Echeveria- overwintering in Old School Garden Greenhouse

Echeveria- overwintering in Old School Garden Greenhouse

To Walter Degrasse:-

Dear Walter,

It’s been a while since we were in touch, and as it’s windy and wet outside, I thought I’d drop you a line about what’s been going on in ‘my gardening life’. I hope all is well with you and your beautiful garden. It seems ages since I was in my garden for any time to get a sweat up, but it’s that time of year when the pace of things is rather slow, very much focused on ‘basic maintenance jobs’, I suppose. Anyway I’ve used the time in other ways, not least getting my blog up and running, which I’m pleased to say I’m enjoying and also the new relationships it’s bringing with gardening fans around the world!

More practically, I’ve more or less finished my pruning jobs, those new Felco secateurs I had for Christmas are a real joy to use! I’ve got one more Buddleja to do and I’ll need to get the ladders out to do my Fremontodendron, which, on a south-facing wall, has romped away – I think last year’s wet weather gave it a surge of growth, so it’s now over 5 metres tall! The Dogwoods have all been laid low so hopefully we’ll get a good flush of new stems in the summer that give us that wonderful ‘winter glow’. I’ve done my annual cut back of the Eucalyptus to encourage large, colourful new leaves – it always looks forlorn after this major hack back (photo enclosed), but is such a swift grower.

Eucalyptus & Buddleja - pruned

Eucalyptus & Buddleja – pruned

I’ve also been tilling over the beds in the kitchen garden. Did you read my blog post about planning the crops here? It has a layout of what I’m intending to grow and where, trying to rotate crops as best I can in a complex border layout and thinking about succession crops too. You may remember that I put on a layer of leaf mould over most of them (as well as the fruit trees) in the autumn as well as digging in some green manure I grew towards the end of last season – we’ll see if this latter experiment has any marked effect on the crops to come.

I’ve been lightly turning over the topsoil and incorporating the remains of the leaf mould etc., in preparation for some of my friend Rob’s horse manure, which I’m able to collect from his paddock about 2 miles way. It really is lovely stuff, so I’ll use it to mulch my roses, clematis, shrubs, fruit trees and bushes etc. as well as putting a good load down for the potatoes and some of the other vegetables.

New boardwalk made of old wooden pallets

New boardwalk made of old wooden pallets

You know how poor my carrots were last year – the rotten weather didn’t help, I know, but I think that the bed I grew them in is still a little heavy (in contrast to the rest of the soil) and they don’t respond well to this and over – rich soil (I mistakenly put manure on the area a short time before the new season began). This encourages them to fork, whereas by keeping the soil relatively under – fed early on you apparently encourage them to grow straight and true as they seek out the nutrients further down – at least that’s what I heard Bob Flowerdew say on ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ last week! Oh, and you remember I’d been collecting a load of old pallets? I’ve finally got round to making good use of them. They cut up nicely into sturdy 500mm – wide board walks which I’ve lain over the top border – this means that I have two manageable – width beds and don’t have to walk on the soil between them.

I’ve also been clearing out a side bed which was becoming choked with a Lilac that was suckering all over the place. This border is a bit on the edge of the kitchen garden and is not ideal for food growing, so I think that I might use it for flowers to attract insects etc. I’ve a good supply of Marigold seeds from last season, so they can go in there.

Over-wintering plants in the Old School Garden greenhouse

Over-wintering plants in the Old School Garden greenhouse

The greenhouse seems to be working well at over wintering my pelargoniums and ‘exotics’ and the pots of broad beans and sweet peas I put out a week or two ago are starting to push new growth through. I’ve sown some other seeds in my propagators – just some brightly – coloured Cosmos, Iceland Poppies and Leeks – these seem to be doing well, and hopefully I can pot them up shortly. I’m also chitting two varieties of early potato. You know how much I love ‘Charlotte’, the waxy ‘second early’ and alongside this I’m growing ‘Pentland Javelin’.

It looks like the weather is going to be a bit warmer in the coming week – in fact as I’m writing the rain has stopped and the sun is out! Hopefully I can get out tomorrow and catch up with a few more jobs that need doing – for example putting some pesticide on a couple of Hosta- filled containers to eradicate Vine Weevil (didn’t quite manage to get rid of these last year through a soil change), spraying my dwarf Peach tree with Bordeaux Mixture to help prevent ‘Peach leaf curl’, replanting the many Nerine bulbs I dug up recently from the kitchen garden and getting some more seeds into the propagators.

The primary school garden from the new pond dipping platform

The primary school garden from the new pond dipping platform

On the broader front my work with Norfolk ‘Mastergardener’ seems to be picking up once more. I’m helping the local Primary school with their School Garden, as you know. I’m shortly going off to meet with their garden coordinator to discuss plans for the coming year. I’ve offered to go into school one day per week to work with different classes and I’m looking forward to helping them get the most out of the garden, which is now starting to look really good. You may recall that we (staff, parents and children) managed to get a new wildlife pond installed over the summer and I also installed a pond dipping platform for them (made from recycled plastic), so the children will have this new resource for nature study in the coming months.

Yesterday I visited a new food grower I’m supporting for Norfolk Mastergardener. She lives in the next village and has recently moved to a large house with a super plot. I was impressed with the 2 polytunnels she has as well as a fenced off, structured vege growing area. She’s a keen animal lover and has this enormous pig (which her granddaughter rides like a pony!) as well as chickens, ducks, cats, dogs etc! The pond has a large number of enormous Carp in it too.

Any way, she’s a beginner when it comes to gardening and wants me to advise her about food growing for her large family. I’ve suggested she looks at the range of seeds she’s bought (as well as inherited from the previous house owners) and does a rough plan of what she wants to grow and where this might go in her plot. I’ll then talk this through with her and some of the basics about manuring and preparing the soil, sowing seeds, potting up etc. I’ve suggested that she keeps things simple this year and just goes for one crop in each area, rather than think about succession planting, until she sees the amount  of time she’ll need to put in and what her garden will generate in terms of food. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s a wonderful setting and with the polytunnels (one plastic – covered, one netted) she has some great growing areas to play with.

Tulips starting to show themselves in Old School Garden

Tulips starting to show themselves in Old School Garden

Well, I see the time has ticked on and I must be out to my meeting at the School. I’ll drop you another line in a week or two to let you know how I’m getting on, and hopefully we’ll also stay in touch via my blog or by email? By the way I’d welcome any comments or suggestions you might have about the blog, as I’m still finding my way!

Very best wishes from

Old School Garden

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