The Early Season Garden at the Argyll Hotel Iona - Introducing the team for 2021
We would like to welcome back Kirsten once again as our head gardener and Derek our new assistant gardener, who are extremely busy preparing the garden and the hotel site for the season ahead. Flower beds have been cleared, grass re-seeded and lawns given their first cut. Inside the greenhouses and polytunnels have been cleaned to prevent pests and diseases and the irrigation systems cleaned out. Copper tape has been placed around the top of raised bed to prevent slugs and snails and the beer traps re-set! So many details to take care of....
How has the garden survived the winter storms and how is the current weather impacting?
As usual this winter we have had some quite harsh weather especially in January with a prolonged period of brutally cold easterly winds and weeks of frozen ground. Frosts are quite unusual for Iona with the warming influence of the sea and the jet stream but with global warming it seems that more winter frost may be part of the new climate pattern. Good in that it can kill off pests and diseases but we also seem to be getting less rainfall in April and May which has been impacting germination of direct sown seed and held back plants who don't enjoy drought conditions.
The seaweed has broken down well and is being forked in to provide additional fertility for the coming year. Our seed potato delivery was late this year but we have at last got the first four rows of early potatoes in the ground. We have currently only direct sown some coriander and broad beans, as we are awaiting a little more warmth in the soil to enable a better germinations of seeds.
Green house action
The greenhouse is already packed with trays of germinating seeds which will be move to a cold frame once big enough to make room for new sowings. Because night temperatures are still low, we use heated mats to enable germination.Currently we have tomato (Ailsa Craig, San Marzano, Green Zebra, Beefsteak), Broccoli (belstar), Sugar pea (Norli and Progress No 9), Beetroot (Cylindra, golden detroit, chioggia and rhonda), Kale (Red winter and blue Scotch), Celery (Green Utah) and Fennel (finale). Many are heritage varieties to add interest to the menu.
What’s happening in the polytunnel?
We are currently harvesting purple sprouting broccoli, mixed Japanese leaf greens, parsley, kale and purslane and the chard won’t be long. The mice had a bit of a field day in the tunnels eating a lot of the early salad seedings but we still have plenty!
So that we can really supply the kitchen with crops as early as possible we have overwintered oriental salads and other greens. These include kale and chard plus purple sprouting broccolli. After the long winter fresh greens are just so delicious to eat. As we are unable to open the hotel yet, we are finding great ways to create delicious menu ingredients such as pickles and preserves so that guest will still be able to enjoy them.
A Recipe you might like to try
We love this with pasta, as a salad dressing or drizzled on steamed or roasted vegetables!
Rainbow chard/kale pesto
2 large handfuls chopped greens (we used rainbow chard)
1 bunch parsley
Juice of one lemon
50-100ml Olive oil
Clove of finely chopped garlic or a tsp of garlic powder (optional)
50g chopped dry toasted walnuts
Season to taste
Add everything to a blender (except the walnuts) and blitz until smooth.
Stir in the nuts for texture.
Add additional olive oil or lemon juice, salt, pepper to taste
We hope that you enjoy having a go at this recipe. Let us know any new ways that you have used it!
Look out for more recipes on facebook and instagram soon...