Tag Archive: hoeing


At Blickling this week it was a case of more hoeing, or rather using the rather neat three-pronged cultivator to get under the crusted soil to loosen a rather extensive spread of weeds.

I joined Norfolk Peter in the Walled Garden where he was weeding alongside one of the glasshouses. Once again I was working in the side beds where nothing much is growing at present apart from a few lines of herbaceous flowers. By lunch time I had turned over a good area and attacked another with a border fork, as the weeds were rather more deeply rooted.

Nicely hoed beds…

I also noticed that some rather smart new hose reels have ben fixed around the walled garden which certainly tidies up areas where hoses had been more casually left lying, so removing a potential trip hazard.

I planned to return after lunch to rake off the loosened weeds and to knock down the forked area to enable the weeds in this area to be removed. However, on our way back to the Bothy we met Head Gardener Paul, who, in his usual cheery way, asked how we were and thanked us for what we were doing. He had also received my submission for the planned Tree trail we had discussed a few months before and wanted to discuss the next steps with me and Assistant Head Gardener Steve, after lunch.

We initially planned to cover thirty trees in the gardens with a small amount of interesting information on small boards placed next to each tree. I had researched all of these and also produce d a mock-up of a couple- here’s one example …

I’d given a copy of the thirty sets of text to Aussie Peter, who is also a Garden Guide, to see if he could add any interesting local information to what I’d found online; he said over lunch he’d send me a few thoughts, but that the overall proposals seemed fine..so that was encouraging. He also offered to carry on where I’d left off on the weeding to allow me to see Paul and Steve.

The meeting was useful and we explored different ways of presenting the information; either next to each tree or in leaflet form, as well as other options, like using mobile phones to capture codes at each location to enable an audio guide to be accessed. I favour beginning with simple foam back boards fixed to posts at each tree (and we also plan to add a stamp at each of the posts for 6 or 7 common leaf shapes for children to print out on their trail leaflet).

We might be able to convert the posts (I’m suggesting 3″ square oak sourced from the estate, with a sloping top) should an alternative approach be better, e.g. just having a number and name at each tree, with the buk of othe rinformation provided ona leaflet.  We agreed that the next step would be to meet up with those responsible for visitor attractions and marketing at Blickling to nail down the final plan, something we’ll hopefully do in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the trail will be installed by Autumn, which should add another interesting feature for the gardens over the quieter months.

As I left the other volunteers were weeding amidst the double borders, where, once again, the Tulips in the double borders were looking great, as are those in the White Border to the side…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

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A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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My latest session at Blickling was mainly spent hoeing between some of the side beds in the Walled Garden, alongside Aussie Peter, and we also spent time harvesting rhubarb for sale by donations.

I do enjoy hoeing, especially using the Wolf hoes that we now have . I also have one of these at home and I think it must be my favourite tool (well it at least pushes the hand fork for first place)- it’s a joy pushing and pulling and getting an effective result both ways with the two cutting blades.

I was also pleased to see the result of my (and others’) tulip planting last autumn- there are soem splendid rows of very blousy blooms (see above). Having hoed we harvested the rhubarb. Some stalks must have been as thick as my wrist, and we managed to sell off nearly two crate loads by the end of the day. I don’t think peter had harvested rhubarb before as he set about two plants with such enthusiasm that only a few straggly stalks were left before Project Manager mike noticed and advised to pull rather less per plant! (you can see our respective results in the picture below- ‘Peter’s plants’ are the two stumps in the foreground).

Still, no harm done, as the roots are pretty substantial. The other volunteers were involved in potting on tomato plants, and Peter and I occasionally paused to mix some compost for them. Meanwhile Norfolk peter and Mike were doing some remedial works on some of the irrigation points which had become rather sunk as the soil level around them has built up. It was a reasonably simple job of lifting them up and fixing them in a new wooden case.

There had also been progress elsewhere in the Walled Garden, as some new volunteers with a building background had begun installing the hard surfacing beneath the benches , which Mike says will make mowing the grass a lot easier! Progress continues on the central pergola or apple tunnel, with the arches now fixed in place and the bottom rails also welded on. The rest to follow shortly….

And another bit of progress as the roses that have been temporarily stored in pots on one area of the Walled Garden have bene relocated to the small garden at the back of the Walled Garden- a lovely little enclosed space, just perfect for plant storage until the time comes for it to be properly used…perhaps as a bee hive area, according to Mike.

The tulips in the double borders are also coming to their peak, so enjoy a few pics of these and our rhubarb exploits to close….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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wp_20161023_15_51_29_proIt was Wednesday again this week at Blickling. ‘Lucky you turned up’ said a fellow volunteer, you’re the 14th person here today!

This must have been the largest volunteer group I’d participated in since joining Blickling. And as the day progressed it made the Walled Garden (where we were all working) reminiscent of a Victorian Kitchen Garden; where once droves of gardeners were busily doing things most days of the year.

The team at work...

The team at work…

It started off as a rather misty murky, autumnal morning, but we were soon set to work and warmed up. Project manager Mike is off with a bad back at present so we were ably directed by gardeners Jane and Rebecca. If you’re reading this Mike, I wish you a speedy recovery; I can sympathise as I had acute sciatica for a year many moons ago.

A few volunteers were set to washing pumpkins ready for an event the following day. I gather this will include drawing faces on the pumpkins, as ‘Health and Safety’ concerns now prevent the Trust helping youngsters and others carve out faces in traditional style (I was tempted to mutter under my breath ‘even worse than banning conkers at school’!!).

The majority of us were in ‘formation hoeing’ mode to begin with as we cleared the remaining weeds and spent foliage from the pumpkin patches and then barrowed in a considerable amount of locally produced compost as a winter mulch. As we progressed from one area to another the results looked very neat and tidy, as I think the dark, damp compost provides a satisfying finish to a bare bed. I lost count of the number of barrow loads I shifted, but my arms, by lunchtime, were at least two inches longer…

After lunch we continued with the same process, pausing to chat to the many visitors on this half term weekday, which was as pleasant as ever. Many commented favourably on the gardens, and especially the Dahlia border, which continues to look marvellous in the low autumn sunshine..it just shows how mild it’s been recently. The final bit of hoeing drew most of the male volunteers together for one final push… ‘five men went to hoe’.The quality of the banter went up a notch as we hoed alongside each other (it looked a little like a ‘hoeing derby’ at one point as we raced each other across the plot).

wp_20161026_14_35_07_proBy the end of the afternoon the sun was shining brightly and the garden looked wonderful bathed in this light, which created a glowing sea of backlit foliage, especially the lime green lettuces. In fact the whole place shone.

wp_20161026_15_27_36_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20160921_12_28_07_proI went in to Blickling on Wednesday this week and worked with Peter and Maurice clearing away the piles of pumpkin and squash greenery left behind after the previous day’s volunteers had harvested a fantastic array of squashes and pumpkins.

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

I was excited to see another wooden structure in the far corner of the Walled Garden- three new compost bins with removable, slatted fronts and panelled lids. These will be a great addition to the garden and reduce the need to transport piles of compost from the main dumping ground on the other side of the gardens.

The new compost bins

The new compost bins

I was initially puzzled to see no gaps in the sides fo these new bins as I thought they would be necessary to allow some air to get into the bins. However, on reflection, I think the theory might be that the amount of material, and with regular turning, these bins will be ‘hot’ bins creating usable compost within a matter of a few months. Mike, the Project Manager wasn’t around to clarify this, so that’ll be a question for next week’s session. As we were finishing off the clearing up, a couple of young children and their parents wheeled a couple of mini barrowfuls of material over to help us!

wp_20160921_11_23_58_proIn the remaining hour before lunch we hoed and stone picked around the soft fruit bushes, where, Assistant Head Gardener, Steve, told us that new fruit cages were to be erected the following day. I look forward to seeing these in place next week.

After lunch Maurice and I hoed across the pumpkin and squash beds to tidy them up. I think Mike plans to sow some green manures in these over winter. I hope so, as I’d be interested to see how this would look and what it would do to protect and add to the nutrients in the soil.

The Dahlias are continuing to put on a good show, and I noticed that the cyclamen were in full bloom just outside the Walled Garden.

We had plenty of visitors in the Walled Garden, and many stopped to chat and ask questions, as well as praising everyone’s efforts. One chap asked me what the difference is between a gourd and a squash…hmm after a quick thought I offered the view that they are different types of the same sort of plant, the gourd possibly being more of a climbing variety…As it turns out I wasn’t quite right, as this very helpful advice from the site Missouri Botanical Garden explains:

‘Pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the enormously diverse Cucurbitaceae family, which contains more than 100 genera and over 700 species.  They have been providing mankind with food and utilitarian objects since before recorded history.  Various members of the genus Cucurbita are known as squash or gourds.

Names differ throughout the world, but in the United States, any round, orange squash used for pies or jack-o-lanterns is likely to be called a pumpkin.  But the term “pumpkin” really has no botanical meaning, as they are actually all squash.  Squash are divided into two categories: tender or summer squash, and hard-skinned or winter squash.  Examples of summer squash include zucchini, pattypan, straightneck, crookneck and other types.  Winter squash include small to medium hard-skinned squash such as the acorn, small hubbard, miniature pumpkin and spaghetti types, as well as the large hard-skinned types, including banana, butternuts, cheese pumpkins, cushaws, and large hubbards, among others.

Botanists use distinctive characteristics of leaves, seeds and fruit stalks to classify the different species.  The origins of these species are lost in time, but all are assumed to have originated in the Western Hemisphere, principally South and Central America and Mexico.  Variety selection for the many distinct shapes, sizes and colors has occurred in all cultures worldwide….

Gourds are defined as hard-shelled durable fruit grown principally for ornament, utensils and general interest….

Hardshell gourds remain green throughout the growing season, but dry to a brownish-tan when fully cured.  They have traditionally been utilized as bottles and containers for liquid and dry materials, as well as food, medicine, musical instruments, artistic media and many other uses.

Like the squash, cultivar selections in various shapes and sizes have continued from prehistoric times to the modern era.’

wp_20160921_12_28_39_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day...

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day…

Only a couple of hours this week at Blickling. In some ways that was a relief as it turned out to be the hottest September day for many years (on my way to a meeting in Diss, the reading on my car’s thermometer was 31.5 degrees C!)

I arrived around 9am and signed in as usual; but no gardeners were to be found. The whole place had a peacefulness that only hinted at the boiling heat that was to follow; the lines of the main Temple Walk were gradually emerging from an early morning mist, soon to be burned off.

The diary we garden volunteers use to sign in and get our instructions said we were to be split between the Parterre (removing Bindweed with assistant Head gardener Steve) and something unspecified in the Walled Garden. As I couldn’t see anyone around the parterre I wandered over to the Walled Garden- still not a soul in sight. Hmmm… where could they all be?

I made my way in the direction of the Orangery, and Head Gardener Paul turned the corner and greeted me in his usual jolly way. He modestly told me about his own small garden and some of the wide range of plants he’s been growing , including some tropicals. We both moved on- he to his office, me to join the (small as it turned out) gardening team in the Orangery.

There Steve, Rebecca and Ed were busy hosing down, weeding and generally tweaking the inside of this lovely building, in readiness for a wedding reception to be held there the day after. I joined in and helped sweep off the pammented floor, raking gravel and, having spotted several of the potted citrus trees with black sooty mould on the leaves, went round and rubbed as much off as I could.

Ed hosing down the inside..

Ed hosing down the inside..

We finished off by shifting some of the many plants around; including rather tentatively carrying several large Agaves (with their extremely sharp and pointed leaves) into an adjoining room. By this time it was morning break (had I really done much?- I was certainly sweating). Anyway, after greeting fellow volunteers, we went off to various parts of the gardens; most it seemed to the rose garden to dig over and weed, in the comparatively cool shade of a starting- to- steam mid morning.

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings...

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings…

With only about an hour to spare I went over to the Walled Garden and hoed around the soft fruit bushes- once again this was a pleasant job with one of the twin-bladed Wolf hoes that Mike had recently purchased. But boy it was hot, and though the Dahlias were looking resplendent, it was not place to be for long, so I was glad to be on my way just before midday.

Dahlia 'David Howard' putting on a show with it's partners in the Walled Garden

Dahlia ‘David Howard’ putting on a show with it’s partners in the Walled Garden

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160818_10_09_52_ProI’d missed a week, but the Dahlias, which I thought had reached their best two weeks ago, were definitely in peak form in the Walled Garden at Blickling this week.

It was also pleasing to see that the posts and wires for the soft fruit were finished- but not after some further manoeuvering of our ‘difficult post’, by Project Manager, Mike! And the four new benches are also in place; they look great and offer visitors a chance to sit and enjoy the veg, fruit and flower offerings in the garden. I began work weeding around the herbs – a rather intoxicating experience as I rubbed against Thyme, Sorrel, Garlic, Fennel, Annis and so on…

After this- a mixture of hand weeding and hoeing- I went off to see Head Gardener, Paul and Assistant Head Gardener, Steve to discuss the Tree Trail Project. We are hoping to set out a series of name and information boards for around 20-30 trees within the gardens and perhaps add some ‘child friendly’ activities along the way. I suggested this after visitng Antony house in cornwall, where a similar, volunteer-led project has helped present their wonderful collection of trees.

We had an enjoyable walk around the gardens identifying the trees with a bit of special interest or stories to tell- it was difficult keeping up with the professionals whose encyclopedic knowledge of the many trees on offer was mightily impressive! Still, I think we have the makings of a great project and I’m looking forward to drawing the information together and working with Trust staff and other volunteers to finalise the information boards and leaflets etc. Something of a winter project, I think!

After a late lunch I spent an hour helping Chris and three of the lady volunteers in the corner of the walled garden clearing away the extensive weeds under and around the Mulberry Tree (which is one of those likely to make it to the Tree Trail, too). This area- previously enclosed in glass- is a wilder part of the walled garden, but after our work looked rather more in keeping with the trim borders elsewhere.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

ducksApologies…my latest session at Blickling and I forgot my camera…so the pics here are a few from other visits (and the one above borrowed from the Trust’s latest newsletter).

WP_20160714_15_35_58_Pro - CopyAlternative titles for today’s post were ‘Herding Frogs’, ‘Reframing’ or ‘Shuffling the Pack’…A rather shower affected day (I was in with the Wednesday crew this week), saw me and fellow volunteer Peter (another one!) weeding over two sections of cold frame (including removing large sections of worn out weed membrane) and putting down a new covering of landscape fabric, before tidying over the stored plants and rearranging these (hence shufling…). It looked a lot tidier and as a bonus I gained soem ratherr splendid (if a bit leggy) Ricinus communis plants. These will fit rather well in my front circular border at Old School Garden…with its rather exotic feel. I was also allowed to remove some runners from a clutch of Achillea nobilis susbsp. nealreichii, with its lovely creamy plate flowers and silvery foliage.

WP_20160714_12_14_48_ProWith half an hour left at the end of the day I went round hoeing the currants..using one of a new set of two-way hoes (made by Wolf, and one of which I have at home). These are really a lot more effective than conventional dutch hoes.

Currants hoed with the new two-way hoes- a delight!

Currants hoed with the new two-way hoes- a delight!

As reported last week, the dahlia border in the walled garden is starting to pop, though perhaps will look even better next week….Sorry about the lack of pics to accompany this post, I’ll do better next time!

Click here to listen to an interview with Project Manager, Mike Owers, on BBC Radio Norfolk-  on the Chrissie Jackson programme around 1 hour 7 minutes in…!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160721_11_48_42_ProThe Walled Garden is really moving into overdrive and looks fantastic. My latest session- a short one- at Blickling was another warm day.

I began the session an hour earlier than usual, and it was a good plan, because by midday the heat was pretty oppressive. Digging over an area next to the runner beans saw some serious weeds removed and I followed this up with some hoeing around the beans themselves.

WP_20160721_11_55_22_ProMy fellow volunteers were also involved in weeding and one or two were harvesting- there’s plenty of stuff for use in the restaurant and some will be packed up for offering to visitors, in return for a donation. My ‘pea tunnel’ created last week seems to have survived, though the peas themselves are not looking so good.

The rest of the gardens are also in full splendour and I chatted to Assistant Head Gardener, Steve about the hours of work he put into the parterre garden removing bindweed earlier in the season- he told me it was the equivalent of ‘triple digging’! The double borders and White Garden are also looking vibrant in the sunshine.

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Elsewhere, Norfolk Peter was working with a colleague from a local firm to weld together the arches that will sit across the main path in the walled garden and eventually provide a wonderful ‘tunnel of fruit’.

I finished off my morning with some serious hoeing around the dahlias that are just about to flower alongside the east wall of the Walled Garden (see picture below). Next week will, I hope, see them in their full glory, and I’ll try to capture them in my next post.

WP_20160721_11_45_39_ProFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160630_11_07_24_ProAn important day …Gardener Rob celebrates 15 years at Blickling, the new Bothy is brought into commission and the Walled Garden is declared fully open too!

A brief spell of mulching the raspberries gave way to a gathering in the new bothy where we tucked into some splendid food and drink and congratulated Rob. Head Gardener Paul thanked Rob for all his efforts and at the same time those of the wider team of volunteers and gardeners; he estimated that the gardeners between them have over 100 years experience of working at Blickling…though 44 of these are accounted for by Assistant Head Gardener, Steve!

The volunteers spent the rest of the day tidying up in the Walled Garden, which is now looking nearly full and has plenty of height as the plants get a hold. There’s also some rather good home made interwoven fencing to complete the boundaries, made from larch felled on the estate and looking pretty substantial.

Having mulched the raspberries, I weeded this and the strawberries next door; these include a white strawberry called ‘Snow White’! Mike asked me to trail the many runners in the strawberries along the rows to bulk them up and create a lot of new plants- it looks like we won’t be seriously cropping these as it’s their first year. So, a day of weeding and a tidy looking bed as a result.

Elsewhere in the Gardens there’s currently a display of sculpture intermingled with the planting…with some interesting results…

The Walled Garden fully open… and so the many visitors are now able to wander freely. And as a result we can chat to them about the garden and  share gardening experiences, one of the nicest aspects of working in this wonderful place.

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Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

WP_20160608_12_54_50_Pro Another week at Blickling and it was good to get back to the Walled Garden to see the progress and to get stuck in. I see Mike has bought some of those bird scarers that imitate birds of prey. I’ve had mixed results with bird scarers of various kinds- including old cd’s hung out on a washing line and a plastic owl with rotating head! All seem to work only if you keep moving them around. 

I spent the morning hoeing between the fruit bushes which are coming on well. There has also been much planting out of lettuces and other veggy which will give the kitchen an excellent supply in a few weeks time. There will probably be plenty left  for selling to the public too.

After lunch I planted out two varieties of courgette; one green, one gold, planted alternately. Set about a metre apart, these should bulk up into big bushes.

Courgettes planted, Mike watering them in

Courgettes planted, Mike watering them in

There are still plenty of plants in the glasshouses, and the rest of the gardens are also looking good.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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