Grasses and autumn leaves are looking good in Old School Garden

Grasses and autumn leaves are looking good in Old School Garden

28th October 2013

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I hope you and Lise are well. I guess you’ve been experiencing the warm autumn like us over the last few weeks? This has done wonders for prolonging the flowers and colour in Old School Garden and the combination of these with the golden glow of grasses in the mixed borders looks super- especially in that low October sun.

But it’s also meant that I’ve been hanging on and waiting for things to finish their show so that the ‘autumn clear up’ can truly begin (though I do like to leave some plants whose stems, seed heads or shape survive to provide eye catching winter interest). I’ve just started to get tender things inside for over wintering as well as replacing summer annual displays with something to give us winter and spring colour. The main annuals beds and containers have been cleared and planted up with a combination of spring bulbs, along with Pansies, Violas and Bellis. I’ve also cleared out the greenhouse of the remaining cucumbers and (mostly green) tomatoes, the latter are now resting in a fruit bowl along with a banana to encourage ripening! The harvest has continued with lots of delicious apples, some very good black grapes and runner beans, chard and the last of the courgettes. It’s also been a busy sowing and planting time- crops of Broad Beans, yellow and red Onions, Garlic as well as green manures have all been put in, and I’m having another go at growing Asparagus.

Scabious still looking good in the courtyard garden

Scabious still flowering in the courtyard garden

As you read this we’ll be away visiting our daughter Madeleine and our son-in-law, Diego, in Portugal. So, many other things – bringing in the dahlias, pruning the climbing roses, keeping on top of the leaves, selective cutting back of perennials and dividing and moving some – will all have to await our return. A little late perhaps, but hopefully the mild weather will continue for a couple of weeks!

I’m still helping at the local School with their ‘outdoor learning’ (specifically in the School Garden). I think virtually every child (apart from the very young), has learned about tools and tool safety and harvesting (the School cook had a lovely supply of Red Cabbage, Courgettes, Runner Beans and Carrots to weave into her daily menu). It’s been inspiring to hear their enthusiasm as they open up a runner bean pod and discover the little pink and purple jewels that can become next year’s seeds and how they love to find worms and other critters in the soil! One mum told me the other day how excited her son had been when he brought home the bean I’d let him take away!

They have also learned about the different types of seed and their dispersal, what we do in the Autumn to prepare the soil, and sow and plant certain things, as well as the importance of composting, including looking after the school wormery. The other day this half term’s efforts culminated in an open day focusing on ‘outdoor learning’. Parents linked with their children and took part in a range of activities around the school site including den building and bug hunting. I was mainly involved in fuelling the fire pit where we did some ‘campfire cooking’ (bread and marshmallows on hazel sticks), and helping with:

  • some gardening (the boys particularly like a bit of digging),

  • weather monitoring (we managed to reach 19 degrees C on a beautiful sunny day)

  • making ‘elf houses’ and furniture (and a few elves too),

  • making recycled paper pots and sowing broad beans in them.

I think this event has helped to raise awareness of the good work being done in the ‘outside classroom’ at the school and may even encourage some parents to volunteer to help out at one of the regular ‘garden gang’ days or in other ways. Here are some pictures I took to give you a flavour of what was a  fun and successful day.

 

The other major activity I’ve been involved with recently is teaching.

As you know from my last letter, I’ve been running a second Garden Design course at the local High School and this is now in its last couple of weeks. The eight participants, have a wide range of different garden design challenges in front of them. They are an enthusiastic group who it’s been a pleasure working with. They are now firming up their design ideas and creating scale drawings of what they want to achieve, and the final evening will focus on how to go about realising these on the ground.

I’m also pleased to say that my first ‘Grow Your Own Food’ course for beginners and novices is running locally, too. Tuesday mornings in a nearby village hall (Foulsham), sees 6 relatively new food growers coming together and both sharing experiences and exploring the ‘keys to success’ in food growing. The second week involved a visit to Old School Garden where I shared (‘warts and all’) my own experiences of food growing, some of the ideas and tips I’ve used and some of the issues confronting me – not least being the need to ‘downsize’ my food production to avoid gluts and surpluses! I shall be introducing a greater level of ornamental planting in the kitchen garden to achieve this, so reducing the productive areas by about a third.

My blog continues to grow both in terms of followers and also in the feedback and ‘conversations’ its enabling around the world. I’ve recently topped 1500 followers on all ‘social media platforms’ and since starting it back in December last year have had over 33,000 views of pages on the site. These are currently averaging about 800-1000 per month at present. Its been especially pleasing to have positive feedback from people who have enjoyed particular articles or items (recycling in the garden seems to be especially popular). I shall try to continue with the blend of (hopefully) helpful advice, great photographs and more ‘tongue in cheek’ postings! Any feedback from you would be very welcome!

I think that just about covers my news for the past few weeks, so I’ll wish you and Lise well as we approach winter and Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up for a meal or get together around the festive period!

Hanging in there- one of the borders at Old School Garden

Hanging in there- one of the borders at Old School Garden

Old School Gardener

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