Archive for November, 2013


A few more wonderful garden furniture projects from 1001 pallets and other places.

What are you upcycling in your garden?

Old School Gardener

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earth sculpture richard harris‘This earth sculpture has been created by artist Richard Harris to draw attention to different species of trees that have traditionally been coppiced and their many characteristics and uses by people now and through history.’

Old School Gardener

Chandler_strawberriesHere’s the second article in the new series ‘Eat Me’. This one has been written by another of the participants in the ‘Grow Your Own’ course that I ran recently in Foulsham, Norfolk.

Strawberries- a guest article by Colin Ferris

The fruit of the strawberry is not a berry but rather is a pseudo fruit or accessory fruit; some would not even accept the definition as a fruit. Indeed what appear to be the seeds on the outside are achenes, each of which is really a single seeded fruit.

Close up of strawberry
Close up of strawberry

HISTORY

The  wild strawberry Fragaria vesca was the first to be grown and cultivated for its fruit until the hybrid ‘garden strawberry’ Fragaria x ananassa was bred in France in 1750. It is a cross between the North American  F. virginiana and  F. chiloensis  from Chile.

CLASSIFICATION

Fragaria is a flowering plant (Angiosperm) in the family Rosaceae. The Genus Fragaria contains about 20 species plus many hybrids and cultivars. The structure of the strawberry plant is quite typical of a member of the rose family, most noticeably when looking at the flower with its five petals.

Botanical-Fruit-Strawberry-2

CULTIVATION

Whilst generally considered in this country as a very typical British fruit, it is surprising to find that the UK does not even make it in the top ten of the world strawberry producers. By far the biggest producer is the USA, growing about 1.5 million tons of fruit per year. Strawberries grow well in any fertile soil and respond well to the addition of manure or fertiliser. It is not advisable however to grow them in soil that has previously been used to grow potatoes, chrysanthemums or tomatoes, due to the build up of soil pests and diseases. Plants will grow well for four or five years after which they decline and do not fruit well. It is thus best to replace them when four years old but not to grow the new plants in the same soil previously used for strawberries, i.e. employ suitable crop rotation.

Strawberries being grown hydroponically
Strawberries being grown hydroponically

PLANTING

Plant rooted runners or bought plants in fertile but well drained soil either in the ground, or in any form of container that can be suitably positioned in a sunny place and watered frequently. Plant in autumn or early spring but avoid cold wet weather and avoid areas prone to frost. Space plants about 14 inches apart with 30 inches between rows.  Keep plants well watered especially in dry spells but take care not to rot the crown with too much water given from above.  When fruits begin to form a mulch, typically straw, should be tucked underneath them to prevent rotting from the soil. Keep weed free. After cropping has finished remove old leaves and straw. If you will not be using them runners should be removed to prevent energy being wasted on them.

Strawberry flower
Strawberry flower

PROPAGATION

In order to produce new plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant, it is best to use strawberry runners. The stolons or runners produced by the plant are a form of vegetative reproduction and so produces plants that are genetically identical to the parent. It is important to let the new plants remain on the runner until a good healthy set of roots has formed.

CULTIVARS

Summer fruiting varieties These are the most popular with large fruits over a short but heavy cropping period of a few weeks. There are early, mid-, and late types.

Perpetual varietiesThese have a much longer fruiting season but fruits are smaller and crops not so heavy.

Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show 2009
Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show 2009

PROBLEMS

Fungus – Botrytis grey mould, powdery mildew, leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and red core: remove dead material immediately, lower humidity around plants, remove weeds and prevent overcrowding.

PestsRed spider mite, seed beetle and vine weevil: use appropriate sprays or preferably biological control. Birds: use netting or preferably a fruit cage, bird scarers may help but generally are of little benefit.

USES

Strawberries have such a wonderful flavour that they are used in so many recipes that it is impossible to list them. They are best when picked fully ripe (bright red in colour) when the sun has warmed them, and they taste extremely good with a little sprinkling of sugar and some fresh cream. Given that they crop heavily over a short period, strawberries are often used to make jam.

Strawberries and Cream- the tatse of an English summer...
Strawberries and Cream- the tatse of an English summer…

Old School Gardener

Shine A Light

My last blog ended at the 1890’s, a time seen globally as a ‘golden age of discovery’. Many things were invented during this time which we still use today such as cinematography, escalators, x-rays, wireless radio, hydro electric power and electric underground trains. As well as being an exciting time for technological development in general, it was also a ‘age of discovery for the bicycle!

For most of the 19th century bicycles generally fell under a ‘one size fits all’ banner and were mainly built for adults. Men, women and children (mostly from the upper classes) all had access to standard sized frames, although there were exceptions to this such as the High Wheeler (aka the Penny Farthing), where the height and size of the vehicle were determined by the leg span of the rider. The invention of the ‘Safety bicycle’ in 1886 and then the Dunlop tyre in 1888…

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Kids Fund- children experiencing nature

‘We believe that the only way you can learn about and appreciate the environment is by getting outside, experiencing it…and having some fun. The FSC Kids Fund provides financial support for groups of disadvantaged young people who would like to visit one of our centres for an FSC experience.

FSC Kids Fund courses are funded by donations – from FSC members, FSC staff and support from Trust Funds.  

Read about the experiences of groups who have really benefitted from Kids Fund below:

Find out about becoming a member of the FSC and contributing to Kids Fund

Find out more about how to apply for Kids Fund…’

Field Studies Council website

indoor greenhouseBuild your own indoor mini greenhouse – looks like a job for someone beyond basic skill level!

http://www.runnerduck.com/green_house/green_house.htm

Old School Gardener

Califorinian Poppies- a possible addition to the new front border
Califorinian Poppies- a possible addition to the new front border

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I write this month about lots of gardening related activity, but not so much ‘direct action’ in Old School Garden. The past few weeks have remained relatively mild here in Norfolk, only the slightest of frosts having affected us to date. I think this weather has been one of the reasons I’ve felt able to leave off doing some of the garden jobs I might have gotten on with in other years; leaf raking, dahlia digging, plant moving, bulb planting etc.

Even though the greenhouse is more or less set up for winter with its bubble wrap insulation and electric heater, I haven’t yet hooked the latter up and certainly haven’t felt the need to get it going. The greenhouse now has our Pelargonums, Echeveria and tender pot plants all set out for their winter repose.

You remember the border of old English Lavender as you come into our drive? Well, I decided this has now got to be so ‘leggy’ and large that it was time to take it out and go for something fresh. I’m experimenting a little here, as I’ve transplanted a few Sedum plants  (some of a spectabile variety I salvaged from Peckover House, whilst working there), and these are fronted by some divided Nepeta (‘Catmint’) to mirror a similar edge on the other side of the drive. I’ve spread the Sedum around a bit and inter planted them with the four packs of tulip bulbs I bought in Amsterdam recently.

My hope, then is that the white, violet and blue heads of these will give a good spring show and once these are over I’ll put in some annuals to complement the violet flowers and glaucous foliage of the Nepeta- possibly some Californian Poppies as their shades of orange and red will give a real burst of interest in high summer. I migth also add some grasses (Stipa tennuissima for instance), and some Nerine bulbs that could do with replanting.  These should both work well with the Sedums for some late Autumn colour and interest. I’ll post some photos of this border as the season progresses so that you can see how the plan works out in practice!

Today looks like good plant moving weather, so I think I’ll try to tackle another area at the front of the house, by moving some Perovskia (Russian Sage) to a more suitable location fronting  our big laurel hedge (and with some further Sedums in front to help this rather lax performer stay upright), and possibly plant the remaining 40 bulbs we got from Holland, along with some more Sedum (‘Herbstfreude’) to the front of the house.

I won’t repeat all my other ‘garden related’ news here as you have probably been reading about this in other articles:

  • Trips to Portugal and Amsterdam including lots of interesting garden visits

  •  Completing the courses I’ve been running on ‘Grow Your Own Food’ and ‘Garden Design’, both of which seem to have gone down well with the participants. I hope to be running further courses in the New Year.

  • Doing a ‘mystery shopper’ inspection of a Country Park near here as part of the ‘Green Flag’ scheme.

  • Very satisfying reports on how some of the money raised at the opening of Old School Garden back in July has been used to fund food growing projects in Norfolk under the ‘Master Gardener’ programme.

The splendid ceiling of the bandstand in Estrela Gardens, Lisbon- a highlight of a recent visit
The splendid ceiling of the bandstand in Estrela Gardens, Lisbon- a highlight of a recent visit

Come to think of it, I haven’t said much of late about my voluntary efforts at the local primary school and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. We’ve had some very productive sessions at the school,  with children planting three apple trees in the orchard , weeding and digging over the soil in preparation for next year, sowing broad beans, onion sets, garlic bulbs and some green manure (the latter doesn’t seem to have germinated, probably down to the age of the seed). I’ve been heartened by the children’s enthusiasm for gardening, and I’m getting to know some of the real characters at the school- it’s always a joy to be greeted so enthusuastically when I arrive at the school!

At the recent ‘open day’ one parent commented on how excited her child was when he brought home a runner bean seed in all its wonderful purply violet colours and one pupil who had sown some broad bean seeds in paper pots at this event, proudly presented me with one plant as ‘an early Christmas present’! A couple of ‘Garden Gang’ events have also resulted in the garden being tidied up, more progress being made on our plastic bottle greenhouse and the plumbing in of water butts from the garden shed to help with water supply. Parents are regular helpers at these sessions.

I’ve also had a sort through the school’s seed collection. This was an interesting exercise, there being many packets (and several of these unopened) dating from 3 or more years ago. I’m tempted to give some these a go next year, though there are many packets where I suspect the seed is just too old to bother with. Here’s a useful article about using old seeds.

Can you use old seeds?
Can you use old seeds?

At Gressenhall Museum the gardens are slowly fading into dormancy and time has been largely spent here managing the decline to keep the borders presentable, planting up some new entrance barrels with bulbs and pansies for spring interest, as well as helping with other routine tasks such as raking out leaves and excess plants from the wildlife pond, weeding, and mulching the extended front entrance border with compost to help improve a rather poor soil. I think I’ll put in one more session here to complete the tidy up and them things can be left until the spring.

Well, Walter, that’s about the sum of my efforts over the last month, and you’ll probably award me only 5 out of 10 for what I’ve actually done in Old School Garden!

Hopefully today I can make inroads to the remaining jobs and then spend some time working out my priorities for the next couple of months. I know this list will include reorganising the outside sheds, installing a barrier made out of pallets to support the border in which my fan – trained cherry and plum are starting to get established and ordering seeds for next year. The latter will involve paring down the current list from my excited first look at the catalogues! I must remember to check the seeds I already have, including some purchased on the trip to Ryton Gardens a few weeks ago.

I was pleased to hear that you’ve more or less managed to get your autumn garden tasks done, especially as you’ve had a few more frosty days than us. What are your plans for Christmas? Is there a chance that you could both drop in to see us for a weekend before the festivities really kick off? We’d love to see you both!

Old School Gardener

aristonorganic

I purchased this Orchid Cactus Kitty Hawk from The Green Cathedral some years ago. She has rewarded me every year with a stunning display.

The name ‘Green Cathedral of South Africa’ is derived from a media publication and, until August 1 2011, used as an alias for ‘Soekershof; Private Mazes & Botanical Gardens in South Africa’; located in the tranquil Klaas Voogds area near the small town of Robertson. Since August 2011 Green Cathedral of South Africa resides in Stanford, Western Cape as does a precious collection of plants.

I dedicated this post to Herman Van Bron who is the custodian of the Green Cathedral.

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Orchid Cactus http://aristonorganic.com/2013/11/18/orchid-cactus/

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Color on the Mountain

Visit Ariston Organic’s site (click on the title) to learn more about this South African scene…

Old School Gardener

gwenniesgarden

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Afbeelding 001

 

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