We’ve been to the Glebe Gardens in Baltimore on numerous occasions, for a delicious lunch in their restaurant, or to attend a concert in their amphitheatre. Until this autumn, however, I had never really been around the gardens themselves. I was fortunate, during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival, to be able to sign up for a tour with Master Gardener Jean Perry. Jean and her husband Peter started and manage the gardens, now with their daughters actively involved as well. It’s been an enormous amount of work over many years but in that time it has become a beloved West Cork institution.
I had never heard of No Dig Gardening, the philosophy underlying this garden, until I heard about it from Jean. Vegetables are, for the most part, grown in deep beds and the soil is left as undisturbed as possible. When one crop comes out, another goes in. Fertilising and soil rebuilding is accomplished with organic compost, with occasional additions of seaweed pellets. They start the seeds in a protected place and plant them out once they’re big enough. They grow module plants – for example, lettuce in the spring, beetroot in the summer, brassicas in the fall – and get two and sometimes three crops a year. Besides the outdoor crops there are greenhouses loaded with tomatoes, peppers – and grapes!
The vegetables grown here are used in the restaurant. You can tell – everything tastes fresh and homemade. But flowers also make an appearance in this garden. Even though it was late in the year we were treated to a feast of colour in the herbaceous border.
The gardens include a stretch of canal that was once the railway cutting. A winding path leads down over a wooden bridge and eventually to the amphitheatre.
The amphitheatre was an inspired addition to the garden – in a tricky climate it’s always a nerve-wracking watch to see what the weather will do when you’ve scheduled an outdoor concert. The gods have smiled on it, though – very few concerts have been affected by bad weather.
Next it was up to visit the hens and goats – where Robert made a new friend – and then on to the greenhouses to see a truly impressive variety of tomatoes and to sneak a grape or two.
The tour finished with a tomato-tasting session and an impromptu lesson from Jean on which ones were best for what dishes. Robert and I stayed for lunch in the restaurant and a chat with fellow-tourists.
Glebe Gardens open from March to September, and occasionally for special events during the winter. Next time you’re in Baltimore, pop by for lunch.
And after that final excellent latte, take a stroll through the gardens. Or make it part of your West Cork Garden Trail next year, along with Carraig Abhainn and the Heron Gallery, or any of our other wonderful gardens. Spoiled for choice, we are!