“This is the time to enjoy your garden”, I overheard somebody say recently, and isn’t it so true! The gardens at Ballymaloe Cookery School are magnificent now and to be enjoyed for their colour, productivity and inspiration. Bus tours arrive daily to view the gardens; it’s mid-summer the days are long and even if the weather is a little mixed, the temperatures are pleasant.

Over in the Kitchen Garden, shallots, red orach, beetroot, carrots, onions, tomatoes, runner beans, potatoes, broad beans, a few of the vegetables being harvested. The leeks have been planted out, from the leek bed in the glasshouse and will fill their planting hole by thickening and blanching over the next couple of months. The bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects important in an organic garden are busy feeding on nectar; there’s an abundance of both edible and ornamental flowers such as Calendula, violas, phacelia, borage, lavender, sunflowers, globe artichokes, chives and French marigolds.

There are over 70 herbs to choose from in the Herb Garden; with different varieties of mint, lemon balm, variegated lemon balm, garlic chives, sage, sweet cicely, lovage and summer savory; but stealing the show this month is a new variety of garlic called Society Garlic or ‘Tulbaghia violacea’, (photo on website), with its clusters of star-shaped lilac flowers. The leaves and flowers smell of garlic and act as an ideal companion plant to carrots and roses; the flowers can be added to leafy salads.

In the glasshouses, the gardeners have prepared one of the bays for the Slow Food Long Table Dinner, which will take place later this month. One hundred people will sit to dinner at the one table under the canopy of glass, surrounded by rows of vegetables, fanned fruit trees laden with delicious fruit and colourful flowers.

Many different varieties of tomatoes are being harvested now; the lower trusses are full, so foliage has been removed from the lower half of the plants allowing sunlight to ripen the fruit. A new bay of tomatoes has been planted, a crop for later in the season.

Peppers (Sweet and chilli) and aubergines along with cucumbers, courgettes continue to be harvested. Butternut squash and winter squash (Uchiki kuri) have only been planted in recent weeks but their growth already fills the bay. 

In the Vegetable Field the strawberries have been harvested; the pumpkins have been planted out into Mypex covering, Sunflowers grow tall in between. The ridge support structure is gradually being covered by the growth of the Borlotti and Runner beans and Sweet pea in the centre. Asparagus, globe artichokes, beetroot, onions and leeks are all being harvested from this area.

The Herbaceous Borders are a spectacular canvas of colour now, well worth viewing. The perennials are proving their worth and are in their prime. Every year, we depend on these strong stalwarts to provide us with colour until September. And of course not forgetting the Old Pleasure Garden which true to its name, has colour and scent throughout. The Philadelphus (Mock Orange) has been in bloom for the past few weeks, and the Cornus capitata is spectacular with its large creamy-white bracts.

In the Soft Fruit area, pounds of red and black currants are being picked; this year for the first time we have protected the fruit with netting against the pigeons which do most of the damage by landing on the branches, it will be interesting to compare our yield this year.