Cyclamen still looking good in the courtyard
Cyclamen still looking good in the courtyard

To: Walter De Grasse – 30th January 2014

Dear Walter,

Is it too late to wish you Happy New Year?! I hope that you have a great year, especially in your wonderful garden. It seems ages since I last wrote to you, probably because we’ve had all the activity that comes with Christmas and New Year and then gradually getting back into the rhythm of something approaching a normal routine! It’s been an interesting couple of weeks here at Old School Garden, though I must admit that only in the last week have I begun (sometimes with muscles and bones screaming ‘don’t do it!’), to get back into the garden for an hour or two each day (well some days).

Seeds sorted- I'v e been through my supply and filed them in date order for sowing
Seeds sorted- I’ve been through my supply and filed them in date order for sowing

I’ve managed to finally collect the last of the leaves (mostly Oak, that seem to be the last to fall), pruned the Grapevine and Apple Trees and continued to tidy up dead and untidy foliage as new growth starts to emerge. I also sowed my first seeds the other day; a mixture of early veg (Calabrese and Leeks) with some annuals and perennials. It was quite pleasing to review my seed purchases alongside spare seed from earlier years and to start to place the packets in my seed box in date order for sowing. I’m fully expecting  my dining room to soon be full of seedlings in the process of growing on prior to putting outside in the cold frame or greenhouse (or even under cloches/fleece). I’ve purchased some rather more exotic annuals and perennials this year as well as ordering some ‘heritage’ varieties of vegetable from the Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library. Oh, and I mustn’t forget my Christmas gift of some carrot seeds called ‘Nigel’!

Greek Squashes grown last year- a 'heritage' variety, more of which I plan to grow this year
Greek Squashes grown last year- a ‘heritage’ variety, I’m planning to grow more ‘heritage veg’ this year

I’ll tell you more about these different plants as they get growing, but I’m excited about the greater diversity of food and flowers I’ll be growing this year. I should by now have done plan for the kitchen garden, but haven’t managed this, partly because I’m a little stumped as to how to do it now that I’m aiming to grow a wider range of smaller quantities in successional sowings and mixing in more ornamentals too. I must devote a few hours to thinking this one through – I’ll put the final version in a post soon – hopefully!

Though I know that you’ve been more affected by me by the wave of storms and flooding we’ve been having in the UK, but even with this, the lack of any really cold spell makes me wonder if we’re going to get a ‘real winter’ this year! As testimony to the mild weather I’m amazed at how the Melianthus is still putting on new foliage and plants like the Scabious and Fuchsia I have in the courtyard are still flowering!

I’ll be putting in a few more hours outside as the days continue to lengthen, including finishing off pruning the roses and moving and dividing some herbaceous plants I didn’t get round to in the Autumn. Well I say that, but I may have to curtail my own gardening time in the next few months as I’ve taken on some new teaching work at a local high school (working with Foundation skills students to develop their school garden and especially food growing). I’m off there later today to work with two groups, focusing on what they’d like to grow in their plots, which we can hopefully get into soon and begin the work of preparing the ground etc. The School Garden is a potentially wonderful resource, with two large greenhouses with electrically operated vents and water supplies, lots of tools and equipment and a south-facing aspect with what seems to be good soil- once the weeds have been cleared and its been turned over and fed of course!

I’m also hoping to repeat my Garden Design and Grow Your Own Food courses for adults (assuming we get the numbers required). These are due to kick off next week, and it looks hopeful that they’ll run.

I’m also carrying on with supporting the local Primary school in its ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’. In fact as I write this the School is being inspected for its latest accreditation on it’s outdoor work, hopefully an addition to its ‘level 5’ achievement in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. I’ll be getting over to the School after half term to help them get seed sowing underway and hopefully getting the youngest children involved through use of the ‘pallet planters’ we built last year, plus a mini greenhouse for propagation, all of which can be placed near to their classrooms.

I guess that my support for individual households in food growing may also pick up soon, as I’ve promised help to  three of the students on the first ‘GYO’ course that ran in Foulsham last Autumn. Sadly the ‘Master Gardener’ programme in Norfolk is about to be reduced due to the ending of some grant funding, but I’m likely to continue to be involved in the Breckland area, where the local Council is supporting the work.

No doubt you’re well ahead in your plot? I’d love to hear what you’re up to and your plans for the year. I’m contemplating repeating our opening of Old School Garden to the public once more, as this was such an enjoyable day and one which raised funds to support worthy local projects – most of which involve gardening. Maybe you and Ferdy would like to join us – it’ll probably be in late June/early July? Well, I’ll sign off for now, wishing you and her well and looking forward to hearing from you.

all the best,

Old Schoool Gardener