Head Gardener’s August Blog

This month we were really pleased to open Fairlight Hall Gardens to raise money for the National Garden Scheme.

We opened on the weekend of 19th/20th August. This was our first garden opening for 2023 and it was very successful. Visitors were welcomed on both days by sun and blue skies. We had a pop up café and a shop selling Fairlight Hall honey, jams and chutneys, vegetables and of course, our plants and flowers. It was great to see so many people enjoying the garden together, to help raise money for the National Garden Schemes selected charities. In fact the opening was such a success and the feedback was so positive, that we have decided to open the gardens more regularly. From 2024 we will open from February to October once a month. This will enable the public to enjoy the garden across the seasons. Highlights will include our spring bulb displays including, bluebells and tulips, peony displays and autumn colour.

Visitors admiring walled kitchen garden on open day.
Cut flowers for sale
Fairlight jams and chutneys for sale
Shepherd hut shop
Plants for sale

In the Garden

The meadows were already looking brown by late July and most of the wildflowers had finished. Some of the meadows at the fringes of the estate were cut and the horses were invited back into these fields to graze. However the meadows in the garden still looked picturesque, and so the decision was taken to leave the cut to later on in September. These still provide a much needed nectar source and habitat to small mammals and insects. In fact August has proved to be quite wet and as a result the meadows have greened up again.

Meadows being cut and bee hives

Honey Collection

August is the traditional time for honey collection in the garden. This year our six colonies of bees, have produced 70 pounds of honey. This may not seem much but given they are new colonies and still establishing, it was an encouraging quantity. Graham and Fern, our expert bee keepers, removed the honey filled wooden and wire frames from the hives and took them to extract the honey. This is done by first scraping away the wax caps that seal the honey into the frames. The frames are placed into a large rotating drum and honey is spun out the wire frames. The honey is then poured into bucket, with taps and left to settle so air bubbles escape. The honey was then returned to Fairlight, where it was decanted into jars, labelled and priced and then sold at the open day two days later. Rarely can honey be bought so fresh!! The empty frames were then brought back to bees to clean them up. For the remainder of the season the bees will focus on building up their winter reserves to see them through until spring.

Frame full of honey
Spinning frames
Fairlight honey being filtered through the sieve
Finished product

Kitchen Garden

This is the most bountiful time in the Walled Kitchen Garden. Fruiting trees such as Plums, Apples and Figs are ripe for harvesting. There is also an abundance of courgette, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squashes. The hard part is finding time to pick them all. Nothing is wasted and all the excess fruit and vegetables are immediately chopped up and pickled and turned into tasty pickles and preserves. Currently the vegetable gardeners are sowing winter salad crop such as brassica leafy veg and onions. As well as pruning sown herb and cutting back extension growth on all the fruiting shrubs and climbers.

Apple collection and pruning

Charcoal burning

Late on in August our Estate Manager is Charcoal Burning. This is a skillful process of reducing the moisture content within the wood. A small pile of charcoal and kindling is placed in the centre of the round metal charcoal kiln. Logs from tree work around the estate are stacked like spokes of a wheel around a central flue. The cut logs are stacked and packed in tightly and the top part of the kiln is then filled with sand to keep it all airtight. Over the course of 8 hours this slowly burns, until the smoke changes from a white colour to a clear. The result is charcoal, bio-char and ash.

Charcoal burning