Tag Archive: pumpkins

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


P1000307It was great seeing how the pumpkins and squashes that I’d help to plant only a couple of months ago had taken over a large part of the walled garden.

On my most recent visit to blickling, together with new volunteer Gordon, I picked a large number and many heavy weight fruits on a bright, sunny day. We then managed to fill two trailers with the remaining foliage and stems and raked over the ground to leave it for weedkilling action; Project Manager Mike doesn’t like to use chemicals like this, but manpower is limited so it’s a must do in the short term to keep the ground under control.

The pumpkins will probabaly be used in the Hall’s forthcoming Hallowe’en events and the squashes in the restaurant, so its good to see that the developing kitchen garden is continuing to be of practical value.

After that we joined the ladies in weeding the well stocked veg patch along the south facing wall. This all looks very neat, healthy and tidy, despite the threat of rabbits and pigeons.

The Gardens continue to show a great range of colours and textures with Japanese Anemones, Sedums and various grass flowers now adding their sublety to the mix…

Last week I commented on how pleased I was at being able to identify (with their latin botanical names) three plants I was asked about by visitors. I said then it was probably a fluke, and sure enough this day, when asked by a visitor to name a rather unusual pink flower in the double borders, I was stumped- but then again so was another volunteer and one of the gardening staff! I’m trying to find out its name; I think it might be a Salvia of some sort- I’ll post a picture, and its name in my next Blickling post!

WP_20150917_14_13_26_ProFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


WP_20150611_15_48_05_ProTwo weeks on and I was finally back in the Walled Garden at Blickling this week.

I arrived later than usual as I was giving a talk to a group called ‘Inspired Gardeners’ in Aylsham. 25 gardeners were inspired enough to turn up and hear me talk about Water Management in the Methodist Hall. What a splendid group they are, with my session but one in a packed programme of talks and garden visits to keep them on their (senior) toes! I’ll put together a precis of the Water Management talk and feature it in a future article.

The handful of other garden volunteers were hard at it weeding under the large Mulberry Tree in the Walled Garden, but I was detailed by Project Manager Mike to help him plant out some Pumpkins, the first things to go into the newly cultivated borders in the Walled Garden! The digging on one of the hottest days of the year so far certainly generated some perspiration, even after only half an hour, before we paused for lunch.

After lunch we pressed on and in total put in some 36 plants of different varieties. Mike’s thinking is to get something going in the new borders, even if it isn’t part of the full and final plan for the different spaces, just to get the ground covered and producing something; pumpkins with their ‘space invader’ habit are perfect for that.

After loosening up the bottom of each generous planting hole we filled them with plenty of farmyard manure, mixed this with loose soil and put in the well-watered plants, which had been inside the (very full) Greenhouse. We created a saucer-like depression around each mounded plant to encourage water gathering around the roots and then topped off each with some organic ‘rocket fuel’ and a generous mulch of more manure (having given each plant a good soaking).

Very satisfying seeing something going into the new borders, and hopefully it won’t be long before more things are introduced. Certainly the irrigation seems to have been fully installed and I gather the metal edging for the paths will be done in the next month or two as the other members of the gardening team have a little more time on their hands to help with this mammoth job.

I mentioned in my last post a rather lovely ‘artist’s impression’ of the regenerated Walled Garden and I’m grateful to Mike for sending me a copy, which I set out for you to see below. It was done by local artist Fiona Gowen.

Blickling Walled GardenA3 (2)Having a few minutes to spare I planted a few Basil and Lettuce plants near the front of the main cultivated strip of the Walled Garden, which all in all is starting to look very good, as the various vegetables and flowers are bulking out and putting on colour.

I also had the chance to see the beautiful, blousy Peonies which, two weeks on, were now getting fully into their stride.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


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