A working garden with sustainability at its heart

How the expert gardeners at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens are growing produce sustainably at Her Majesty The Queen's royal residence in Northern Ireland.

By Historic Royal Palaces

Walled Garden, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

The gardeners in the Walled Garden at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens use traditional and modern gardening techniques to create a sustainable ecosystem, growing and harvesting produce for use in the Hillsborough Castle café. 

The food is harvested just a few metres from where it is enjoyed. 

Autumn harvest in Hillsborough Castle's Walled GardenHistoric Royal Palaces

Walled Garden, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

A rainwater harvesting system has been fitted to the machinery shed to collect rain water to use in the polytunnels and standing out areas. ​

During the winter when the crops are gradually cleared, the beds are covered in a layer of farmyard manure and topped with a layer of the straw from this Molinia grass after it’s cut back in late winter. ​

Radicchio (variety 'Rosso d Treviso') in the Kitchen Garden, Hampton Court Palace (2016) by Andrew ButlerHistoric Royal Palaces

In summer, to encourage good, healthy growth on plants such as this Radicchio, the gardeners make their own liquid plant food from comfrey. ​The comfrey leaves are cut and soaked to create a nutritious, but rather stinky, fertiliser. ​

All the green waste produced on site is composted. The woody prunings from trees and shrubs are chipped to produce mulch. After plants have been trimmed and harvested, any waste is added to the compost bays. Even biodegradable packaging is added as part of the process.​

Mulching: what is it and how to do it, with the Hampton Court Palace gardenersHistoric Royal Palaces

In this short video, Ian Tocher from the gardens team at Hampton Court Palace explains the benefits of mulching.

Walled Garden, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

The gardeners grow from seed or source plants locally where possible. The provenance is important, to support local nurseries, reduce the spread of disease and local plants will be acclimatised and tend to grow better.​

Lady Alice's Temple, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

The gardeners always try to reuse materials or grow their own. All the plant supports for the climbing beans are made from the willow grown by the lake. The willows are cut back in rotation, so there is always new material to cut each season.​

Walled Garden, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Natural methods are used to protect the crops from harmful pests. Tea leaves, coffee grounds and dried eggshells scattered around the plants help to deter slugs and snails. ​

A sustainable ecosystem allows the wildlife to play its part. The gardeners control invasive species so local flora and fauna can flourish, and endangered species and their habitats are protected.​

Credits: Story
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps