As we return to the Kitchen Garden, we learn about some of the annual tasks necessary for so many varieties of flowers and fresh produce to thrive. Hopefully the knowledge and experience of our garden team can help you follow their lead in your own garden.
Becky has spent much of May on a rotation of tasks. Firstly, all the plants likely to grow over 80cm (for example, delphiniums and peonies) need to be staked, and the earlier the better. Attaching the stems to a sturdy frame ensures all the flowers will grow straight – perfect for cutting and arranging.
Secondly, many of the annuals that started off the year in the cold frames are now being planted out, for example, the Dahlias have been making this move into the garden beds over the course of May. Unfortunately an unexpected late frost impacted some of the Dahlias, even through a protective covering, but by cutting off the parts that went black with frost damage, Becky was able to rescue all of the plants.
Third, seed-sowing. It’s time to sow many of the half-hardy annuals in the Kitchen Garden, including Cosmos, Amaranthus and Sunflowers.
Finally, due to the bizarre mixture of heat and rain throughout May, Becky and the volunteers have had an endless job to do in order to keep on top of the pervasive weeds that have been bourgeoning throughout the garden…
Blooming beautiful in the Kitchen Garden this month, as seen in Becky’s Instagram photos, are Alliums, Lupins, Cerinthe, Hesperis (Sweet rocket), Iris, Papaver nudicaule (Icelandic poppy) and Astrantia.
Last week the staff in the Chatsworth kitchen requested a large amount of fresh produce for a dinner.
The seasonal vegetables Glenn is currently harvesting, and was able to provide for this feast, included microsalads, mini carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, mixed herbs and beetroot. (Beetroot is not in season but stores well over winter, so these are still going strong from last year.) Also during May asparagus and sea kale (which was growing beneath pots, as mentioned in April) were harvested and enjoyed.
Along with continuous harvesting and weeding throughout the month, Glenn has been planting celeriac and Brussel sprouts, and sowing kale, beetroot, chard, peas and a variety of herbs. He has also spent some time earthing soil around the potatoes.
Stefan has been busy this month growing peaches, apricots and figs in pots in the polytunnel. He has also been looking after plants which will be moved out into the tropical borders in early June. These include: Trachycarpus, Tetrapanax 'Rex', Cannas, Callistemon, & Astelia among others.
Also, the many currant and gooseberry bushes are now being pruned. Stefan’s technique ensures that air and light are able to get into the shrub, allowing the fruit to ripen healthily. Fruit develops mainly on the older wood, so the pruning mainly focusses on this season’s growth.
If you have any questions about specific varieties or techniques mentioned in the blog, please do tweet @ChatsworthHouse using the #HeadGardener tag, or use the comments section below the blog post on facebook. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!