Growing Scottish tea in an old walled garden

St Martins tea plants water tank water tank

St Martins Tea Garden, Perthshire

We are NOT open to the public - Tours by appointment from 2020

I wanted a long term project and the opportunity came up to be involved in growing tea. I was interested because generations of my family had grown tea in Shillong, Assam and we had a 1.8 acre walled garden that had gone feral.

It took about 8 months to prepare the ground, topping, spraying, ploughing and some enormous pigs we borrowed helped too. To our delight one of them had piglets. The whole family got involved and we planted 5500 seedling tea plants 3/4 of the plants were grown from Nepali seed and 1/4 from Georgian seed.

It certainly wasn’t as straight forward as first thought, there was a large range of genetic variation in the plants, our first winter after planting was the “ beast from the east “. This was followed by an unusually hot, dry spring and summer and the way the temperature behaved within the walled garden was less predictable than we thought. Although the walls give some shelter from the wind, the garden is in a small frost pocket and seemed to retain the extreme cold for days after the surrounding area began to warm up.

This year’s weather has been kinder to us and having had some good consultancy and sound agronomy advice the plants have been pruned and using as many natural products as possible they are demonstrating good regrowth. We are excited this year to pluck enough leaf to make a small batch of our first tea with the help of Beverly Wainwright at the Scottish factory. I have already completed the Tea Champion course at the tea factory which is a great resource for Scottish growers and have been on a study tour to Sri Lanka to improve my knowledge and understanding of the whole process of tea growing and making.

One of the challenges for tea planters world wide is that there are always losses after planting and pruning, we are no exception and due to our harsh conditions have been hit harder than most. Part of our plan has always been an ongoing programme of seed propagation and a plant nursery so that we can infill where we have lost plants. Re-planting is going to be an ongoing process for us over the next few years and means that it will be several years yet before our plants start to produce leaf commercially.

In the meantime, we are experimenting with various fruit trees and berries around the margins, trying to make full use of the garden as it used to be, this is also an important feature for enticing help from younger family members.

We look forward to welcoming Tours from 2020

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