Visitors are now benefitting from two investments inside and out.
This month, fresh produce grown on site has been making its way to guests’ plates as a revived garden and refurbished kitchen forge a strong new partnership. Our catering team had been providing meals from temporary facilities in the games room for four months as the kitchen underwent a rebuild. It’s now been refitted with high-spec equipment – dishwasher, walk-in fridge and freezer with new dry stores, worktops and fire safety systems. The catering team moved back at the start of July, just as produce from the garden began arriving in abundance.
Late last year, we received funding for two staff to start looking after the garden. Simon and Daniel started on 1 November, the coldest, wettest time of the year to take on a large piece of ground that had been out of use for about a decade.
They spent the first few months locating paths in the undergrowth, clearing ground and identifying areas fit for productive growing. They planned half a dozen beds along with nursery space for young plants, and sowed seeds under cover. Existing fruit bushes were pruned hard to stimulate production. Hardy cabbage and leek plants were the first to be planted out, followed by vegetables carefully grown under cover. The garden is now thriving with several varieties of lettuce, mange tout, garlic, French and broad beans, potatoes, kale, spinach, beetroot, onions and herbs. Tomatoes are in containers against a south facing wall to see how they do in the open. More than 20 fruit bushes include black currants, gooseberries, white and red currants.
Excluding the orchard, the main area is 900 square metres. In another area south of the sheds, pumpkins were sown into an open patch and squashes are growing along a frame. Fruit trees against the wall benefit from the sun-warmed brickwork. The sheds have also been reorganised, tools inventoried, compost bins cleared and restarted.
Before winter set in, Simon and Daniel identified many perennial flowers and decided which to keep or clear out. These plants are useful for cut flowers in the house, or to start borders elsewhere. Simon has also identified some of the apple trees as being very old Scottish varieties.
The extreme wet caused problems with blocked downpipes adding to waterlogging. Plastic matting laid at some point to keep weeds down has itself become an unwanted growing medium. When they come across it, Simon and Daniel are lifting it (not an easy task) and replacing it with wood chip supplied as a by-product of work from a local tree surgeon that would otherwise go to waste. It works very well as a weed suppressant, and is biodegradable.
Deeply embedded weeds and tough wild roses have made heavy work on clay soil, and the seemingly easy looking vegetable beds follow a back-breaking six months. It’s been worth it to be able to feed our guests the freshest salads, and will continue through the summer and into winter with warming vegetable dishes and soups.
The biggest reward for all is to know that the kitchen garden of Wiston is functioning again, and making a real difference to the sourcing of food. Sustainability is one of our values and we are committed not only to a journey of growing food to use here for guests, but also to involving young people interested in catering. Using food for education is already a step that Daniel has been on, having started as a grounds trainee through an employability programme and now gaining horticultural training.
*We are very grateful to Connect2renewables for funding gardens staff. Many thanks to South Lanarkshire Council’s Climate Emergency Fund for funding that will renovate a polytunnel. Thanks also to Andy at Clydesdale Plants in Symington for plant supplies and expertise, and to Craig of CS Tree Services for supplying woodchip.