Tag Archive: grow your own food


I’m pleased to share part of an article featuring a gardening project at my local High School, where I helped with an initial gardening group some years ago. This article, from Permaculture Magazine, decribes how Matt Willer has used ingenuity and ‘scroungeabilty’ to establish a thriving school allotment…to read the full article you need to subscribe to the magazine, which I’ve just done. It’s a great read!

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Old School Gardener

 

 

 

Designing Regenerative Cultures

Daniel Christian Wahl
Saturday, 18th June 2016

Daniel Christian Wahl says a new generation of designers can design a world in which all can thrive and not just survive.

A new generation of designers are applying ecologically inspired design to agriculture, architecture, community planning, cities, enterprises, economics and ecosystem regeneration. Join them to co-create diverse regenerative cultures in the transition towards a regenerative society. Humanity’s impact needs to shift from degeneration to regeneration before the middle of this century. We will all have to collaborate to achieve this transformative response to the converging crises we are facing….

read more here

49bef9cfc989acf6a48a3670e7b1f02dNo garden is complete- in my view- without some plants you can eat. Even if it’s only the leaves of herbs or flower petals to garnish a ‘happy salad’, growing our own food has to be a part of the essence of gardening. So today’s object is a traditional garden trug, used to gather in the fruits (and veg) of your labours.

The traditional trug has an interesting history:

‘Way back in the heydays of the 1820’s, just before Queen Victoria ascended to the English Throne, a Man of Sussex, one Thomas Smith of Herstmonceux, made a decision about his life that was to have a profound effect on Sussex and the World.   He invented the Sussex Trug!   Taking an ancient idea dating back to Anglo Saxon times, Thomas redesigned the historic “trog” and in so doing he created a part of the English gardening scene that is now World famous!   

 The “trog” was a wooden vessel hewn from solid timber in the shape of the round coracle boat that the Anglo Saxons used for their daily business.   Because of the way these “trogs” were made they were very heavy.   They were used by Sussex farmers to measure grain and liquids and were made in several sizes for different measures.   They continued in use in this form until the mid-1600’s and we have been able to uncover an inventory from a farm in Newhaven, East Sussex at about that time where there were recorded “a dozen of trogs in the milking parlour”. 

 Thomas Smith re-invented the “trog” carefully designing a lightweight basket using Sweet Chestnut (Castanea Sativa) and Cricket Bat Willow (Salix Coerulea)….’

Thomas Smith- The Royal Sussex Trug

The traditional Sussex Trug

The traditional Sussex Trug

Thanks to a thoughtful birthday present from my wife, I now have two of these lovely baskets at Old School Garden. It is a joy taking them out into the garden, from early summer, to harvest  fresh produce and then use it as quickly as possible in the day’s main meal. Celebrity gardener Bob Flowerdew underlines the importance of getting your pickings as quickly as you can from plot to saucepan to maximise the sweetness; as soon as it’s picked a sweetcorn’s, or whatever’s natural sugars start to convert to starch.

I guess the trug is a good token for all the other containers we use in the garden (including the modern day plastic trug); whether it be to carry flowers, tools, weeds, compost and so on.

But most importantly, it is the symbol of all that’s good in ‘growing your own’ and the freshness and flavour that comes from this small contribution to world food production.

Further information:

History of the Sussex Trug

 Old School Gardener

WP_20150107_11_25_59_ProIt’s early January and a perfect time to think about what you’re going to grow in the coming year, putting this down on paper (especially for food crops) look through your seed collection, and plugging any gaps. With not much to do in the garden at present, this is just what I’ve been up to in the last couple of days.

I’ve done what I usually do- slotted the packs of seeds I’m going to use into a weekly organiser so that I know when to sow them (always being prepared to adjust this if the weather doesn’t quite go to expectations where outdoor sowings are concerned), adding in a few more things where I want to grow more succession crops (e.g. carrots) or widen the range (e.g. squashes).

I’ve also bought some additional asparagus crowns to add to the bed I started last year (only a couple of plants came through their first season). As last year, I’ve been collecting seed from some plants and adding to my collection through purchases, including taking advantage of the RHS Members’ Seed Scheme where I can buy packs of 12 different seeds for just £8.50. I placed my order yesterday and look forward to receiving some interesting ornamentals to add to Old School Garden.

As far as food is concerned I’ve prepared a new plan for the Kitchen Garden and showed both early and follow on crops…kitchen gdn 2015Changes for this year include:

  • Relocating the three large pots of blueberries – I’m planning to partly sink these into the ground in a spot where I can more easily erect a bird proof cage over them and at the same time release some gravelled space next to the Greenhouse and Cold Frame where I can store pots and trays for ‘hardening off’ new plants.

  • Growing more carrots and parsnips in plastic dustbins, as my experiment last year worked quite well and provides some extra growing space when the rest of the garden is pretty well full.

  • I’ve substituted one Blackcurrant bush with a White currant to improve the balance of the fruit we have and bought ten raspberry canes (two varieties of summer fruiting to plug some gaps in the rows and hopefully improve fruiting).

  • I’m also continuing to install plastic hoops (I’ve used plumbing pipe available from DIY stores) over some more beds to enable me to use plastic/ enviromesh/netting to provide a warm micro climate and protection from pests.

Let’s hope for a productive year!

Old School Gardener

heat sink greenhouseHeat Sink Greenhouse- heat is absorbed by the stone trough during the day and relased at night.

Old School Gardener

gourd heavens

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Organic Dreamscape

Old School Gardener

Gardening-Boots2Two new rounds of my courses on Garden Design and Grow Your Own Food for Beginners start soon, and I’m also offering a new, one day course on Wildlife Gardening. I ran the last Garden Design course earlier this year and had great feedback on it (I even had a thank you present from the students!). All the courses feature a lot of group discussion and some practical tasks as well as useful tips and tricks to help particpants apply what they learn to their own plots.

The Garden Design course takes students through a customised design process, prompting a fresh look at participants’ own gardens, giving them the opportunity to develop their own ideas in a systematic way and benefitting from ideas generated in the whole group. I support participants to draw up their own scale plan design for their garden and supply plenty of useful background information and links to helpful web sources as well as the opportunity to borrow from my own garden book library. The course can also feature a visit to a well known garden to look at design ideas in practice.

The ‘GYO’ course is aimed at food-growing beginners or novices and gets off to a flying start with making paper pots and sowing broad bean seeds. It also prompts students to look at what they want to eat/grow and how they might do this most effectively in their own plots – this can include growing in containers for those with little or no garden.The course includes a visit to Old School Garden to look at my own approach to food growing, and covers topics like soils and soil improvement, growing under glass, encouraging beneficial wildlife into your garden and how to effectively control pests and diseases.

Narrow beds in the Kitchen Garden at Old School GardenNarrow beds in the Kitchen Garden at Old School Garden

The one day Wildlife Gardening course, taking place at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, makes use of the Wildlife Garden at the Museum and includes some practical work to help develop the wildlife -friendly features there as well as helping participants to focus on their own gardens and gardening practices. The aim is for them to develop  their own action plans for the future.

The Wild life Garden at Gressenhall Farm and Museum

The Wild life Garden at Gressenhall Farm and Museum

The courses are fast filling up but there are some places still available if you’re quick!

They are running as follows:

Garden Design–  6 Monday evenings, 7pm-9pm at Reepham High School & College, commencing on 12th May.

Grow Your Own Food for Beginners – 6 Wednesday evenings, 7pm-9pm at Reepham High School and College, commencing 14th May.

Get more details and how to enrol at www.reephamlearningcommunity.co.uk

Wildlife Gardening- Sunday 18th May, 10am-4pm at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, near Dereham.

For more information on this and other short courses at the Museum see www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

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

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