Eight years ago this impressive walled garden looked much like our overgrown garden at Torrisdale, overrun with weeds and a long way from its formerly glorious days as a functioning kitchen garden.


Over six years Islay walled garden has slowly been coaxed back into full production with the help of a dedicated team including its present gardener Gill, a microbial expert and advocate of organic gardening. Probably about 3 or 4 times the size of the garden at Torrisdale, both are enclosed by a traditional high sided wall and feature multiple levels.

Islay also boasts an enclosed orchard area with trees from the Community Orchard Project, a separate area of soft fruits and two large polytunnels.

Although the site was sprayed during its restoration, Gill prefers to adopt less invasive methods of weed control, namely weeding (using volunteers where possible) and either hoe-ing or burning the weeds in, effectively creating green manure. As Gill puts it, all the nutrients that go into the weeds, go back into the ground. If there are just too many weeds and not enough manpower, Gill uses Terramat.

 Volunteers helping out

Two vital contributions to the success of this garden are good drainage and an input of large amounts of topsoil, ‘it’s important to be friends with the local farmers’. Gill puts on around 30 tonnes of manure which is dropped off by friendly neighbours and also uses a large amount of seaweed. It is also possible to mound seaweed up and plant potatoes straight into this excellent growing compound.

The produce from the garden is sold in the garden and to local pubs and restaurants. The garden attracts a good mix of locals and visitors stopping of for a walk and to buy some local produce.



Mixed in amongst the vegetables are nasturtiums, sweetpeas, buddleia, and an array of herbs and other flowers. The strawberries grown in peat on raised tubs are usually a best seller for the garden and look impressive in their orderly rows, as do the raspberries, blackcurrants and whitecurrants all well covered with netting to prevent the birds from stripping them.

 Strawberries in peat





The fruit trees are doing well up the back despite being in need of a good mow, near these are a number of beehives, whose bees will benefit from an abundance of nectar in the summer months.

 Community orchard apples

The polytunnels, as I am often reminded are vital if you want to grow commercially in the temperamental climes of west Scotland. At Islay they have two large polytunnels filled with tomatoes, salads including rocket, mizuna and lettuces, aubergines, peppers, chillies, physallis, courgettes, cucumbers and various other delights.

Polytunnels allow for the extending of the growing season, enable all year round salad crops and provide much needed protection from the elements for produce and gardener alike.

 Whopper cucumbers

 Gill and Gareth discuss companion planting

In spring early crops of lettuces, carrots and herbs can be followed by half hardy plants – aubergines, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and chillies and other herbs such as basil and coriander in the summer. In autumn winter salads, overwintering brassicas and oriental greens can go in, and during the winter spinach, chard and onions will continue to provide food through the short, damp days.

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