The merry busy month of May

23rd May 2020

While Abbotsford is closed our gardening team are still busy at work looking after the Walled Regency Gardens, taking all necessary precautions for their health and wellbeing. Head Gardener Tim shares the latest news on the team's work and answers some of your gardening questions.

The gardening team are busy across the estate, but we have been focussing effort in the kitchen garden, sowing and planting the vegetables that are hopefully destined for Ochiltree’s café when we reopen.

After preparing the beds and building our new eco-friendly cardboard and bark chip paths to give access, we built the structures to support the growing plants, in particular peas and runner beans. These structures have been made from coppiced hazel.

Broad beans, which were grown in the glass house from seed, were planted out and staked individually, to protect them from the high winds and more will be planted in the beds with the A frames.

We’ve recently sowed other vegetable seeds straight into the ground, including parsnip, swede, chard and kale, but most of the vegetables have been grown on from seed in the glass house.

Here I am pictured planting the parsnip seeds, which are bright blue and easy to see when you are sowing in the ground. They need to be thinly scattered, about a half inch apart (13mm) in a shallow trench. It’s OK to sow outside now that the frosts have passed and hopefully there’s no more to come, but we’re almost at the end of the sowing season for the root vegetables.

Thin your plants out as they grow, removing the weaker plants and allowing the stronger ones to flourish.

Planting for work and pleasure

Abbotsford’s kitchen garden is a mix of flowers and shrubs alongside kitchen produce, vegetables, fruit and herbs. Some of the planting was designed by Scott to hide the ‘working garden’ from the leisure garden, so guests wandering through would have a pleasant experience. In particular, the espalier apple trees served as both barrier and window, designed so that you could look through the gap and see the produce growing, but you could also pass by and not be distracted by the less attractive vegetables.

While we have been busy beavering away in the vegetable beds, the flowers in the kitchen garden have been putting on a glorious display. It is such a shame that nobody can see them at the moment. The purple alliums contrast beautifully with the green foliage of the Euphorbia.

This striking pink and white flower is Dicentra, or the common name for it is 'bleeding heart' because of it's shape. However, it doesn't really live up to its name, as it is a beautiful plant that would lift your spirits when you saw it.

The borders that had been left fallow for a couple of years after some problems with bindweed are now beginning to take shape, with the recently planted shrubs and trees spreading to fill the space. This beautiful yellow peony provides a vibrant floral bookend.

We are hoping that with the easing of lockdown restrictions we might be able to open the gardens for the summer, and you can come and see the wonderful gardens for yourselves. Keep checking the website for the latest information or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Your gardening questions answered

Thanks for the questions you've been sending in. Keep them coming and I'll try to answer them for you. Here's a crop of recent ones:

Question: What are the best vegetables to grow in a shady spot here in Scotland?

Answer: Most veg can grow in partial shade, however, most require a certain amount of daylight to grow successfully. Veg that can be grown in shaded areas include broad bean, beetroot, kale and some herbs such as parsley. Start your seeds off in modules, apply well rotten organic manure to the ground and a balanced feed. You might consider pruning trees and shrubs to open up the area for more light, or growing veg in large containers so they can get the right amount of light, especially potatoes and carrots for example.

Question: How do I improve clayish, pebble-loaden garden soil to become more hospitable?

Answer: Improve the soil by gradually adding organic matter such as well rotten manure or better still add your own garden compost which can be very satisfying. Incorporate the organic matter every year, also add a little to your planting hole along with a sprinkling of well balanced feed such as fish, blood and bone to stimulate growth. Carry out a stone pick to gradually remove unwanted stones.

Question: What is the best plant for shade that requires little upkeep?

Answer: Hostas are a popular plant for shaded parts of the garden with a great variety of coloured foliage. However, they can come under attack from slugs. One way to combat this is to plant in pots enabling you to place the plant in different locations as your garden evolves. Brunnera ‘jack frost’ with its silvery green foliage and light blue flowers can be good for under planting and Cimicifuga brunette with purple foliage and spikes of white flowers in autumn is an attractive plant. You may also try Astilbe, hellebores and Foxgloves. Hope this helps, happy gardening.

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