Island Life Magazine Ltd October/November 2011 - Page 79

GARDENING Toby Beasley is head gardener at Osborne House, and as such is responsible for maintaining around 50 acres of gardens and 100 acres of woodland in its grounds. Toby has kindly agreed to write a guest column in Island Life, and begins the series with an insight into what autumn holds for him and his staff. Toby writes: Autumn is probably the busiest time for us in the garden at Osborne. We try to keep the summer bedding on the terraces looking as good as possible, but by mid-October its full steam ahead to change it for the spring bedding. While this is going on we also have all the other usual autumnal jobs; leaf raking, cutting down the herbaceous plants and trying to give the lawns a scarify and feed before the cold weather really sets in as well as all the routine tasks such as weeding. So when we see a chance to try and get ahead of the game we grasp it with both hands. Recently we have been mulching many of the shrub borders with our own compost. All of our garden waste goes through our compost yard where we produce compost, leaf mould and woodchips and everything we produce goes back onto the garden. As you would expect the compost heaps we have are huge. We can have up to 80 tonnes decomposing and maturing before it is ready to go back on the garden but in principle it’s exactly the same as a compost heap you might have in the corner of a domestic garden. We turn our heaps once a month which helps to physically break down the plant waste but this also aerates the heap which enables the temperatures within the heap to rise to around 70°C, importantly, hot enough to kill weed seeds. Despite the good growing conditions we experienced in the second half of summer with plenty of mild and damp weather, we seemed to keep up with the workload very well. The grass stayed green so needed lots of cutting and the weeds grew in the borders but we seemed to keep up with it all. We also managed to do some much needed pruning and the adde