From seed to service – the Potager Garden diary

By 2nd December 2019 No Comments

December 2019

One of the best things about gardening is that you are learning all the time, and I don’t mean in a “sit down at the back of the classroom Ashton and be quiet” kind of way.

No, it’s more about chatting with fellow gardeners who do things slightly different to you.

Sometimes it’s a family tradition passed down generations, or a mistake that bore fruit unexpectedly and has found its way into folklore.

Recently I have picked up two new approaches which I’d like to pass on to you.

1: Drying onions – everyone knows onions need to be kept separate as they dry before storing. After starting the process by laying them on the ground once pulled up, I normally tie them up in the greenhouse. However this can be a time-consuming job, and as the stems dry, they can break leading to a calamitous fall to earth.

Next year I shall try this, as recommended by my dad – string out an appropriately sized area of plastic 1” netting, and simply lay your onions in it. Simple.

2: Parsnips – We’re having a good season of parsnips down in the Potager garden and if you’ve enjoyed a roast dinner in the restaurant here then chances are you’ve tasted our delicious wares.

But could they be even better? Parsnips can become sweeter after a good frost, but their foliage is such that it can insulate the vegetable’s crown. So, and this sounds obvious and sometimes the best ideas are, once the parsnips have reached a good size (now is a good time), simply remove the foliage.

A guest imparted this idea and it makes sense, so now half our crop is shorn of its foliage and half is not – I shall report back.

PS: I returned the favour to the guest with my new-found onion trick – he was grateful.

Moving on – while we’re still bringing up kale and parsnips to the kitchens, and the purple sprouting broccoli continues its over-winter growth for a spring harvest, the rest of the potager garden has been put to bed.

It means I have been able to attack the flower borders around the hotel and pizzeria – and that means increasing stock without spending any money (are you reading this, boss?).

This is the perfect time to divide perennials and I have done just that with our Stachys byzantina (the one that sounds like an aftershave…), Leucanthemum x superbum, Alchemilla mollis, Achillea, Echinacea purpurea, Rudbeckia and Begonia cordifolia.

However, the best division came from a distressed Heuchera that was under attack from the dreaded vine weevil larvae – leave them to feed on the roots too long and forget it, it’s over for the plant.

But I got there in time, saved the three plants, and divided them into more than 15 new ones!

If you want to know how I deal with vine weevil larvae, feel free to come down to the Potager garden, and then we too can share our combined gardening know-how.

My next blog will be in 2020, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.