Now that we are in deep winter it is the best opportunity to really get ahead in the garden. Pruning, clearing and preparing borders are all jobs on the list that simply have to be done before the start of spring. But one of the biggest jobs we have is composting the vegetable garden, to keep a fertile and healthy soil for next year’s crops. It may not be so glamorous, but the compost heap is probably one of the most important parts of the garden. It is a cheap and effective way of disposing of waste from both the garden and kitchen and with a bit of careful management this rubbish can be turned in to “brown gold”.
In a garden the size of Gravetye, we produce vast amounts of compost material throughout the year, which we pile up in a large bay made from railway sleepers. To make good compost it is really important to get the right balance of all the ingredients- carbon, nitrogen, air and water. Much of the old border plants we cut back in the autumn are very dry and have a lot of carbon so we balance thisout by adding horse manure into the mix. Quality horse manure is always difficult to find but fortunately, the love of my life is obsessed with her horse and keeps a manure pile for me with the perfect straw to dung ratio…. Romance can blossom in the most unusual places! Water is quite plentiful at this time of year but in the summer through very dry patches, it can be good to water the heap. Air is added to the heap by turning it from one bay to another with a tractor; this is the point where the quality of the compost can be inspected. If all the ingredients are in the right balance, then the microorganisms are doing their good work. This gives off a lot of heat generation and creates clouds of steam as the tractor lifts each load.
It can take several months for the compost to fully break down into beautiful fine crumbly humus and when ready, it is time for it to be spread on the vegetable garden. We only do this when the soil is dry enough as pushing wheelbarrows on wet ground can ruin the soil. For extra protection, we work off a path of scaffold planks to help prevent too much compaction. We don’t compost the whole garden every year but instead do different beds each year as part of our rotation. By composting the brassicas, peas and pumpkins each year, most beds get a dose of muck every two years. The hard part is wheel barrowing it into place and digging it in but this is a perfect workout after the excesses of Christmas.
You can read Tom's latest article in Country Life 'Winged peas and palatable petals' on our Press Page.
2015 Spring and Summer Special Events
Once again, I am pleased to announce a variety of gardening events at Gravetye that will take place in early 2015. Spring is arguably a time when the Gravetye gardens are at their most breath-taking, and these events coincide with this time of the year, offering the perfect opportunity to see the gardens at their best. I am pleased to be holding three of my ever popular garden tour and lunch events, as well as having a couple of guest garden speakers. I hope you can join me for what promises to be a spring full of exciting events.
Anthony is an accomplished garden designer who specialises in making the best use of the smallest spaces, turning them into beautiful gardens. He will discuss ideas from his book, Great Little Gardens which talks about many of the exciting projects he has worked on, alongside ideas of how you can get the most from your garden at home. He has won awards from The Chelsea Gardeners Guild, The Good Gardeners Guide and The Best 50 Garden Designers, and has written and lectured for the RHS, Inchbald School of Design, Country Homes and Interiors, Mediterranean Garden Society and Harvard University, USA, amongst others.
Richard is Head Gardener at Barnsley House Hotel in the Cotswolds which was the former home of world-famous garden designer, the late Rosemary Verey. Gravetye and Barnsley House hold much in common, both are members of the prestigious Pride of Britain Hotels, and both being old houses with historically important gardens. Join us as Richard explains the history behind this famous garden and how he and his team have managed to preserve the design established by Rosemary, which has become so appealing to so many.
Gravetye Garden Blog
For all those eager to read more regular updates from the garden, then we have good news. Our head gardener Tom and his team are delighted to launch the Gravetye Garden Blog. Packed full of pictures and information on their work at Gravetye - look out for Tom’s plant of the week, as well as posts from exciting contributors.
Click here to subscribe: http://gravetyemanor.wordpress.com/
At the Manor News
With 2015 upon us, we reveal the winner of our photography competition, share some exclusive new year special offers and more…
In the Kitchen News
Head Chef George reflects on the festive season gone and looks forward to 2015 by discussing his menu changes, as well as sharing a recipe for his take on Seville orange marmalade…