad of herbs.
Last summer was our first time growing in this area, before then it had been very overgrown. It required lots of time and muscle to strim, rotavate and kick it into some shape. Many thanks Paddy Hyland - you did the bulk of the work.
In early Spring 2016 more volunteers arrived from England and Slane – Thanks guys- to create 12 individual metre wide beds separated by dirt paths.
This was great and produced lots of veg, but the downside of lots of beds is lots of paths, which require hoeing and edging and take up valuable growing space and even more valuable gardening time.
So this winter I started on my new master plan... Large raised beds, fewer paths and the potato patch has moved out to the Crab apple orchard and has tripled in size!!
As the pictures show, I now have 4 large beds and 4 small corner beds in the top right hand area and 3 long beds in the bottom right hand area.
The bottom left hand area has a very old apple tree and I think an even older kiwi, Actinidia arguta, which sends out hairy tendrils over 10 feet long which would do a Stephen King movie proud. This spring it got clipped back and shaped in to a growing camp for children. It does produce a few hard fruits each year. Black and red current bushes were replanted in here last spring and I’m looking forward to a good crop this summer. The rest of this area is given over to wild flowers, mainly vetches, clover and mustards. It is our pollination meadow.
The top left hand side also has two wonderful ancient apple trees which bear fruit each year. The ground has been covered in black membrane and carpet and is used as a cutting and hardwood propagation area. Anything and everything goes in here.
We are completely organic in the vegetable area and try to incorporate as many biodynamic practises as is feasible. Last year I used a lot of heritage and heirloom seed varieties and I have to say I got a great reaction to my Solar Yellow, Cosmic Purple and Atomic Red carrots and purple skinned Arran Victory potatoes as well.
The soil here is quite sandy and free draining so regular watering is vital .While carrots, onions and potatoes grew very well the spinach bolted constantly.
Lovage, Agastache, Amaranthus tricolour, Green Purslane, Salsify and Root Parsley will join the multicouloured carrots and rainbow chard this season...
Navan and Dunbar Standards -both main crop, will be grown with my delicious Arran Victory‘s this year. Looking forward to seeing how these perform on this soil.
Potager East is a similar size but laid out slightly differently, one side consists of many small beds surrounded by red brick paths and is given over to our cutting flowers. Cosmos ‘Purity’, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, various sweet peas, Briza major and mixed cornflowers in particular were used extensively in our flower arrangements.
The other side is planted out with raspberrys - Fallgold. A lovely yellow skinned autumn fruiting variety. The few that made it into the kitchen made delicious jams and purees, (picking is hungry work you know!). We also have cherry, plum and quince trees and enjoy persevering as much of the harvests as possible.
My other main autumn/winter project was the renewal of the Lutyens garden, but I will talk more about it next month.
We are opening the gardens 22nd and 23th April for a special open weekend, and thereafter every Thursday. I look forward to seeing many of you here…
Best wishes for now
Head Gardener X