Tag Archive: weeding


An early start at Blickling this week, and the first hour was spent harvesting some second early potatoes; variety ‘Nicola’. I don’t know these but have been told they are pretty tasty…’Charlotte’ is my favourite and I’ve just harvested a good crop in Old School Garden (I gather our neighbours enjoyed them too while we were away in Australia).

After that and reconnecting with some of the garden volunateers I missed last week, I went with them to the Parterre, which is looking splendid at present. The two Peters were continuing to paint the metal tunnel in the Walled Garden, with just the top half to do..involving painting from a platform.

The jobs in the Parterre were edging the grass and weeding. A fan of edging (it’s second to hoeing of the garden jobs  in my book), I found some reasonably sharp edging shears and managed to complete the set of four borders (new volunteer Tim had done one already) before departing home…to continue to get the home garden back to some semblance of order…

Progress is being made!


Further Information:

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A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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It’s nearly two months since I was last at Blickling and I was wondering how the place might be looking, as it’s getting into peak visiting season.

I had lots of catching up to do, but after a few weeks with very little floral colour it was wonderful opening the garden door and coming across the double borders in all their summer glory.

It was great meeting up with the gardening team of staff and volunteers. With the other chaps I went over to the Walled Garden and was bowled over with the sight that greeted me…fabulous summer colour and every area with something growing in it, including a wide range of fruit and veg, all looking very healthy.

And whilst away the metal tunnel that runs the length of the central path (erected and welded together just before I went away) is now being painted…something the ‘two Peters’ were tasked with continuing with their tins of black ‘Hammerite’ paint. It really does add great vertical interest to the garden and will look absolutely splendid as the apples hat have been planted alongside it reach up and over to create a fabulous ‘green walk’. I also noticed a couple more new bench seats set out on the side paths which add to the scene.

Fellow volunteer Chris and I set about weeding between the rows of various vegetables (including some rather vicious globe artichokes), mainly hoeing with the occasional hand forking out of any larger plants. This was relatively easy work on a pleasantly warm and sometimes showery day…it was good to be out in the open and tackling some physical tasks once more.

Another pleasing sight was the south-west quadrant of the garden , which was the last to be cultivated. a fine sward of grass in the shape of a key hole is surrounded by vibrant floral interest and all symbolically done to represent the Indian flag, to link in with an exhibition at the House about the Marquis of Lothian’s connections to that country.

The whole scene was quite a contrast to Old School Garden,which after six weeks of letting nature do her own thing, looked rather less neat and tidy, as you might imagine. Still, after a lot of urgent attention since returning from Australia, it is starting to look rather more cared for.

As I left a little early (together with a bunch of wonderful Dahlias from the Walled Garden), to get on with the clear up at home, it was nice to hear ‘great to have you back’ from a couple of the gardening team… it was great to be back.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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To Walter de Grasse

Dear Walter,

I hope you and Lise are well. I’ve had a good month in Old School Garden…though having neglected the weeding for a year or two, I’m now paying the price.

I’ve managed to put in a good few hours digging up the borders nearest to the house, removing ground elder and replanting (as well as dividing) the plants. It’s been a bit late I know, but most of the re-plants seem to be recovering from the shock of being dug up. I’ve planted up the two front-door pots with a purple-leaved Hebe called ‘True Love’…and I’m pleased to see the first flowers on the Candelabra Primulas I’ve grown from seed, a nice purply-pink..

 I’m about to plant my second early potatoes (later than usual to try to time them for our return form a long trip to Australia), and the Phacelia I sowed a few weeks ago, as a green manure, seems to be coming on.  I’m also pleased to report a good lot of blossom on the fruit trees, some of which I gave a heavy prune a few months ago. Let’s hope the bees do their job and we don’t get caught by a late frost. Tomorrow I’ll be putting the potatoes in and netting the strawberries, before the deer get in and nibble off the tops.

Plot for potatoes dug over..

I’ve also been doing  a little hoeing, and as one of my blog followers was interested in what my Wolf hoe looks like here’s a picture…definitely one of my favourite garden tools.

The Wolf hoe

We’ve just returned from a very enjoyable trip to the North west to visit our friends Nick and Felicity, and part of this was spent on a very enjoyable visit to Tatton Park, where I was blown away by the quality of the place and especially the Japanese Ggarden…I’ll post a few pictures on this trip soon.

I’m also pleased to report practical progress at the Grow Project in Norwich, where an enthusiastic team is getting some growing beds in place by using straw bales in what will be the Trials area in due course.

The next few months (through a combination of Green Flag Award judging, Jury Service, holidays and a six week trip to Australia) will see me with little time in the Garden, but hopefully I’ve done enough to keep it in reasonable shape until another burst of clearing and tidying (as well as my major push on restructuring the Kitchen Garden), towards late summer/autumn. Hopefully we can get over to see you at some point!

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Old School Gardener

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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

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Cordon gooseberries at the ready in the recently erected Fruit Cage...

Cordon gooseberries at the ready in the recently erected Fruit Cage…

Another morning session at Blickling this week. My hip was feeling good, but my trip to the doctors after this session revealed some moderate arthritis, so I’ll have to be careful, but hopefully I can increase the gardening…there’s certainly lots to do at home let alone anywhere else…

Today, we split into two groups, the ladies weeding in the main gardens, we chaps sent to the Walled garden for some weeding amongst the pots of roses (due to be planted out soon), and tickling over one of the beds, removing a few minor weeds as we went. I joined Norfolk Peter on the latter, whilst Rory and Gordon headed over to the roses.

For the roses...

For the roses…

We had a good chat about this and that and also talked about the plans for the walled garden. I’d found out from Project Manager, Mike that the new cold frames were due to be delivered and fixed in the next week or two.

ready for fitting- the base of the new cold frames next to one of the glasshouses

ready for fitting- the base of the new cold frames next to one of the glasshouses

I also spotted some of the metal arches that are to be erected over the main path, where apples will be trained up and over them. Rory showed me the holes he and Peter had dug last week in preparation for this.

And I was pleased to see that the new panels for the information board at the entrance had been fitted; they give some interesting insights into the history of the garden, recent achievements and something on the vision for the future.

As we finished off the border digging, Peter and I remarked on how well the bean tunnel we had built from hazel a couple of years ago was looking; it has  the string ties replaced each year, but it still looks good and solid!

wp_20170209_12_47_51_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

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WP_20160804_14_13_43_ProRemembered my camera this week! Norfolk Peter and I joined Chris in the Walled Garden in my latest session at Blickling. The ladies were detailed to the ‘Black Garden’ for some (as it turned out) frustrating ‘hands and knees’ weeding around the irises.

Jane and Pam weeding in the Black Border

Jane and Pam weeding in the Black Border

Project Manager Mike had already begun installing the heavy oak posts (all sourced from the Estate) that provide the support for the fruit bushes.Peter and I helped him to finish off the two areas by using lines to make sure the rows of posts (in threes) wer both straight and level, though one post in particular proved to be a pain…first we couldn’t get it level and then we installed it the wrong way round (the holes for the support wires went across rather than along the row)! Chris, mean time was doing great job trimming the edges of the grass paths.

There were plenty of visitors around, many offering compliments for the way the garden has been transformed over the last 18 months or so, and inevitably a few asking what the purple edging plant along the main paths was….as reported last week, this Catmint (Nepeta x faasennii) often confuses visitors, many of whom think it is lavender …perhaps a sign is needed, or maybe we should resist this as it at least is one way (albeit repetitive) of engaging with visitors!

WP_20160804_13_44_23_ProApart from some subtle final positioning to make the tops of the posts roughly line up (sometimes involving standing on an upturned dustbin and using a ‘comedy hammer’ as Chris called it- a large rubber mallet), this was a fairly straightforward job. The oak posts seem really heavy but even so, as the rows are rather long Mike had arranged with fellow gardener Rob to put in some angled supports to help resist the forces that would otherwise pull over the posts- I know about this from bitter experience at Old School Garden , where my posts are gradually toppling inwards with the weight of the blackberry bushes.

Peter and I dug the holes for these angled wooden supports as far as we could in the time available, and Rob and Mike began to put them in the ground, secured with a couple of stakes at their bases to, once more, help to prevent the whole assembly ‘walking’ forwards.

I also took time out to photograph the dahlia border, which is coming to its peak…here’s a gallery…

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Mike told us he’s ordered four new metal benches for the walled garden- cream, simple designs that will look rather stylish…the picture below is of a two person bench, we’ll be getting a three person version.

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_20160505_10_34_04_ProA short session at Blickling this week, as I needed to get home to cut the grass before we head off for Scotland. I mentioned how the Tulips were looking great in the Double Borders last week. Well, I can say that as I turned into them again this week, I was truly ‘stunned’- a word I tend to resist because it has been over-used and devalued somewhat (rather like ‘awesome’ and ‘epic’!).

They must be at ‘peak tulip’ and in some instances are just about to go over, but the mid morning sun made them stand out marvellously.

After recovering (!) I headed off to the Walled Garden once more, and was soon joined by Norfolk Pete (who was detailed to start constructing the wonderful oak welcome sign board near the main entrance), Aussie Pete and Chris , who set about lightly forking over and hoeing, which is what I began with too. Project Manager Mike had heard the weather was going to be dry and warm- so perfect conditions for hoeing. This is  a job I really enjoy- a bit like scything – once you get into the flowing motion, you can lose yourself…..

Well, by the time I left, we had been over about an eighth of the main four growing areas, just loosening the topsoil and removing weeds and large stones, all ready for some planting out. It was satisfying and we paused to share experiences, jokes and general banter as usual; this time comparing our efforts at tracing our family trees amongst other topics.

Mike, meanwhile was finishing off one of the few areas of gravel path still to be completed, and what a difference seeing those paths -plus the grassed ones- makes to the overall impact of the garden.

So, I miss my slot next week as I shall be up on the Isle of Skye; I’m really looking forward to this break with my wife and 6 old friends, lets hope the weather and midges are kind!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

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Number four in this new series of posts took a bit of pondering. I wanted to capture the importance of ‘cutting out the competition'(weeding) and at the same time find an object to stand in for all those other tools of cultivation we gardeners use to loosen, till and maintain the soil; for seed sowing, planting, and incorporating stuff to benefit plants- manure and other organic matter as well as inorganic fertilisers. So I went for probably my favourite tool in this category, a hand fork.

The image above also shows my preferred model in this wide range of available hand forks; one with a shaped handle and relatively short, stainless steel prongs.

Apart from the effort to kneel or crouch (my back and knees aren’t what they were), weeding with a hand fork (or by hand) must be one of the most satisfying of gardening jobs. Taking out shallowly rooted weeds and other unwanted growth around your preferred specimens, especially in sandy loam soil like we have here in Old School Garden, it is a relatively easy task too.

And once those rows of veg, stretches of mixed border or pots of spring bulbs have been cleared you can stand back and admire how you’ve improved the presentation of your plants; the finely worked, bare soil also provides a wonderful foil to all that fresh foliage and, later, the hues of the flowers and fruit.

And we mustn’t forget those other cultivation and weeding tools; the forks, spades, rakes and tillers that all help to keep your soil healthy, alive and weed free.

Old School Gardener

In among the ferns and foxgloves in the Orangery Garden

In among the ferns and foxgloves in the Orangery Garden

My latest session at Blickling was working in the Orangery Garden alongside the other volunteers. The aim – to weed the borders and thin out the latest crop of foxglove seedlings. It seemed only a week or two ago that we were here doing the same…

Still, despite an aching back the following day, it was worth the forking over to see the newly turned (and surprisingly damp) soil around the neatly spaced seedlings.

Dappled shade makes for a distinctive habitat

Dappled shade makes for a distinctive habitat

The grasses and late summer flowers are still looking good in the double borders, though the parterre garden is now on the wane and slipping slowly into autumn. It’s also that time of year for hedge cutting (as I know from Old School Garden) and fellow volunteer Peter was detailed to strim the grass alongside part of the mixed natural hedge that divides the gardens from the wider estate. The gardeners will soon be cutting this back.

Inside the Gardeners' Bothy- we meet up, sign in and out and have lunch here...

Inside the Gardeners’ Bothy- we meet up, sign in and out and have lunch here…

Did you know that ‘strimming’ (a compound word of string and trim) is called ‘Whipper Snipping’ in Australia?! (thanks to my daughter’s boyfriend Shane for that one).

Do you recall the mystery plant I mentioned in my last Blickling post? Well it turns out to be Chelone obliqua (or ‘Turtlehead’ or ‘Twisted Shell flower’)…Here’s a picture of the example at Blickling…alongside a rather more floriferous shot from the RHS….

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

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