Andrew's bi-monthly news for the gardens at Northcote
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2007
2006 was certainly a difficult year for gardeners and growers! An extremely late start to the growing season with frost continuing on into may. It almost seemed as though we went from winter to summer without a spring, then we had record high temperatures later in the year, this made a very short growing season though it has in some way been compensated for, by the fact I am still harvesting in January such as American land cress, corn salad, the winter kales, chards and salad burnett. It has though been mild enough for the cress’s and mustards and many others to continue being sowed and harvested outdoors. Grass has continued to grow right through into January, though it has been far too wet to cut.
Many spring bulbs such as iris and crocus are already in flower though snowdrops and aconites, which you would expect in January, are not! All very confusing.
Our 2-year period of conversion to organic is almost complete and though I have always gardened organically to become certified as organic and advertise as such you must complete two years of rigorous inspection to qualify.
The regulations on organic fruit have recently been extended from 2-3 years so it will be another year before our fruit produced at Northcote qualifies for advertising as organic.
Many of the varieties I have added over the last few years should start to produce reasonable quantities of fruit, though we are always at the mercy of our ever-variable weather.
What looked like being a bumper crop of North American blackberries was thwarted by an extremely wet and sunless August, as was a good crop of strawberries by the lack of sun and cold weather just as they are ripening in June. Gardening is not an exact science, its all about knowing your plants, where they originate from, how the grow, what they need to thrive and adjusting to our ever more erratic weather.
Our outdoor black grapes looked earlier in the summer as if they would struggle, due to the late start to the growing season but sufficient sunshine and settled weather late in the year produced an exceptional crop of over 120 bunches from 1 vine.
The additions to our existing fruit varieties, I have planted over the past few years, Mira belles, blueberries, jostaberries, dessert gooseberries, morello cherries, quinces and white currents that have all established well, though the mulberries are slow to start cropping.
So hopefully you will be sampling some of them in our restaurant in the future along with the vast range of salad leaves I am growing and such exceptional flavourings such as lemon verbena, one of natures true wonders!
The number of varieties of edible plants we grow on site at Northcote now exceeds 150 and I have already to add many more this coming season including numerous varieties of radish