Tag Archive: mulching


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

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_20150820_13_53_12_ProMy muscles were decidedly stiff after being away from gardening for a couple of weeks. But my latest session of volunteer gardening at Blickling was very enjoyable. The team was on good form and we had lots of news to share, not least that two of the volunteers had just secured jobs, one starting that very afternoon and the other to take up a role as an Assistant Gardener at Blickling!

My session began on the edge of the car park backing the Walled Garden, where earlier in the year I’d helped Project Manager Mike prune some wall fruit and tidy up a rather messy edge where weeds had forced their way through tarmac and concrete to ‘adorn’ the old red brick walls. It was a case of ‘more of the same’ a few months on, and I was pleased with the results…see picture below.

WP_20150820_13_56_57_ProSo, after an hour here it was back to the walled garden proper with the rest fo the team to wed and mulch one of the new beds brought into cultivation, this one containing a wide range of flowers. Again, a pleasing result after a couple of hours…

This bed is at the ‘frontier’ of the newly cultivated areas in the walled garden, which I suppose must now be about a quarter in productive use. So still a long way to go in achieving the vision of a rejuvenated garden, but some steady progress. I was especially pleased to see that the first lengths of metal path edging had gone in, which start to ‘shape up’ the whole plot.

Metal edging starting to define the beds in the Walled Garden

Metal edging starting to define the beds in the Walled Garden

And the pumpkins and squashes I helped to plant out have gone to town, providing lush cover to a large area of the garden….

I took some time to look around the main area of cultivation in the Walled Garden and I must say, all credit to Mike and the team as the rows of vegetables and cut flowers look great. And it seems the rustic supports that Peter and I put up are doing their job supporting a promising crop of runner beans and sweet- smelling sweet peas….

I couldn’t help notice that the formal gardens – the parterres and double borders- were also full of summer colour; the reds, oranges and yellows of the double borders (including some impressive dahlias I  helped to plant out) looking particularly impressive….

Oh, and the white border continues to look a treat….

WP_20150820_13_51_56_ProOld School Gardener

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