Lucy Halliday, Head Gardener, Clovelly Court Gardens
The big news of the week has certainly been our wonderful surprise at receiving Gold in the Village category at the National Britain in Bloom awards. This puts the community of Clovelly and its horticultural exploits among the top four of the top ten villages. Given that Bloom is the largest community gardening competition in the U.K., this is a fantastic result and a great celebration of the efforts of the Clovelly Gardening Group, volunteers, villagers and Gardens team.
Part of the publicity surrounding the Bloom celebrations has been the RHS’ commendation to gardeners for dealing with what they describe as ‘the toughest weather conditions for growing in the last 54 yrs’.
Weather extremes, be they cold, hot, stormy or wet, have certainly been a topic of discussion in the Court Gardens since the new team started in March. We are currently experiencing such a mild wet autumn. Hence we have a crunch point between the still growing weeds and the start of clearing fallen leaves and finished crops. This week has seen a big push to tackle weeds before our focus must turn to strimming, mulching lifting dahlias and planting spring flowering bulbs, overwintering onions and garlic in November.
Transitioning the gardens to totally organic management means that we are moving through a period where weeds can seem a real issue. The decision to keep glyphosate spraying out of the garden walls is the right choice for wildlife, locals and visitors who eat our produce and for the wider environment. Yet this change is not always easy and weather plays a big part. As we get the garden into an organic rhythm over the next few years where hoeing and mulching can prevent the spread of weed seed, the management of these ‘plants in the wrong place’ should get easier. We are devoting as much labour as possible at present to keep weeds down and improve presentation.
Composting is also a corner stone of organic gardening. This week we teamed up with one of our local estate farmers in turning our compost and manure heaps. Regular turning speeds improves decomposition for better compost, faster. While disposing of debris we also cleared much storm damaged material and will have a good deal of bonfire material to deal with in the coming weeks.
With the final pears picked, we are really into autumn cropping but still harvesting leeks, tomatoes, squash, parsley, beetroot, chard, spinach, lettuce and more.
24-October – Apple Day! We manned a stall of Gardens produce including over a dozen different apple varieties and our freshly pressed Apple juice. In fact by the time we have finished we will have pressed over 1,500 kilos of apples. The total harvest for the gardens this year has been, at a conservative estimate, in the region of 2,000 kilos. We certainly have some things to thank the weather for!