Tag Archive: may

Hanging baskets can be planted up as the weather warms, but protect against late frosts.

Hanging baskets can be planted up as the weather warms, but protect against late frost

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WP_20150524_13_47_31_Pro To Walter Degrasse

29th May 2015

Dear Walter

Looking back to my letter to you at this time last year, I see that various things were further ahead, especially in the ornamental garden and to some extent vegetables. But it’s still a lovely time of year, with fresh green growth everywhere and other emerging colours in flower and foliage.

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I was out weeding today and planting out some Cosmos, tobacco plants and ornamental grasses, just before the rain came to helpfully water them in. I finally got round to weeding (for the first time this year) an area at the front of the garden which was in danger of becoming overgrown with ground elder, nettles and the like- it was a relief to see it cleared and the strong growth of the shrubs and other plants there coming through, hopefully to invade the space that I’ve created. Whilst I was out a group stopped by the gate and were talking about the garden- after bidding them good morning they were very complimentary about the garden, which is always nice to hear.

Elsewhere in the garden I’m just about up to speed on the food front. Broad beans are podding up nicely, I’ve some Calabrese, Cabbage and onions bulking up. The potatoes are up above ground (I’ll earth these up next week), and I’ve just put out some squash (interplanted with the onions) and Sweet Corn. I don’t know if you watch the gardening programme ‘Beechwood Garden’ (shown early Sunday mornings on BBC 1), but they are trialling different approaches to growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. I was very interested to see the use of as specially designed ‘aquaponic’ system where the plants sit in pots with a wick in then that is dipped in a reservoir underneath in which you out the diluted feed. I’ve decided to buy the ‘Quadgrow’ system which I think is the one the TV programme is using, and can;t wait to get this set up next week. I’ve got 8 good looking tomato plants from my friend Steve to put in as well as the usual cucumber and peppers he’s kindly given me.

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So, Old School Garden, in spite of me being away for much of the month, seems to be shaping up nicely. Oh, I almost forgot, I finally cut back the Melianthus having had a couple fo flower spikes go over. It’s interesting seeing how small the new growth is compared to last year when I cut it back much earlier. I wonder if it will catch up!

As I’ve been away a lot I haven’t been in to Gressenhall or Blickling much. you may have seen my post about my latest sessions at Blickling earlier in the week. I also spent a couple fo hours at Gressenhall, doing a bit of tidying up and planting out a few annuals in the gaps in one of the borders there as well as the entrance border, which I was pleased to see looking good, with purple Alliums contrasting well with the newly maroon red foliage of the Cotinus. The grasses in this border have done really well, in fact they might be in danger of unbalancing the design, so a bit of ‘editing’ might be required here.


Well, as you read this we shall be back in Devon once more, hopefully finally sorting out a flat for my mother-in Law and getting some bulky items moved across so that she can move in once she’s out of hospital. Oh, and no doubt there’ll be a bit of lawn cutting and weeding to be done in her current garden, to prepare the way for selling the place.

I do hope that you and Lise are enjoying the lovely Spring weather and managing to get out and enjoy your garden, especially now that you’ve got a gardener in to help you manage it. All the best for this month old friend.

Old School Gardener





This is the life- our cat enjoying a bask in the sun...
This is the life- our cat enjoying a bask in the sun…

 To Walter Degrasse

28th May 2014

Dear Walter

It’s been a busy May, Walter- ‘as usual’ I suppose you  might say! The last couple of days have seen heavy rain, but thankfully I managed to get out for a full day in Old School Garden on Monday, anticipating the rain by planting out lots of seedlings. This stage of the year also coincides with the cleaning of the (now empty) greenhouse and getting in the 12 different varieties of tomato and chillies my friend Steve has given me – plus a cucumber.

Today, as the weather is clearing up I’ll be out putting in a cane framework up which to train them. Or rather, most of them, as this year Steve has given me two varieties of tomato which don’t require tying in and training as cordons. Roma is a ‘determinate’ variety so should be grown as a bush (it doesn’t need it’s side shoots pinching out), and Marmande is ‘semi determinate’ which means limited pinching out is required. He’s also given me a ‘ridge’ cucumber which I’m going to try to grow outside in a pot.

I’m also feeling quite pleased that I managed to find a good use for the old compost I removed from the greenhouse. I grow my tomatoes in bottomless pots sunk into the ground (the so-called ‘ring culture’ method), so a dozen holes need to be dug to make way for the pots which are then filled with growbag and other compost. I’ve used the old compost in a plastic bin that once ‘graced’  the courtyard – you may remember I’d bought some rather nice large terracotta pots to replace the utilitarian plastic dustbin and pots that previously contained the peach and an olive bush? Any way, I thought I’d have a go at growing some carrots in the dustbin and the old compost. This is very friable and lacks any stones, so seems the perfect medium for this. So the bin is full and I’ll hopefully get round to sowing the carrots later today – they’re a variety called ‘Nigel’ given to me at Christmas by Steve and his wife!

The rest of the kitchen garden is also looking pretty full- potatoes have been earthed up a couple of times and the first flowers are forming on the first earlies. The Brassica cage is also looking increasingly full with Cauliflowers, Calabrese, Spinach and Broccoli. Rainbow Chard and Leeks are bulking up and the first Broad Beans look like they’ll be ready to pick very soon. My sowings of Parsnip, Carrot and Beetroot are also coming along nicely. We’ve had plenty of Lettuce in the last couple of weeks. The Strawberry bed has been mulched with straw and as a bit of fun I’ve bought a plastic owl with a swiveling head to see if I can deter pigeons and other birds from the swelling fruit and other goodies in the garden (they usually go for my raspberries which are also looking promising this year)!

I’ve just about managed to catch up with the major weeding- just one area of the woodland edge to do and then I think I’ll mulch this with wood chippings to try to keep the weeds down. I’m hoping to do the same in the fruit cage once I’ve been through with the hoe later today. Oh, and some good news. You remember we had that extension put on about ten years ago that created Deborah’s Study? Well, I had to move a rather old Philadelphus bush and so put it in the main mixed border as a back drop to other things. It’s never flowered since, despite some careful successive pruning out of old wood, and encouragement of new growth. Well, it may be weather-related, but its covered with flower buds this year – I’ll post a pic when it comes out!

I’ve still got some half-hardy annuals coming through (I spent a couple of hours inside the shed potting these up while it poured down outside, yesterday). However,  I’ve managed to plant out most of these and especially the front bed which is my ‘homage’ to Victorian bedding and one or two other spots to add complementary colour or texture to perennials that will flower later- e.g. putting some golden-yellow looking Amaranthus in with the blue Agapanthus.

Several things are looking good here, including the rapidly filling mixed borders, so here’s a slide show of some of the highlights.

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Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get the number of takers necessary to run the various gardening courses I’d planned for May and June, but I’ll try again the autumn, which seems the time most people do an evening class, especially if it’s garden -related. My work in other gardens has also been rather hectic. The sessions at Fakenham Academy have really begun to take off. The children seem more focused and interested and are starting to ‘own’ their plots, which are fast filling up with all sorts of food crops and some annual flowers to add colour and scent as well as attracting the pollinators of course. Unfortunately an assortment of pests is also posing a challenge- rabbits, mice and pigeons in the main. So remedial action has been necessary to try to prevent further damage- we had great fun last week trying to erect a pigeon-proof cage over the brassicas!

We’ve also got some tomatoes, cucumber and aubergines growing in the greenhouse. Also in Fakenham the project at the Community Centre to clear and plant a border next to the two hundred year old ‘crinkle crankle’ wall, has gone well. I, together with volunteers and children from the local primary school, planted this up last week. Now we wait for the plants – which I’ve positioned in repeating drifts of different colours, textures and forms to reflect the wave of the wall -to get hold and push on to do their stuff. I’ll post some pictures of this next week.

Another pest controller- I hope!

Another pest controller- I hope!

I was also pleased to be positively mentioned by one of the Inspectors at a recent Ofsted Inspection at the local primary school, where I was showing the children how to weed and earth up potatoes and explaining why we do this. This school (which now has level 5 of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening award), is shortly to host a training session for other local schools interested in school gardening activities. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How is your garden looking, Walter? I expect your orchard has  finished flowering by now, but I have fond memories of visiting you and Lise one spring and seeing all the beautiful blossom there. From my own garden, it looks like we’ll have another good year for fruit- there certainly seem to be a lot of plums forming on the tree and I can even seen some (and cherries) on the young fan- trained plants in the kitchen garden.

So, I think its getting to that time of year when we can take the foot off the accelerator a little and begin to enjoy the fruits of our labours! Hopefully that last major bit of weeding will be done by the end of the week and I can then get the remaining flowers planted out, as well as hoeing here and there to keep the weeds down. And maybe then a bit more sitting in the sun!

Having said that, I do think there’s something very satisfying about forking into a light, damp soil and pulling whole strands of Ground Elder root out (and of course trying not to breaking any of it off in the ground)!

Old School Gardener





Stockholm-lilac‘The bright and busy days of May are here;

The countryside’s ablaze with colours rare

In sun and shower. There’s cricket on the green,

And lilies in the wood, and now are seen

Laburnums pouring gold, tall chestnuts decked

With spires of pink and white, where bees collect

A precious harvest, then away go winging

Past lovely lilacs where a blackbird’s singing.

Old gardeners now their long experience bring

To battle with the weeds; the lawns are neat.

A worried thrush scolds by the garden seat

Her wandering, gaping brood. House-martins cling,

Pied master-builders, on the weathered walls,

And from the woods all day the cuckoo calls.’

John (Jack) Kett

from ‘A Late Lark Singing’ (Minerva press 1997)

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