From seed to service – the Potager Garden diary

By 1st January 2024 No Comments

January 2024

Happy new year to you all, and thank you for making this festive season such a memorable one for everyone at Crouchers.

To have been sold out for not only Christmas Day but also new year’s eve, as well as being chosen to host endless Christmas parties and events, was such a heart-warming thrill for us all, and, dare I say it, a much-appreciated show of our popular standing in the community, and even, dare I say it again, a show of just how damn good we are at Crouchers.

Unfortunately, there is a down side to this popularity in that we had to turn revellers away – something we truly hate doing – but we are heartened by the fact that Crouchers was clearly the place to celebrate in style.

However, this success does not come easy, and I have to dip my hat to all the hard-working guys in the kitchen, the front of house, the house-keeping and in the office for a hugely successful end to 2023.

Now it’s time to bang the drum of the gardeners.

Jason and I tend to be forgotten over the festive period as very few people want to leave the warmth of the hotel to venture out into the gardens, and even fewer want to risk the rain and mud to visit us at the potager.

But we have not been idle in the shed, instead we have been doing what all gardeners should be doing this time of year – fixing, cleaning, preparing, storing, building, drinking coffee, enjoying a mince pie, and repeating.

We’ve had to replace all our raised beds as the original scaffold-boarded framework (which was only meant as a temporary structure five years ago) finally rotted away.

The new beds are 1.5m wide, 2.3m long and 250mm high of treated softwood – don’t make then any wider than 1.5m as reaching the middle then becomes difficult.

You should also leave enough space between the beds to push a wheelbarrow – this may sound obvious, but it is vital.

I must confess, we were not looking forward to this job as it also required ahifting around 10 tonnes of soil – that’s a lot of wheelbarrow-loads – but it does mean we can replenish the soil’s nutrients with a good mix of organic compost when we refill the beds ready for next season.

We are also in the process of digging out a lot of the potager’s woodchip pathway. Any gardener knows that while woodchip is a very economical and eco-friendly way of laying a pathway, there is only ever one eventuality – it will rot down and need replacing.

With the hideous rain we’ve had recently, the woodchip has really become a bog (we’ve been using planks as walkways) and while the area that needs to be replaced is relatively small, it is back-breaking work (hence the mince pies).

Out in the main potager garden, we are in a great position to very soon have something for guests and visitors to wander around.

The pathway is ready to be laid (lined by more than 1,000 naturally scoured chestnut stakes, all cut by hand), the hard-standings are in place for our sheds and greenhouses, and we’re also ready to install the polytunnels.

To create the hard-standings, we’ve built frames and filled them with recycled hardcore – around 100 tonnes of the stuff!

The hardcore has come from Facebook marketplace, which is great as it’s economical – but there have been dozens of trips around Sussex collecting as much as my little Berlingo van (nicknamed Bingo) could carry.

Then the hardcore has been shifted by wheelbarrow into the framework, making sure to leave a good 100mm gap to be filled with a top layer of concrete.

We’re really excited by the prospect of having something that will soon be  enjoyed by visitors.

It can be demoralising when the hard work has no obvious reward, but I can assure you that – while everyone else has been keeping warm in the hotel and enjoying the wonder that is Crouchers hospitality – Jason and I have been hard at work, creating the foundation for a beautiful garden.

Hopefully very soon we’ll be overwhelmed by visitors and putting smiles on people’s faces, just like they’ve been doing in the hotel.

~ Tim