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30 April 2017

2013 at The Garden - what we've been up to.  

It is now mid September and we are seriously wondering where the year has gone so far!  It's been non stop down at the Growing house with lots of visitors coming down to see what we are doing and to buy delicious produce.

 

This year Allan has designed some additional systems for us as we needed to increase our tomato, cucumber, chilli and pepper production.  We now have 3 double channel systems for these plants and the results have been fantastic - have a wee look at the Gallery as there are some new pictures on there.

 

Last year we were a bit late in getting all 9 of our lettuce trays at full production but despite being earlier this year we soon found out that 450 growing at once are NOT enough so 2014 will see the addition of more lettuce trays.

 

Our propagation house was bursting at the seams in the spring and with the new insulated system for the channels and tanks we are hoping that the seedlings and young plants have a warmer winter.  Visitors enjoy being able to see the whole growing process which includes looking round the propagation house.

 

The 3rd turbine was installed along with some solar panels - thankfully the combination of the wind and solar hs meant that our batteries have remained charged throughout the season and we have even produced enough energy to give us hot water for the masses of pots that we seem to constantly be washing before resowing.

 

We continue to supply Achiltibuie Stores with bags of our salad mix and during the height of the summer our days seemed to revolve around picking, washing and bagging salad!  It's so rewarding when we get such amazing comments about the quality of these bags - in fact the quality and tastes of our produce on the whole.

 

The Summer Isles Hotel have another great chef this year and once again we have a great working relationship with them - it's so interesting to see how our leaves and flowers enhance the amazing dishes he creates!  

 

The Garden Girls were joined by a new member earlier this year,  Bracken, who is Alison and Allan's rescue lab and is much loved by us all!  She loves meeting new people - oh and seeing what's in the compost tubs!

 

Our tomatoes have been amazing this year - the hanging baskets are groaning with fruits and the cordon plants look great with lots of variety in colour and size - the black cherry and green zebra look and taste great.  The tastes are wonderful and some customers can't even make it to the top of the drive with full punnets!

 

With a change in the weather and daylight things are slowing down and we have been sowing seeds for winter and spring growth.  We even have a bed of potatoes planted for Christmas! 

 

We have had a few stalls selling our range of home made salads, tarts, pies and green salads and on each occasion we have sold out really quickly.   

 

Our mail order service continues and as we are working on updating our prices we are also reviewing our kits and how to make them better value for our customers.  We even have a new kits for inclusion this autumn.

 

Julie 17th September 2013 

 

 

 

June has arrived


It is hard to believe that with the winds howling and the rain lashing that today is 1st June - after such a wonder April and not so good May we did hope that the weather would have improved by now.  (I have heard a rumour that we can expect sunshine this weekend!).

Despite the awful weather the Growing house looks great with the strawberry systems groaning with heavily fruiting plants - not to mention the smells!  Di has been busy with both indoor and outdoor gardening and Alison has managed to get the new ornamental garden marked out and when the ground dries can get more work done on it.  Once again this year demand for our mixed salad bags has increased on last year and Di and Allan are working on a new raft system to add to our existing ones.  The raised beds are planted but the voles and mice have a passion for some of our seeds so the courgette and bean growing has suffered a bit of a setback.  However there have been a few "surprises" in the raised beds where they have stored seeds for the winter and the seeds have produced plants - radishes and broad beans are some of our bonus crops!  The Garden is now open Monday - Friday from 11am - 4pm and we have been delighted to welcome back annual visitors who love to see how much the Garden has grown since their last visit.  Buying freshly picked produce is a definate hit with our visitors!

With regards to our new visitor centre we haven't been able to start construction yet but given the amount of rain we have had it's just as well as we would be surrounded by a mud bath!  Plans are for building to commence this summer.

 

Coigach's First Annual Coastal Regatta was held on Saturday 21st May with visiting skiff rowing teams coming from Portabello, Port Seaton, North Berwick, Anstruther, New Haven and Ullapool.  The weather was the worst we had seen for a long time but it did not dampen the spirits of those involved - Di was cox for the Coigach Lass (our local boat) and whilst she was at sea encouraging her team to victory, Alison and I were in the marquee with our Pick n Mix salad bar!  It was not a day for such tasty salads but lots of people decided to buy some for their evening meals - to accompany the pints of prawns which were also on sale.  We are thinking about having a stall at The Coigach Gathering - fingers crossed for sunshine that day!

Best go as there is lots of stock to be made for the Growing house and mail order.

Julie, 1 June 2011


Getting ready for growing

Although the weather is still pretty cold, Di is starting to get sowing. She has already germinated the first batch of flat leaf parsley, and the 'Tumbler' tomatoes are through as well. We've also been getting the fruit cage ready, knocking in posts to train our new 'Glen Fyne' and 'Valentina' raspberries against. We took delivery of lots of soft fruit plants just before Christmas, including strawberries 'Korona', 'Marshmello' and 'Flamenco' for the hydroponics systems. For outdoors, blueberries, redcurrants and gooseberries will join our existing blackcurrants in the fruit cage.

If you read 'Scotland on Sunday' you may have seen the article about us on 30 January. To read it, click here (it's on page 26).

We'll be updating the info about opening hours in the next few weeks, so keep watching the website if you'd like to visit us!

Alison, 01 February 2011


Straw bales & sunshine

We've recently collected 260 straw bales from a farm in Muir of Ord which we'll be using as insulation for our new visitor centre. They are all stacked up in the growing house to keep them dry till we need them. We hope that this will be sometime over the winter, but construction is dependent on several issues such as when we get our building warrant and how busy our tradesmen are!

The weather at the moment is great - we've had several days of blue skies and sunshine, although the clear nights are cold and autumnal. The Keder growing house gets lovely and warm during the day, so we still have lots of tomatoes ripening. It's also ideal weather for harvesting some of our outdoor onions and Arran Victory tatties.

Alison, 12 October 2010

Going into autumn 

Or is it winter?  We have had such a variety of weather in the last week but it hasn't put people off coming to look round the garden and growing houses. 

Di has been kept busy harvesting fresh produce including our delicious tomatoes, cucumbers, calibrese, cabbages, garlic and main crop potatoes.  The raised beds have been very productive and the squashes are coming on really well. We used lots of our fresh produce in the meals Alison and I cooked for Norwestseakayaking guests staying in Coigach. It is also time to start sowing for 2011 as well as further sowings of mizuna, pak choi and Chinese mustard. 

By mid October the diggers should be on site, to prepare the ground where the new visitor centre will be built.  It is going to be a hectic but exciting winter for us as we prepare for 2011.  

We are introducing a Loyalty scheme for our mail order customers - for every £10 spent on goods we will send them a "leaf" and once they have collected 10 leaves their card is worth £5 to use on their next purchase. 

Julie 14 September 10

 

Breaking news!

We had some great news this week – we finally received planning consent for our visitor centre.  It feels like we have been waiting to hear for ages and it's a big relief to know that it has been granted.  Our architect has been busy collecting all the information he needs to apply for the building warrant and hopes to be ready to submit that very soon.

Alison, 03 August 2010


Summer 2010

Our Keder growing house is now in full production. We've had a great crop of strawberries from the hydroponics system at roof level and we are just about to start picking courgettes from plants in the raised beds. We have recently installed two floor-level hydroponics systems, one for tomatoes and the other for cucumbers. Each of these is supplied by its own tank, sunk into a large hole in the floor at the lower end of the growing house - thanks to Allan and Christie for their hard work. Allan has also finished putting in some water storage tanks at roof level which greatly increases the amount of rainwater we can store.

Outside, we've been delighted to discover how many different wild flowers grow on the croft, including common orchids, yellow rattle, eyebright, marsh cinquefoil and red clover. We've heard a number of different birds, amongst them willow warbler, grasshopper warbler (we think) and twite. Our trees are starting to show above their guards and we don't seem to have lost many to the harsh winter, or the rabbits. We haven't actually seen many rabbits lately which may be due to the presence of a family of stoats which have been spotted several times.

We're so pleased that many of you have been able to visit us this year. Our visitors all comment on how much we've managed to do since the Keder house was put up at the end of 2008 and are very interested to see the plans for our visitor centre which are now on display. We hope to have a decision soon from our Planning Officer, when we will be better able to plan the building programme.

Alison, 27 July 2010



Spring 2010

As you can read on our Visiting us page, we're getting ready to open our Keder growing house for the season. We have now finished building the raised beds and are busy filling them with soil and well-rotted manure ready to plant up. The hydroponics systems are growing herbs and salads, with strawberries starting to put on growth too. Allan is continuing to sort out all the power and irrigation systems - it's taking time to get it all in place but we want to make sure that it is right first time!

As I write this on 29 March, we again have snow lying. There were some quite heavy showers this morning, but it is now thawing with the weak warmth of the spring sunshine. Because of all the recent rain and snow, the outside vegetable garden is still a bit muddy to do much digging; rabbits are also a bit of a problem at the moment so we are putting up rabbit mesh on the fence followed by windbreak netting round the perimeter of the veg garden. Many of our shelter belt trees are showing buds and we'll be checking that they have all survived the harsh winter (and the rabbits) over the next weeks. Although the croft has rabbit-proofed fencing around its perimeter, we unfortunately seem to have ended up with a resident population of rabbits inside the fence - we hope to solve this problem soon.

Alison, March 2010


2010  We are absolutely delighted that the new year got off to such a good start with the news we were successful in our application to the Scottish Rural Development Programme for our new visitor centre.  It's going to be a busy year: new colour catalogue to be designed and printed, our newly fenced vegetable garden and fruit cage to be planted, buying more shrubs and plants for the ornamental garden that Alison has designed, sowing and growing for indoors and outdoors and of course building the visitor centre!  Since the 18th December we have had snow, ice, gales, freezing temperatures... and cannot get any outdoor work done until the weather improves. 

Julie 13th January 2010


Here we are in September and given the late start we had to the growing season, Di has been busy keeping up with harvesting our hydroponic and soil grown produce.  We have continued to supply Achiltibuie Stores and Polbain Stores with our bags of mixed salad leaves as well as our tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, herbs...

There are now 3 different height levels of hydroponic growing.  The tomatoes and cucumbers are being grown in pyramid pots, in our fibre glass channels at ground level, the salads and assorted herbs and produce are on staging, salads in floating raft systems and then at the higher level are the strawberry plants.  We also have a large number of hanging baskets with tomatoes and salads.

The Garden is open 3 afternoons a week and visitors enjoy finding out what we are doing and being able to buy freshly picked produce.

In August Alison and I catered for Norwest Seakayaking holiday guests - we include as much of our own produce in our meals and source the ingredients locally.  The food has been enjoyed so much we have been asked to do it all again next year!

At the beginning of the month, we catered for a local wedding, which was held in our community hall.  In 2008 we catered for a smaller wedding but with 100 guests this was a new challenge for us.  Our menu was carefully planned to showcase the best of local produce: smoked and fresh salmon from Summer Isles Foods, locally caught prawns from Hamish Sinclair, meat from Wm Mackay & Sons, oatcakes from Ullapool Bakery, produce from the Garden and our own artisan breads.  Most of the guests came from the Edinburgh area and where overwhelmed by the meal (there were very few contents in the compost and hen buckets).  

We will now be spending time studying seed catalogues and making a planting plan for 2010.  Di has some new winter varieties of lettuce seeds which will be sown today - all sowing is done as close to the moon planting plans as possible. 

Filming is to take place, in Coigach, of the new blockbuster Eagle of the Ninth - an adaptation of the Rosemary Suttcliffe novel - during October. 

Julie
15th September 2009

In our new location, close to the old Hydroponicum, work has begun to create our new gardens (both in our new Keder growing houses and outdoors), but we are unfortunately further behind schedule than we had expected to be at this time, so we have no cafe or other facilities for visitors this year. 

As this is a new garden, we have spent time planning the internal layout of the Keder growing house, and so far 3 raised beds have been constructed, with soil-based growing established.  From reviewing our original plans we have decided to have a maximum of 6 indoors.

The hydroponics systems have taken a bit longer to set up.  Initially the priority was to get the strawberries, salads and herbs growing, as the demand for our fresh produce increased.  As we do not have any mains water or electricity it took time to source the correct renewable technology to give the power required for the pumps.  Even sourcing pumps was time consuming.  In theory, the rainwater harvesting was the most straight forward part of the operation but a dry May had us worried!

Di and Allan worked to create hydroponics on different growing levels – tomato and cucumber plants growing at ground level, salads, herbs, soft fruits, flowers… growing on a staging system, tomatoes and salads in hanging baskets and not forgetting the salads in 3 floating raft systems. Work on a dedicated strawberry system has also taken place.


We carry a limited stock of our hydroponic growing kits and supplies at The Garden but if you have a shopping list, why not call the office and order in advance – items can either be collected from The Garden or from the office in Altandhu. 

As we need to split our time between the office in Altandhu and the Garden in Achiltibuie we will be happy for visitors to pop in and see us, at the Garden, between 2pm and 5pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.  Should you not be able to come along during these set times please phone us on 01854 622202 or email info@thehydroponicum.com and we can make arrangements to show you round.  The office is open from 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday and visitors are welcome to call in.

Please note that the old Hydroponicum is no longer a visitor centre and that The Achiltibuie Garden will open its new visitor facilities, including a cafe, in 2010.  

Allan and Di had quite a job digging the hole for sinking the nutrient tank into but it was worth it to see the tomatoes and cucumbers doing so well.  We will start picking cucumbers within the next few days or so.

Between the raised beds we now have paving slabs – makes weeding far more comfortable than the gravel which was previously there (I am speaking from first hand experience!).  On Monday we received a delivery of paving slabs for an area where there will be displays of products.  A visitor, on holiday from New Zealand, came along to see the Garden and ended up staying for the afternoon to help Allan and Di lift the slabs into piles.  His help was much appreciated and he went away with some freshly picked produce.

At night, Stuart and Rhuaraidh came along to help Allan, and by 9.30pm a “patio” area had been created.  I was busy weeding the raised beds and afterwards had a walk around the croft, with our norwegian elkhound, who thoroughly enjoyed exploring the long grasses full of interesting smells.  We walked down to the end of the croft and it was great to see how well the trees are coming along and to see all the wildflowers growing there.  It was lovely to watch flocks of twites flying around having enjoying seeds from the dockans and sorrel.

Alison and I had a fantastic day on Friday as we went down to the Garden Cottage Nursery which is just outside Poolewe.  The Achiltibuie Garden had been awarded money, by The Moidart Trust, to establish an outdoor garden.  I have to say we were spoiled for choice and were limited to what we were able to fit into an estate car.  However having enjoyed delicious refreshments at Maggie’s Tearoom, just outside Dundonnell, and the Perfume Studio café near Aultbea, we are planning our return visit for more shrubs and perennials.

The tomato hanging baskets are producing really delicious fruits for so little work – the nutrients are added to the water.  Along with the salad hanging basket it shows you do not need to have a garden to grow delicious, healthy produce.

Our mail order customers are enjoying their own hydroponic produce – see our gallery for some pictures, including the tomatoes grown by Mr Cormack.  I had thought mine were coming on well until I saw the photo.

Julie
29 July 09

As I write this on a pleasant day in July, it's hard to believe we have had such a variation in weather conditions so far this month - from some of the hottest days of the year to amazing thunder and lightening storms.

On Thursday 3rd July the day started off normally but by lunchtime it felt as if we were in some sort of horror movie!  From the office window we could see the "weather" coming towards us, thunder, spectacular forked lightening, rain like none of us could remember, cold winds and almost tornado like clouds spiralling up.

Braving the weather I had to get into the car to go to Achiltibuie and could not believe my eyes when I passed Badentarbet Green where, in the morning 2 marquees had stood, but one was now totally flattened, whilst the other had been blown approximately 70 metres.  Naturally my concern was for our Keder growing house but I need not have worried as it was totally oblivious to the weather! 

Achiltibuie Stores and Polbain Stores continue to sell Our ever popular salad bags, whilst Summer Isles Hotel use our decorative leaves, herbs and flowers in their meals which are served in their Michelin Star dining room.  Our mange tout, broad beans, herbs, radishes, raspberries and strawberries have been enjoyed by customers of Polbain Stores. 

Allan has installed a hot water tank, so now we have the 2nd wind turbine in operation Di is looking forward to getting hot water on site, once we get the sink installed.  (it's been a standing joke in my family that when I travel I have everything but the kitchen sink!  My last trip to Thurso saw my car loaded with, yes you guessed it, the kitchen sink).

The dedicated tomato and strawberry systems have been designed, and once built, should be installed before we open on an informal basis on the 28th July.

Our plants are sharing their Keder house, temporarily with a forklift, trailor and the tractor which Allan is building.

Now for what we have been doing at The Garden.  The third raised bed has now become home to our courgette plants and it won't be long before we start picking them.

The tomato hanging baskets are a mass of flowers with lots of fruits forming.  We are looking forward to the tasting session - mmm!  Di also planted a salad hanging basket which is ready to start picking.

Alison and I recently catered for a sea kayaking holiday in Coigach.  Julie-Ann's guests thoroughly enjoyed the tastes and smells of our fresh strawberries and salads which had been grown in the Achiltibuie Garden and my own tunnel at home.

Julie
13th July


We now find ourselves in June and wonder where the time has gone as May seemed to pass so quickly.

The Garden is coming along and Di has picked the first of our delicious strawberries - Alison highly recommends them for flavour!

Having taken delivery of the renewable energy power house in April, Allan and Steve got it up and running and it is now powering the pump for our first hydroponic growing system.  As there can often be a surplus of power we have installed a hot water tank to the system so that the power can be discharged to heat water.  We will use the hot water wash pots before using it again.

There are now 3 raised beds - thanks to Allan, Stuart and Matthew -  including a "bean bed" filled with dwarf french beans, climbing french beans, broad beans, mangetout and peas. 

Thanks to funding from the Moidart Trust we were able to have a shed built for us by Dundonnell Timber.  Steve collected it in flat pack form from Dundonnell and helped Allan erect it. Alison, Stuart and Matthew all helped the remaining work to make it all secure.

We now have a "real" main gate as the fencing has almost been completed. There has been more outdoor planting and once the ground along the driveway has been levelled we can get some landscaping done. 

Spring saw a successful hatch of gooslings, at Di's croft, and they are now enjoying summer grazings at The Garden and our 2 resident geese are enjoying the company.  One evening when he was along helping Allan, Stuart discovered that we have wild geese nesting.  We will need to keep an eye out to see if they have a successful hatch.

With the increase in visitors to the area and the good weather there has been a huge demand for our mixed salad bags.  Julie and Stuart have been helping out with growing lettuce in their polytunnel at home.  As there is only one hydroponic system in operation at the moment Di is having to use space on the salad bench for strawberries.  The next job is to get the high system ready for the strawberry plants.

Alison and Julie attended the first Mayfest in Lairg - an initiative organised by the Eco Croft project.  It was a great family day out - however being opposite Isobel's beautiful handbags was fatal!

Mail order has been good and Di has risen well to the challenge when given lots of orders to get packed and despatched within 24 hours.

Julie
4 June 09


April 2009
The Achiltibuie Garden is a new garden on the Coigach peninsula in Wester Ross, Scotland.  In October 2008 we started the long process of transforming it from a unworked croft into what we see as being the leading green, community based, high quality visitor attractions in the Highlands. 

For 2009 visitors will be able to look around our indoor and outdoor gardens and here's The Garden story to date:

We began by commissioning a 16 metre x 18 metre Kederbahn growing house, from CLM in Evesham, as they are built to withstand the extreme weather conditions we can experience here on the west coast.  The keder material is a three layer plastic sandwich with a 1000 bubbles per square metre.  It has excellent heat insulation and light diffusion properties eliminating shade and hot spots.  In addition we also have a smaller keder growing house which we are using for propagation.

The next step was to get the fencing sorted out - the old croft fence was in various stages of disrepair so local fencers Iain and Christie set about erecting deer fencing (we get quite a lot of red deer on the crofts in Achiltibuie).  In addition there is a somewhat active rabbit population so rabbit proofing our garden is essential! 

As the ground had been disturbed and cleared inside the growing house it became essential so sort out the drainage, but in order to do this we needed to get our access road built.  Once the worst winter rains were over we were able to get Martin and Iain (a different one) to come along and build the access road.  After it's completion it was back to the drainage in the growing house - after the groundworks were sorted out, the membrane laid, poor Di spent hours raking the gravel over the whole of the floor area! 

With the fencing almost completed, it was time to start planting trees.  Di and Ruth has walked the site, planned where the trees would go and drew up the planting plan.  We decided to start at the far end off the croft with planting sea buckthorn (I'm sure we are still scarred from them!).   Alison and Julie have enjoyed getting out of the office and spending time planting trees. Most of the 1200 trees have now been planted and members of the community have given us birch and willows from their own gardens, which we are really grateful for. 

The geese, in their bespoke turf roofed house, moved into the garden in March.  One afternoon we decided to move the house further down the garden - near to the stream - but did not anticipate how heavy the house was!  It took 6 of us to lift off the roof, remove all the turfs and with Allan "at the wheel" of the mini dumper we were able to relocate Marius and Aelia's home.

Thanks to an award from The Moidart Trust we were able to commission a garden shed from Dundonnell Timber.  It came "flat pack" and was erected by Allan and Steve. 

Our growing house will be powered by wind and sun!  Some people may have watched "Monty Hall's Great Escape" so will have seen the solar trailer which we now have to charge the batteries required to power the pumps. 

Di has started the hydroponic growing with a variety of salads, herbs, strawberries... is running out of space on the staging already.  So far, time has only allowed us to make one raised bed, which Di is filling with raspberry canes and lettuce.  Never mind, Julie has plans for her husband to help Allan with making more!

Next week we have BBC ALBA coming along to film plants with healing properties so hopefully you will see the Garden on tv!

Julie,
April 2009

 
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