Tag Archive: reepham

To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

This has been a month of really ‘getting going’ in Old School Garden. My hip and back have held up well so I’ve gradually increased my labouring times in the garden…I managed about 8 hours yesterday!

Whilst I’ve made inroads into the weeding- not an easy task with ground elder entangled ‘big time’ among the borders- it’s also been a time of upheaval, especially in the Kitchen Garden.

Here I’ve commenced my major reorganisation by removing the various trellises and posts – for reuse in a different position. I’ve also planted out a new row of summer fruiting raspberries and relocated a row of autumn fruiting too. At the same time the currant bushes and gooseberries have all been moved around, so the new grand plan is taking shape.

Relocated summer raspberries

I plan to use the trellis to more clearly separate off the Kitchen Garden and at the same time create an arched entrance which will be repeated along the sides of the first beds to create a rose walkway- I’ve recently bought six ‘Compassion’ climbing roses which I’m looking forward to seeing clamber up wooden uprights and along either a wooden bar or perhaps a rope swag.

In destructive mode (or perhaps ‘reconstructive’ would be better?) I’ve also removed the three old stumps of a large Ash tree that once overlooked the kitchen garden and which latterly have become clothed in ivy that has got out of hand. I must say the area looks a lot neater and will also open up a corner of the kitchen garden to more light too. It was facinating seeing how the process of decay has taken hold of the inner core of these stumps and how the material gradually reverts to something resembling soil…along with innumerable chrysalis’ of beetles and other rotting wood feeding critters.

With the warmer weather and longer days, this is the time to really get stuck into the garden, so I hope that you and Ferdy are also enjoying yourselves in your beautiful plot. I cut the grass here for the first time the other day and doesn’t that just improve the look of the most untidy garden?!

Today I’ve been to an interesting talk about the ‘Walled Kitchen Garden’ given by a local garden designer. This was very enjoyable and expanded my knowledge of the history and some of the old practices used in these wonderful places. Of course, as you will have been reading I’m really enjoying my volunteering at Blickling with its wonderful regenerated walled garden. I can’t believe its only 18 months since that project began..so much has been achieved.

I’ve mentioned the Allotment Project at Reepham High School, I think. I’m pleased to say that the greenhouse I managed to dismantle and reconstruct is in situ and hopefully it won’t be long before the glass is in and it’s being used to propagate seeds and maybe even grow tomatoes. And I must also mention that the project was the runner-up in a Norfolk ecological competition recently. Well deserved, so congratulations to Matt Willer and all the volunteers at the project!

I also visited a recently established Organic Market Garden at Booton, next door to Reepham the other day. Eves Hill Veg Co. is a social enterprise set up by Hannah Claxton who is gradually relocating herself from her current base in London (where she teaches organic growing) to this base, where currently a number of volunteers are engaged in getting the year’s growing season underway. I was pleased to meet Hannah and some of the volunteers and I wish them every success; maybe I can be of help to them at some point too. I was also grateful to be able to collect a trailer load of compost for free from them; courtesy of a local industrial scale composting facility (which composts household waste). The compost isn’t very fertile but it’s lovely stuff for building soil structure and for mulching, which is how I’ll be using it here.

Thanks for the compost Hannah!

Well, old friend, I think it’s time to be planning my day in the garden tomorrow…I think it’ll be a combination of more border clearance, ground elder removal, replenishing the compost in some long-term potted shrubs, and sowing some Phacelia. As we are going to be away for a longish period in a few weeks, I’m not planning to grow much by way of food this year. So this ‘Green Manure’ is perfect for covering the ground and then enriching it as it’s dug in. Happy gardening!

Old School Gardener









wp_20170225_12_20_02_proTo Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I’m making progress in Old School Garden– well, sort of. Having a solid five hour stint the other day I was pleased to see some of the front borders looking tidier, and hopefully, largely clear of the ground elder that had started to take over. Here ate the results; both borders now have repositioned roses which will eventually have a spread of Stachys byzantina surrounding them and for late summer/autumn a good number of Nerine bowdenii

Part of this day also involved removing the large clumps of Nepeta that had become too over powering around the roses. I have these in a barrow ready to fill another border that’s in the process of being cleared (and some will also go along the edges of a tunnel of climbing roses. I picked up some Convallaria bulbs (‘Lily of the Valley’) the other day and plan to under plant the Nepeta with these to provide a nice flowering combination- and some scent.

I’ve also carried on with the pruning and tidying elsewhere, but this is a long job and I can see quite a few bonfires on the way! The old cherry tree stump that has been acting as a base for a bird bath has finally rotted away in the ground so I’ve removed it (more firewood!).

wp_20170225_12_19_26_proI can report that my hip is holding up well so far, and I’m (very) gradually building up my muscle strength. I’m due to see a physiotherapist next week, so maybe I’ll have some other useful advice on what else I should be doing. The other day we had that ‘named storm’ called Doris pass by. How were you affected? I imagine possibly quite badly living up north as you do. Did you lose power, have any upturned trees etc? Fortunately we got away fairly lightly; a few garden furniture items fell over, and one pot toppled and cracked…

wp_20170225_08_11_21_proStill, the days are lengthening and some late winter/early spring flowers are doing their stuff…

I had a very interesting visit to a horticultural and associated workshop called ‘The Mount’ which is located next door to (and used by) a unit for those with mental health problems on the edge of Norwich. It’s been going for about 25 years and I was inspired to hear about the many ways the staff engage the service users in all manner of construction and growing projects. We could see an outdoor oven in the course of construction and took a look at the greenhouses and raised beds which are used extensively to grow all sorts of food and other crops. ..

Around 20 service users are involved regularly. I joined a small group of people interested in setting up something similar at a nearby Psychiatric Hospital. We had a good talk about their plans and ideas and I’m going to be involved in helping to develop the project. You may recall I mentioned before my role in a similar project called ‘The Grow Organisation’ on the other side of Norwich. I hope that we can help these and other projects to work together and perhaps to form a useful network of horticultural therapy projects in the area to benefit a wide range of people with mental and other health issues.

My other garden-related project involved spending nearly six hours last week dismantling a greenhouse!  Whilst doing our regular weekly shop we spotted an advert offering the greenhouse for free to anyone willing to dismantle it. We immediately thought of ‘The Allotment Project’ at the local High School and as we suspected the leader of that project, Matt, was enthusiastic about getting it. So having transported it over a few days ago (sadly there were a couple of glass breakages in transit and I had a gashed head for my troubles) yesterday I  went over to help with the process of installing it. Matt and I discussed location and settled, eventually, on a spot opposite the existing poly tunnel. Here are some  pictures…

Fortunately Matt had a few Railway Sleepers which we decided to use as the base, sunk in the ground and which the base of the frame could be screwed to. It was just as tricky reassembling the ends of the house as it was dismantling them- lots of nuts and bolts and very little room to get in a spanner. Still, I left yesterday with the base well on the way to being installed and the frame in a state where it can be fixed. So I’ll be returning next week to help finish off the job. A couple of other guys worked on finishing off the Chicken coop (formerly a childrens’ play house!) and I was also pleased to see that the Broad Beans I’d helped some students sow in the Autumn were coming along nicely (see pics above).

Back home, I’ve reached some conclusions on rearranging the kitchen garden, so hope in the next few weeks to get some of the trellis moved and a new fruit cage created for the raspberries and currants. I’m yet to finalise the position of the three gooseberry bushes I have, but I’m going to take a chance on putting these out in a sunny position in the open. I hope that you and Lise are looking forward to your spring break in Switzerland…you must tell us all about it when we see you at Easter.

 Old School Gardener







Thanks to a new wave of Year 12 volunteers, two very kind parents (Mr Fox and Mr Southgate), Mr Crick and his construction group, Mrs Brook and her ‘Care of the Countryside group’, Roy the horse poo man, Mike and Keith and Whitwell Railway station, Malcolm at Reepham Hardware store, the wisdom and help of Mr Nigel Boldero, the kind donations of unwanted garden tools from staff, students and parents, Mr Ernie Adams and the site team and, of course, our regular Saturday volunteers, the winter work is now very nearly at end down at the allotment site. Without these people, the Allotment Project would not be developing as quick and with so much dedication and devotion for a third year since February 2015.

The raised beds
We have made some major improvements to the raised beds. Due to the fact the water table is very shallow and often causing us some flooding issues, we have had to make the raised beds even higher. On our largest raised bed we used a technique borrowed from the ‘permaculture’ gardener Sepp Holzer whereby we buried dead branches and leaves under top soil. This not only aides drainage but it will create long lasting nutrients as this organic matter rots away over time.

r1Just before the start of the February half-term, and thanks to Whitwell Railway Station, we used more kindly donated railway sleepers to heighten two other small raised beds. Again, this means we will be growing crops well above the water table and we will be able to create our own new fertile soil that it not clay based (the allotment site mainly sits on clay).

r2The soak away/rainwater catcher/harvester
In an effort to be super green and sustainable we continue to work towards supplying the allotment site with its own water supply by catching rainwater from surface runoff. Thanks to Mrs Brook’s ‘Care of the Countryside’ group, Mr Crick’s construction group, Mr Southgate’s brick donations and of course the Year 12 volunteers who dug the whole another metre deeper, we now have a much more soundly made and reliable soak away area to harvest rainwater. This water will soon be pumped out using a simple solar powered pump into our two 1000 litre containers.r3

The polytunnel
Everything has been reorganised in the polytunnel and everything is now ready for the new growing season. There are two new raised beds, using old wooden pallets, to hopefully grow tomatoes again for a second time. These new raised beds mean we no longer have to buy and use grow bags as the tomato plants will have all they need from the soil we have created for them.

r7The fruit cage
The Year 12 volunteers have improved the inside and outside of the fruit cage. Many thanks to Mr Southgate for donated unwanted bricks which we used to make a new path so the strawberries don’t get trampled on! The ceiling of the fruit cage was also raised so volunteers no longer have to crouch!

r9Other pathways
As we are getting more volunteers it was only sensible and practical to improve access to the allotment site. Thanks to the College Enrichment group a new path has been built using old broken bricks (thanks again Mr Southgate) as a drainage layer and paving slabs kindly donated by Mr Raggett. This means no more muddy and slippery paths in and out of the allotment.

r10Compost and horse manure
In an effort to be even more sustainable and green, we have started to create our own compost area. This is made using green waste from the allotment and leaves kindly gathered by the site team and the contractors Countrywide. Old straw bales, food waste/tea bags from the staff room/canteen and those who fly-tip the countryside have also all been composted. Thanks to Roy (the horse poo man) from Reepham Rotary Club we have been well supplied with ancient horse manure that is fantastic for growing our produce in. Thanks a million Roy.

r11r12Chicken coop
Hopefully by March we will have a small brood of chickens down at the allotment site. All preparations are being made to build the chicken coop on a limited budget. Most of this will be paid for by the East of England Coop token scheme which is currently operating in Briston and Melton Constable Coop stores. Thanks to Callum Pell who kindly donated a disused and battered old children’s playhouse. Thanks mainly to Mr Fox, this playhouse has been reassembled and will soon to become a new chicken house for the chickens to live in and lay their eggs. Molly Brown (Year 12) has taken the lead on this mini-project and has organised obtaining some hens for us. We intend to sell these eggs to the school canteen for them to use in their cooking.

Spring 2017
Spring will be here soon which means will we will start sowing and propagating seeds in order to plant in our raised beds. Thanks to Solana (a local potato seed company) we have secured a great many seed potatoes that we will be planting in March when they arrive. In other news, we were approach by the company Adnams who run a ‘Food for Thought’ scheme. If we had decided to join up, it would have meant that Adnams would buy our produce and use it in their restaurants over East Anglia. They could have also given us £1000 on top of the money given in payment for our produce. After some careful thought, and an open discussion with our regular volunteers and others, it was decided that this would undermine the whole purpose of the Allotment Project. Food should be grown locally and for the local community nor should it have to travel hundreds/thousands of miles to get to us. This should be the message for the children to understand. Food production should be both sustainable and environmentally friendly. In time we are planning that more and more food can be sold to the school canteen. It would be amazing, maybe one day, if we could provide all food products for the school canteen. This remains a dream.

r15Thank you very much for taking the time to read this update. If you would like to help out one lunchtime for the younger volunteers I would be extremely grateful. I hope that this year, now that we are getting more and more established, there can be a shared responsibility amongst other staff to help run the Allotment Project. One person ‘running the show’ is not sustainable. There will be another seasonal update in the summer.
Thank you again for taking the time to read about the ‘goings on’ down at the Allotment Project.

Matt Willer
Staff volunteer at RHSC’s Allotment Project


c2w1drbwgaasqt_-jpg-largeMore progress to report at the food growing project at the local high school in Reepham.

Teacher Matt Willer and his colleagues have started to broaden out the participation of students at the project, most recently extending this to a group focused on ‘Care of the Countryside’, who also carry out regular sessions at a local Field Study Centre. by all accounts this was a great success, with the students putting in a full shift to improve the recently dug soakaway.

Another recent project has been to create a brick path using recycled bricks. It’s planned to fill in the gaps with some fine wood  chippings.


Matt is also interested in the possibility of offering qualifications in association with a local college – and maybe also seeing the wider, unused site developed for more ‘full blown’ agriculture…all very relevant for this School set in the heart of rural Norfolk.

Oh, and a recent plea for surplus gardening equipment has resulted in a good number of additions to the project’s tool shed; I donated a wheelbarrow and selection of border and hand tools, which will also also give me a bit more space in my shed! Here’s just a few of the donations so far…


Old School Gardener


dsc_1100551You may recall that I’ve become involved with a food growing project at the local high school in Reepham. ‘The Allotment Project’ is the brainchild of teacher Matt Willer who has put energy and ideas into action on a not very promising (very wet) plot at the back end of the School playing field.

Matt and his colleagues have got an enthusiastic group of students working regularly during lunch breaks, including most recently a group working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Matt kindly sent me an update which is very encouraging.

You might recall that I suggested that they might like to sow a ‘green manure’ to give cover and eventually added nutrition, toa large raised bed and Matt says the mustard plants are growing really well (see below).

dsc_1101Also, as you will see by the photographs, the Sixth Formers have done a great job at preparing the largest raised bed by using old bricks (donated by a parent who is a builder).

Matt is also now thinking of following Sepp Holzer’s very interesting idea of a raised bed, usually referred to as ‘Hugelkultur’ (see below). I have never seen this in practice and it would be great to experiment with this permaculture-inspired approach to ‘no dig’ food growing.

Another teacher at the School, Mr.Crick, and his construction group, have also joined in the project and built a compound around the well to make it a bit safer, more attractive and organised. You may recall in my earlier post on this project how Matt and the students have dug this well into which the playing field run off descends, and from here he plans to pump it into a large storage container from where it can be drawn off for irrigation.

I also hear that the broad beans I helped the children to sow are on the way up!

Old School Gardener


An active lunch hour at Reepham High School and College Allotment Project

An active lunch hour at Reepham High School and College Allotment Project

I’ve written a little about this Allotment Project before. Headed up by enthusiastic teacher Matt Willer, it provides pupils of all ages at Reepham High School and College with some extra curricular ‘outside classroom’ experience of growing food. I’ve offered to provide some help and the other day I spent an hour with them.

A lot of older boys turned up and Matt set them to shifting bark across the surrounds to some raised beds. Matt had also brought in two old car tyres he’d found, and these were duly filled with soil ready for planting up; another example of Matt’s creative approach to recycling in the project.

How many boys does it take to shift a pile of bark....

How many boys does it take to shift a pile of bark….

I was pleased to see some faces that I recognised from a few years ago, when I was providing help at nearby Cawston Primary School; it was good to see these youngsters had retained their interest in growing. It was also nice that they also recognised me!

Another good thing was to see that Matt had taken my ideas of sowing some green manure on a couple of large raised beds, and that the mustard seeds had germinated and hopefully will go on to cover the ground and be ready to dig in early next spring.

Apart from the many boys, some other teachers (one of whom I’d worked with on gardening at the school a couple of years ago)  brought a group of girls down who are part of an extra curricuar group interested in science and technology. I worked with them to sow some broad beans in four raised beds, explaining why we sow now, the benefits of broad beans (apart from the delicious flavour) and we prepared the soil, measured out rows, sowed and labelled each row. We even had a few seeds left so that they could take a personal plant home in a pot and see how their’s grows in comparison with those put in at the Allotment.

For once, a picture of me talking to the girls about broad beans...yawn

For once, a picture of me talking to the girls about broad beans…yawn

It was good fun and I look forward to my next session there.

Old School Gardener

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!


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

Want to improve the attractiveness and functioning of your garden? Then read on...

Want to improve the attractiveness and functioning of your garden? Then read on…

The Reepham Learning Community, here in Norfolk, offers a range of courses in the evenings and during the day in a wide range of topics. I’m hoping to run my second course on Garden Design, commencing next Monday, 23rd September, 7pm – 9pm at Reepham High School & College.

It’s a six session programme using a mixture of discussion, presentation and surgery – type advice to individuals who want to apply some design thinking  to their own gardens. The course will help you:

  • think about what you want from your garden
  • use different ways of appraising and surveying your current plot
  • with an introduction to different garden styles
  • understand what is meant by strong garden structure and appropriate, attractive planting, and
  • how to put this all together in a scale drawing of your future plans.

It also features a garden visit to see some of the principles of garden design in practice and encourage a critical approach to assessing gardens.

The first course involved 9 participants, a good-sized group allowing for a healthy level of discussion and individual attention. I know those that took part felt better equipped to tackle their own garden development after sharing issues and ideas, seeing examples of well designed gardens and picking up some key skills and tips along the way.

The next course is close to achieving a viable number of participants, so if you or someone you know is interested in getting some help in designing their own garden then please see more information at www.reephamlearningcommunity.co.uk or call Sandie Athow on 01603 308133.

Oh, and by the way, later in the coming week I’ll be starting a new series of articles focusing on design  tips to improve your garden. The series-  called’ Design my Garden’ –  will start with a few thoughts about designing a garden for someone who has some sort of disability.

Old School Gardener

ImageGarden Design Course in Norfolk

Following the successful pilot of ‘Your Garden- by Design’ last autumn, I’m pleased that Reepham Learning Community have agreed to run an extended version of this course beginning at the end of the month. 8 two-hour sessions (including one garden visit) will use a variety of methods and materials to help those who want to improve their own gardens through design.

Based at Reepham College in central Norfolk, the course is a step-by-step walk through the design process, showing how to apply this to your own garden (big or small) from basic surveying and appraisal techniques, forming ideas about what the garden is for and how it might look, to outline plans and 3-D visions of  different ideas as well as the important things needed to ensure successful delivery of attractive, practical plans.

Group review and discussion of the evolving designs will enable participants to develop a critical and creative approach to garden design and a large number of reference books will be on hand as well as links to other sources of information. Case studies and in-class exercises will help participants to develop their skills.

Green (and its many shades) is one of the most important colours in garden design (arguably it’s a more important feature than the ‘white’ in Vita Sackville-West’s garden at Sissinghurst). Gardens which feature plants with bold, contrasting foliage can be really effective and the Course will introduce colour, texture and form as three key ideas in planting design. The contribution that ‘hard’ landscaping (paths, walls, furniture and built structures) makes to successful garden design will also be covered.

Participants don’t need to have any particular skills- the course and associated support should lead to practical ideas which can be put into action. The eight sessions will cover:

  • Starting out- what do I want from my garden?IMG_4931
  • Surveying and appraising your garden and functional layouts
  • Garden Styles and Forms
  • Structure in your Garden- the third dimension
  • Planting- the fourth dimension
  • Garden visit (day time)
  • Final designs
  • Delivering your Design

Check out the link to the Reepham Learning Community for more information- I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of enthusiastic garden makers!

Quizzicals- answers to the last two:

  • Morrisey’s mother’s mother- Granny Smith
  • Someone who is out get you – Anemone

A couple of gardening ditties for you:

‘Livin’ Dill’

‘Juke Box Chive’

(note to self= must move away from herbs and spices for a while…)

Old School Gardener

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