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Looking towards the Terrace and Orchard at Old School Garden

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Well, old friend, the morning has started under a veil of mist in Old School Garden, but it hopefully will lift later and we can have more of that elusive sunshine!

It’s been a very busy time in the garden and in my other gardening activities. They say that May is the busiest month in the garden, and so far I’d have to agree. In the last few weeks plants have started to catch up with the ‘slow seasons’ and there is a wonderful fresh greenness around and in the countryside beyond. I tend to wait until the end of May before putting out any tender plants and as a result, my greenhouse and cold frame are bursting with plants at various stages of growth. Hopefully I can move things on over the next couple of weeks so that I can make way for tomatoes and cucumbers (new seedlings kindly supplied by my friend Steve) in the greenhouse.

 

The Kitchen Garden is starting to fill out and every bed is now full with something (though the new Asparagus I planted last autumn is a ‘no show’ – maybe it drowned in all the winter wet or perhaps it’s just not strong enough to break the surface yet – there’s certainly Asparagus on sale locally). You remember I tried sowing carrots in modular pots last year and they were more or less a failure? I’d hoped that was due to the weather. Touch wood – those I sowed earlier this year and which I’ve now planted out, seem to have established well and are growing away. I invested in some outdoor polypipe as an experiment in building a structure to cover these with mesh (as a protection against Carrot Root Fly) and the result is looking like its doing a good job. I did a very simple job of slotting the pipe into some pipe brackets I’d fixed to wooden spacers screwed to the insides of my wooden raised bed and the new roof seems to be holding its curved shape quite well, though some roof – line reinforcement (perhaps with another length of pipe) may be required to ensure the structure survives the windiest weather. The Parsnip I sowed a couple of weeks ago in this bed also seems to have germinated, so I shall thin those shortly.

I’ve also tried a new design for the support of my Mangetout, creating a sort of angled arc which has 12 healthy plants at its foot ready to clamber their way up the netted structure (they grow to about 4 feet so I didn’t need anything very tall).

 

You remember that I planted my potatoes (well almost all of them) on 5th April, because that was deemed to be a beneficial date on the lunar calendar? Well, I haven’t got any way of making a scientific comparison, but these are now looking healthy, are well above ground and ready for ‘earthing up’. The reserve tubers which I put into a shadier spot a few weeks later have not yet broken through.

Early potatoes up and looking good

Early potatoes up and looking good

We’ve seen the return of ground elder – an annual event despite what seems like constant weeding. So I’ve been out doing a regular hour or two of hand weeding to try to systematically work my way around the borders, and with the recent rain and the addition of rotted wood chips to the soil, this is a very enjoyable and rewarding activity. It’s just lovely working your way through the soil, carefully ‘mining’ for the roots of the elder and gently easing it out of the ground – ‘just like archaeology’, as Deborah says! Though the flower borders are looking a bit like a wireless station at present (because of all the canes and string I’ve put out to support some of the bigger perennials), the new growth is gradually covering these and the garden is taking on a fuller look. I must keep on with the weeding!

With the lateness of spring the Tulips are still with us and they are making some very pleasant combinations with other plants in the garden. I’ve shown a few examples here.

 

Have you noticed any snail and slug activity yet? I’ve been very surprised that there seems to be very little obvious damage to Old School Garden as yet (compared to last year when it was disastrous). I did put down some pellets a few weeks ago, especially on the containers with Hostas in them and I’m very pleased that the new leaf growth appears to have virtually no signs of damage at all  – maybe these pellets did the job of killing off the young snails and slugs, though even so I haven’t seen many corpses around, so I’m thinking that maybe the very harsh winter weather did a good job in killing off those slugs and snails that would have normally over wintered. The Courtyard  looks good as a result, with the vine coming into to leaf and garlanding the walls and some new colour coming soon from some Sweet Williams I put into the containers alongside the Hostas.

 

On the wider front, I’ve continued to work with the children at my local Primary School, and as you may have seen in a recent article, I’m enjoying working on various projects with a group of 7 children on Friday afternoons. Yesterday at the School’s annual Fete, we managed to sell all of the hanging baskets that the children had planted up, so making around £40 profit that can go back into gardening activities. This event was also an opportunity to promote the Master Gardener and Master Composter schemes I’m involved with. A colleague, Jane and I manned the stalls for the afternoon, making  paper pots and sowing Nasturtium seeds with the youngsters, showing them the wormery and the worms doing their job as well as offering quizzes and advice and information on food growing and composting to the many adults who came over to see us. Over the next couple of weeks, the Friday gardening group will be finishing off some vertical planters they’re making out of wooden pallets and thanks to a kind donation of plants from a local nursery – woman these will make a lovely, colourful feature in the play ground. I’ll do a separate article on this project once they’re finished.

Today I’m off the Suffolk to inspect a community – run woodland which has applied  to be awarded a ‘Green Flag’ as a mark of excellence. You may recall that this scheme has been operating for a good number of years and is fast becoming the national benchmark for parks and open spaces in England. I’ve been a judge for about 5 years now and every year I get to visit a couple of really interesting and usually very well presented and run open spaces. I’ve been out to judge one woodland in North Norfolk last week and today’s trip will complete my quota for this year. I’ll write an article about Green Flag and the two sites tomorrow, so keep a look out!

Well, that’s just about brought you up to date with Old School Garden for another month.

 

Thanks for sending me the pictures of your lovely garden, where I see your herbaceous borders are starting to fill out like mine. And I was particularly impressed with your creations using pallets! The new ‘pallet shed’ looks wonderful and the fact that you managed to make it for almost nothing (given the price of sheds these days) is great. My post on pallets seems to have gone down a storm and is still receiving many visitors every day including from the USA and around the world! I’ve come across a couple of other, novel uses of these and will post the pictures shortly. I managed to obtain a few additional pallets for free from the local Garden Centre and I’m currently thinking about what else I can use them for. I’m certainly going to use some as a sort of raised bed edging where I need to consolidate some soil and support the wooden frame up which I’m training a fan cherry and plum. I’ve cut some pallets in half and will sink these, like fences, into the ground as barriers to keep the soil in (maybe using landscaping fabric inside to contain the soil). I’ll let you know how I get on and post some pictures.

Oh, and some great news, The Radio 4 programme ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ is coming to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum at the end of June, so this will be a great opportunity to introduce those attending to the gardens and promote the place a bit too, especially as there is a gardening event at the Museum the week after! Stay in touch.

All the best for now,

Old School Gardener

Other posts in this series:

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 18th April May 2013

Dear Walter….letter from Old School Garden, 11th March 2013

Dear Walter… letter from Old School Garden: 15th February 2013

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