On a rainy Friday March afternoon I got a most unexpected phone call from a friend asking if I would be interested in growing vegetables in Liss Ard country house Estate. When later that day I was offered the job I nearly jumped for joy. In fact I did jump for joy. Hiding my emotions has never been my strong point. The aim is to reinstate the walled vegetable garden at Liss Ard country house Estate. With a plot of approximately 26 meters by 38 meters long it's a daunting undertaking, but an exciting one. The plot is divided into 16 beds that range in size from approximately 3 meters by 5 meters to 7 meters by 10 meters. One of the first things I looked at after assessing the aspect and shelter of the plot (which the Victorians got so right first day) was, of course, the soil. The soil in the walled garden is generally good loamy soil with free drainage. The main challenge is the abundance of stones particularly in the far beds. I’ve already removed a small mountain of stones (with some welcome help from my colleagues). I will keep going from bed to bed: raking… plenty of raking. The soil will never be stone free, so prize-winning carrots may not be an option, but at least I’ll never have a problem with drainage.
A good way to improve the soil texture is to plant potatoes. I decided to plant three varieties of early potatoes.
These will not only aid in breaking up and opening the soil texture but will also yield a delicious harvest in as little
as 10 weeks. Once harvested in June the beds will be ready for a follow on crop.
The persistent inclement weather in March was a huge source of frustration. A good few days my outdoor gardening plans had to be abandoned. Trying to work the ground would have done more harm than good, making mud of the soil. Luckily I can take refuge in my trusty tunnel. It’s now bursting at the seams with little seedlings ready for potting on and hardening off. After the potatoes were in, during a welcome dry spell in March
I was delighted to plant some soft fruits. The moment I laid eyes on the garden I knew it needed soft fruit bushes.
In Victorian times no kitchen garden would be complete without soft fruit. The bushes will give the garden year-round structure and interest. I planted bare-root gooseberries, blackcurrant, red-currant and summer raspberries. The gooseberries went into one of the stony beds: they are hardy enough to cope, and not as fussy as their neighbours the currents. There won’t be much of anything to harvest this summer, but it promises a future abundance of fruit.
I have always enjoyed the solitude of gardening, a break from the demands of the real world. But I also crave good company and chat. Birds, although not a substitute for people (I’m not that mad yet), do keep me company in the garden. With the exception of a couple of pied wagtails there have been few other birds coming in to enjoy the offerings of worms and centipedes in the freshly dug soil. I am still waiting for a robin to visit and lay claim to the plot. No walled garden is complete without a resident robin. Now that spring has finally sprung weeds are on the rampage, and slugs are getting hungry. I was cross yesterday when I noticed nibbled leaves of my tiny radish seedlings. Luckily I have back-up seedlings in my tunnel that I will wait to plant out once they are stronger. I have no doubt there’s a long battle ahead with the slugs. Liss Ard country house Estate is on the wild Atlantic way in stunning West Cork idyllically set in its own private woodlands and gardens. A beautiful romantic intimate spot for weddings and private functions also. Open now for weekend B & B and from 23rd May open all week. The restaurant will be serving locally sourced produce and fresh vegetables from Sally’s garden.
Sally Ann Lenehan