After a few months lying dormant, having been cleared, weeded and mulched, the four beds which occupy the centre of Osterley’s Tudor Walled Garden are beginning to be planted for this year’s display of edibles and ornamentals. On 8 March gardener Ed rotovated the plots and the Friday team of volunteer gardeners raked the surface with landscape rakes to create as fine a tilth as possible. The next step was to even out the surface still further using a faded green garden roller, the ‘Ogle Roller’. This venerable machine was made in Derby at the Castwell Foundry but I’ve not been able to find an approximate date when these might have been in production. We discovered that it is easier to pull not push a garden roller on soil and that it required two of us to keep the roller steady and the lines straight, as well as achieving a neat turn at the end of each row. The latter involved a tricky manoeuvre where the two barrels of the Ogle came into play, with one remaining stationary and the other turning to help swivel the roller to a position alongside the previous ‘stripe’.
While we were occupied with this task, colleagues erected the hazel pole bean supports. Whilst the Climbing and Runner Bean plants will not be planted for a few weeks, we did plant a couple of dozen Broad Bean plants. These are the first of numerous vegetable and salad crops being raised from seed to be planted out when both weather and soil are a little warmer.
As an experiment this year, on 22 March one of the walled garden’s plots was sown with ‘green manure’ seeds. In 12 to 14 weeks’ time the plants will be chopped down, dug in and the bed planted with crops in the cabbage family for harvesting during next winter. The plot was first divided off into four triangular sections the interior of two of which were sown with Alfalfa and the other two with Purple Clover, with Black (Japanese) Oats being sown along the intersecting lines.
Whilst this part of the garden looks slightly bare at this time of year, these preparations are the foundation of the second of Osterley’s three garden zones. The Osterley garden is virtually divided into three principal zones, both for seasonal interest and to make it as easy as possible to manage with a small workforce of one Head Gardener and two full-time gardeners, albeit supported by a large team of volunteers. From now until mid-summer the first zone or Mrs Child’s Flower Garden (about which more in future posts) will dominate the scene. The Tudor Walled Garden will be at its height from mid-summer to October, followed by the third zone, the Winter Garden.
I shall plot the progress of the planting in the Tudor Walled Garden in this blog over the coming months.