Achiltibuie Garden Blog


Achiltibuie Garden Blog


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

December at The Garden

When I last wrote we had been enjoying wonderful, unseasonal weather but I can now report that we are very much enduring seasonal weather now! Since the latter part of November we have paid for all the good weather with unbelievable winds, snow, rain, hail... There have also been power cuts - last Thursday the power went off during the early part of the evening and didn't come back on until the early hours of Saturday morning and again during Sunday night/Monday morning. With today's winds we are checking our torch batteries - just incase! Down at the Growing house we are actually "off grid" so we were not affected by the lack of electricity and thanks to our microturbine are batteries are well and truly charged!

The weather has restricted the amount of work we are able to do outdoors - we had started transferring soil into the ornamental garden but the ground is much too wet to continue. Our resident geese had decided that our veggie garden was just too tempting and over the course of a week they caused quite a lot of destruction - each time we caught them in there we chased them out and thought we had blocked their latest entry point (or so we thought). Under Ruth's supervision Alison "clipped their wings" and fingers crossed that has helped. I can reassure you that the geese will not be part of any of our Christmas dinners!

This week Alison has cleared out the tomato system and I think sometime will be spent this weekend making green tomato chutney. Our chilli plants have done really well so maybe some lemon chilli jam as well?

Alison and I had a wonderful day out to the east coast to visit one of our customers who grows microleaves for Skibo Castle. It was really interesting to see all the leaves she had "on the go" and we were also invited to Skibo Castle and received a warm Highland welcome and after coffee and croissants, Lindsey (one of the chef's who just happens to be our customer's son), showed us around the kitchen (our planters crammed with microleaves looked fantastic), the gardens and seeing the Victorian greenhouses was wonderful - our thanks to everyone for making us welcome.

During November we held the first Achiltibuie Winter market and Alison and I were kept busy selling produce from the Garden and even took some orders for Christmas produce.

We have been planning what we will grow in 2012 and the new strawberry plants have now been ordered and we are going to trial a few new varieties as well as continuing to grow Korona, Marshmellow and Flamenco. Due to the demand for our strawberries we are having to construct a new strawberry system!

As long as the weather permits we will be taking part in the Christmas Zumbathon - will need to get the decorations out for our costumes!

All the best for the festive season and 2012


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

November at The Garden

With the clocks having gone back at the weekend we are just getting used to it getting dark early. As October was drawing to an end it became warmer and I can't believe I spent the last day of October working outdoors in short sleeves! The temperature hasn't dropped yet so long may that continue.

As with last year we still have lots of produce growing at The Garden: tomatoes, strawberries, chillies, courgettes, squashes, cabbages, kale, salads, herbs, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, chard...

2011 has been a bumper year for produce sales - we sold in excess of 1200 bags of salad (100+ kilos!). We are working on plans for new systems to enable us to increase production next year so we can keep up with demand.

The good weather just now means we can get on with the outdoor growing areas - Alison has a big sack of daffodil bulbs to plant for spring colour and Di has been working away in the fruit cage.

We have started sowing for next year and now the seed catalogues are coming in I am enjoying spending time looking for different seeds to sow next year. This year Di had sourced some fantastic new salad leaves and they have proved to be so popular that we need to add to them next year.

Now we are into "winter mode" The Garden is no longer open to the public every week day but we are hoping to be working down there most mornings so visitors are welcome to come down and visit.

Our friends at The Summer Isles Hotel have been busy attending award ceremonies - winning the Highlands Restaurant of the Year to name but one! Well done to them and we look forward to continuing to supply them with our quality produce.

During November we are giving all our customers who spend over £50 (excluding p&p) an Acorn Pot kit, worth £6.90, with our compliments. These kits are so useful and make great gifts - in the growing house we are using ours for geraniums, chillies and tumbler tomatoes.

As part of Breast Cancer Care month Alison and I took part in a Zumbathon in Ullapool - it was great fun and thanks to Fiona and Aileen for organising it and the staff at Ullapool Leisure Centre for all they did for the event.

Don't forget we are on Facebook so why not become our friend.


Friday, 16 September 2011

September at The Garden

I know I am not the only person to be shocked that we are so far into September already and wonder where this year has gone?

As always we have been kept busy both in the office and down at the Garden. In my last post I mentioned that we were having a stall at Elphin market and I have to say it was a great way to spend my day off! The market is so well organised and is held in the old school and has a great selection of stalls - between selling fresh produce to visitors and stall holders I was planning my Christmas shopping: I really love Szeiler sculptures and Jill's pewter brooches so think there might be a few of my family getting one; Susie's handbags are all original and extremely well made with such attention to detail; Sharon makes brilliant buttons and keep thinking of all the things I can put them onto! There was just so much that Ann-Marie and I have decided to hold a winter market in Achiltibuie - so far we have 14 stalls booked. It was good to see so many local people come along to do their shopping - as well as our fresh produce there was bread, wonderful cakes, preserves, smoked salmon & cheese as well as Sian's croft grown hogget.

Alison went along to the market this week and so we spent Tuesday afternoon picking and digging fresh produce. I got soaked pulling carrots and digging parsnips but it was worth it as they were so good. We also had red cabbages, green cabbages, assorted kale, chard, fir apple & Charlotte potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, living lettuce, salad bags, courgettes, fresh herbs...

When ground has been harvested of produce Di has either been sowing new crops or green manure. We have also been sowing to keep salads going over the winter as well as for 2012.

Strawberries in September - just wish you could smell them as they are wonderful. As I spent quite a bit of time tidying up the plants etc I felt it necessary to do some quality control and the taste was every bit as good as the smell.

Our tomato hanging baskets have been producing the most amazing amount of tasty tomatoes and our only problem is that we can't get them to ripen quickly enough to keep up with customer demand.

We have had so many people coming down to buy fresh produce for their evening meal and what I enjoy is listening to people who are planning their evening meal around what we have available.

On that note I think it's lunchtime and I have my own hydroponic cherry tomatoes as part of my lunch.

Monday, 22 August 2011

August news from The Garden

It's been a somewhat hectic few weeks down at the Garden with lots of visitors looking round the growing house and the outdoor garden. When it's been dry some have taken a walk around the croft and down to the shore.

The weather has not been at all good for August - don't think I need to tell you that! The rainfall has been rather amazing but with so many hydroponic systems and being reliant on rainwater harvesting we have to confess to being grateful for it! During July Allan built a new 3 tray raft system which has meant we have been able to increase our salad production but the demand for our salads is so great that we have struggled to keep up with demand!

Our everbearer strawberries (Flamenco) are on their 2nd crop of the season (one more crop to go) and the lucky guests of Norwest Seakayaking are having them for dessert tonight! Due to various setbacks with our beans, courgettes and cucumbers (some of our seeds etc were noshed by fieldmice and voles) we are delighted to now be cropping them. The cucumbers are so delicious and one family last week bought a cucumber each to snack on in the car.

Visitors are delighted to be able to come down and buy fresh produce straight from the Garden and they love being able to help pick their peas and beans. I have been giving some people a taste of the Rat Tailed Radish (Munchen Bier) Di has grown this year. Otis, a little boy from Glasgow, absolutely loved them and I have a feeling he is going to be growing them next year.

Alison and I have been cooking again, providing a meal for a family for the first night of their holiday, evening meals for Norwest Seakayaking and next week I am going to have a stall selling our fresh produce at Elphin market - have also been asked to make some of our savoury tartlets as well!

Following the success of last year's World's biggest coffee morning we have been asked to provide the venue again this year.

Tonight we will be watching BBC ALBA at 9pm as they have a programme about coastal rowing and the Coigach Lass, Achiltibuie's skiff who Di is the cox for, is one of the boats featured.

Di has been busy sowing our winter lettuce and parsley for next year. Some varieties of lettuce to sow now are Rougette du midi, winter density, rouge d'hiver and claytonia (also known as Miners lettuce or winter purslane). At home I have sown my spring cabbage so hopefully it will be successful as I generally buy young plants from a good garden centre (or get some from Di if we have spare ones).

Ah well must get on with making up stock.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Propagation house on the move

What does it take to move a propagation house? 3 men and a tractor and one supervisor (Elke our Norwegian Elkhound). Allan was in charge of the tractor so Stuart, Matthew and Rhuaraidh carefully manouvered the small Keder house from the front of the growing house, down the track and into position alongside the shed. The photos show some of the men at work!