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Gardening in a socially distant world

Hattie Moore, garden apprentice

As regular visitors to Fulham Palace will be well aware, we have currently closed our gates to the public. This was in order to do our part in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and to protect the health of visitors, volunteers and staff.

However, our vegetables cannot work from home, and therefore neither can the Fulham Palace garden team. We continue to sow seeds, prick out seedlings, plant juvenile plants in the vegetable patch and make sure everything is weeded and watered. The hard work spent in recent years renovating the palace grounds as part of the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Funded project, will be preserved in spite of the virus.

Of course, in order to keep our staff safe there have been many changes to our working day. To avoid public transport, all members of staff are seeking alternate methods of transport to work- pulling our old bicycles out of the shed and cycling up to 15 miles a day. Meetings are taking place at a safe distance; we have our own, disinfected tools; and we keep the use of the mess room to a minimum by bringing in our own flasks of tea and biscuits. These are a few of the many adaptations we have had to make in order to keep the garden going.

Planting, with some careful social distancing

In the vegetable patch things are moving forward, leaf crops such as chard, spinach and lettuce are in the ground, as are the broad beans and the roots. Growing in the vinery are the young brassicas, peas and tomatoes which are soon to be planted in their beds. Of course, without our team of fantastic volunteers to help us the weeds are creeping in and a few projects have been put on hold.

Hearing the news that the palace would be closed for an unknown amount of time came just after we had pricked out around 300 tomato seedlings. Unsure what to do with so many tomato plants our head gardener and retail manager got together and created the online market barrow. Production of plants slowed a little during this uncertain time, but the steady sales on the website has kept us going and seems to be a viable method for us to sell plants.

Plant orders - lined up outside the Palace ready for collection

Online you’ll find packs of plants for £6, each pack contains four plants in 9cm pots and (while stocks last) customers are receiving a free Viola ‘Hobbit Mungo’. We have packs of tomatoes, chillies for the kitchen, and herb selections. For your beds and borders we can provide a ‘plants for pollinators’ pack and a cosmos selection.

The packs are intended for local people to collect during their daily exercise routine in Bishop’s Park. Customers sign up for a collection slot between 10:30 – 12:30 on a Tuesday or Friday and paper bags filled with plants, labelled with the customer’s name are laid out outside the Palace at two metre intervals. So far the system has been working and customers are following social distancing rules.

We have plans to create packs containing plants which are great for cut flowers, zinnia selections, and more. Later in the summer we hope to make veg boxes with our produce. Each sale made on our website helps to keep the garden going, we are so grateful for all orders made so far. Keep checking out social media accounts and the online shop for new stock.

And finally, a glimpse into the walled garden as it is today – we can’t wait to welcome you back

The walled garden is now home to this pumpkin arch, made from hazel grown at the Palace (pumpkins to come).
Edmund, carefully surveying the wisteria