Thursday, 4 October 2018

A Drench Of 50 Million Nematodes

2 Packets of Nemasys L

The dreaded vine weevil has been mentioned in the blog on two previous occasions, see blog entry 27th July 2012 'Vine Weevil Damage' and 11th November 2009 'Vine Weevil'. The chosen method for treatment against this pest has been the use of a systemic insecticide, see blog entry 1st October 2013 'Root Drench Against Vine Weevil', but today this has changed. This insecticide contains the neonicotinoid thiacloprid which has been linked to the reduction in the honey bee immune system so a biological control, Nemasys L, containing the nematode Steinernema kraussei has been chosen to protect the plants against the weevil. It is not the fist time the team have used nematodes, five years ago they were used to treat the lawn in the Provost's garden for chafer grubs, see blog entry 7th November 2013 'Nemasys G', A Biological Treatment For Chafer Grubs'. Having calculated the application rate, the contents of the packet, 50 million nematodes, were mixed with the required amount of water and applied as a drench to the soil using watering cans. In the nursery the plants that are in pots have now been treated and another drench using the nematodes in the second packets will be applied over the next few weeks to treat the many display containers out in the gardens.  

 50 Million Nematodes

Friday, 28 September 2018

Labelling 750 Bottles Of 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice'

1 of 2 metal cages full of juice filled bottles

This year's fruit harvest from the college orchard have been pressed and the result, 750 bottles of 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice' that now need to be shrink band wrapped, labelled and boxed. 

Ready for shrink band wrapping and labelling

Preparing the boxes

Bottles waiting to be shrink wrapped

White shrink band wraps

Kieron, Peter and Ali spent the morning at Waterperry Gardens working together to process the bottles. First each bottle was placed into the heated shrink banding machine to heat seal a white shrink wrap band around the cap and neck. The banded bottles were placed into trays, loaded onto a small trolley and wheeled over to the labelling machine for the large label to be struck on to the front of the bottles. 

Into the heat

Trolley over to the labelling machine


Main front label going on to the bottle

Small 'Best Before' label

With the large label on the front of the bottle, a much smaller label, 'Best Before Dec 2018', was manually stuck on to the back of the bottle. Fifteen bottles were placed into each box and sealed shut with tape. The juice will be on sale to the students, staff and alumni during the last three weeks of the current Michaelmas term.

Labelling and ready for boxing

A full box of 15 bottles

Ready for storage

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Planting Snake's Head Fritillary In the Meadow

Snake's Head Fritillary in the meadow, 4th April 2017

5 x 100 bulbs and bulb planter

The planting of Snake's Head Fritillary in the meadow area at the far end of the Provost's garden began in 2015 and in subsequent years has continued with a total of 900 bulbs planted so far. Pleased with the results, see the top photograph, another 500 bulbs have been planted this morning. A long handled bulb planter was used to create the holes in the meadow, the steel head of the planter pushed down into the grass then lifted out with the plug of soil contained within it. Bulbs were placed into the bottom of the hole, a mix of between 1-5 bulbs, then another hole was made forcing the previous plug of soil out of the head. This plug of soil is then placed back into the other hole covering the bulbs, the team are looking forward to the display in the spring.

500 Snake's Head Fritillary Bulbs

2 in the hole

A plugged hole


Monday, 24 September 2018

No Rush This Year To Take Cuttings

Clean mist unit

Washed pots and clean, sterilised cutting knives

18th September, First day of cutting

The long range forecast for Oxford shows no signs of low overnight temperatures with the dreaded first frost so there has been no rush this year to take cuttings from the plants needed to create next year's container and border displays. The mist unit has been cleaned and a new layer of silver sand has been added to the base for the pots to stand on above the heated cable. The cutting knives have been cleaned and sterilised and the plastic pots washed in preparation for this day.
Out in the gardens this morning, healthy, non-flowering shoots were selected from some of the tender plants and placed in a shopping bag for safe transfer back to greenhouse for processing. Emptying the contents of the bag on to the recently cleaned work surface, each stem was cut beneath a leaf joint/node (nodal cut) leaving the cutting about 2-3 inches long. The leaves, just above the nodal cut, were cut off and the soft growing tip pinched off. When several cuttings had been prepared the base of each were dipped in to hormone rooting powder to cover the cuts, inserted around the inside of the rim of a small, shallow pot of seed compost, watered in and then placed in the mist unit. They will remain in the comfort of the mist unit until rooted.

The first cuttings in the mist unit

24th September, A full mist unit

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Long Tradition Of Swans On The College Lake

The college has a long tradition of swans on its lake and it seems appropriate that in the final year of the blog the story of the swans has drawn to a heartwarming conclusion with the successful rearing of two cygnets. The story began during the blog's first year, 2009, with the arrival of a juvenile swan that, if swans can do such a thing, introduced itself to Ali whilst she was working on the herbaceous border.

2009, Let me introduce myself

Ali has never forgotten this introduction and so began her fascination with the swans on the college lake, she likes to believe that this young swan was part of the pair that arrived in 2012 having spent the ensuing time finding a mate having already found a place it wanted to live and rear its family.
Since the pair first arrived their lives have been observed by Ali, the highs and lows have been documented in this blog. 
Last year was the first successful year for the swans with the rearing of three cygnets, the first time in five years that the eggs had hatched, see blog entry 25th May 2017 'Cygnets On The Lake'. (This entry provides the link for the blog entries from March 2012). The cygnets and the adults remained on the lake for just 10 days before moving onto the Oxford Canal then returning to the lake for a single day two months later, see blog entry 27th July 2017 'The Swans Return With Three Cygnets'.
This year has been another successful year for the resident swan pair but, unlike last year, they have divided their time between the lake and the canal allowing Ali to watch the cygnets grow and develop into juveniles.
The nest was built in the same place on the island, the eggs hatched between 21st-22nd May and five cygnets were first seen on the lake on the 24th May. They stayed a little longer than last year, leaving for the canal 16 days later, but returned every week throughout the summer until, after 16 weeks, the adults separated from their cygnets as the youngsters became more independent and returned to the lake without them. The series of photographs and a video show their journey from May to September.

The new young family on the lake 25th May 2018
Cygnets on the nest 29th May 2018
Riding on Dad's back

8th June, Four cygnets getting out of the lake

8th June, Leaving the lake for the canal, we will be back.

We are back

27th June, Growing up fast
3rd August, First sign of white feathers on the wing tips

28th August, I have wings!

30th August, Just like Dad

30th August, Just like Mum

On our own, cygnets on the canal

Ali is not the only member of the college who has kept a record of the swans, the following is a passage from the memoir of Provost Lys (Francis John Lys, Provost 1919-1946). Kindly provided by the college archivist, Emma, this piece shows has history repeats itself, a pen dying and a pair of swans of the same sex!

"When one of the swans disappeared, I got rid of the other and bought a new pair early in 1914, the cob in its first year, and the pen, got from a different place, in its second. They began to breed in 1914, generally laid a clutch of nine eggs, sometimes hatching and bringing up all nine, perhaps more often eight. After two or three years the keeper of the Scottish Zoo at Edinburgh asked if I could send him cygnets, and for some years sent crates and took them at £1 apiece, which provided a useful little fund for replacing losses among the ducks. He thought they were specially strong cygnets. I suppose it was about the year 1936 when their broods became progressively smaller, and their breeding seemed to be coming to an end. The pen died on her nest in 1938. In this year instead of getting a new pair of swans from different places, as I had done more wisely in 1914, I bought a couple from Messrs. McLean & Wormald, in Norfolk, the chief breeders of ornamental water fowl, from whom I had obtained some ducks. They appeared later to be of the same sex, we could not be sure which. Messrs. McLean & Wormald were to replace them in 1939, but gave up business because of the war and could not do so. Julian Huxley, then secretary of the London Zoo, asked the Director of the Edward Grey ornithological institute to determine the sex of the couple which we had. He unfortunately relied on information which he thought he got from a deaf old man employed in the garden who knew nothing about the birds, and reported that he thought they were both females. We afterwards concluded rightly that they were both cobs. I had great difficulty in war time in procuring a pen. At last I got one from the Vintners’ Company, but its age apparently was not kown, and as it laid only small clutches, it was probably old. Its wing also was broken by a ruffianly visitor who seems to have struck it with a heavy stick. It was permanently disfigured and died this year, whether owing to this injury or to age."

Christmas card 1933, 8 cygnets June 1933

Also provided by Emma is a photograph of a drawing of swans on the lake by Sydney Paviere from 1922  and a photograph of a stained glass window in the Lower Library depicting swans on the lake. "The window commemorates Henry Allison Pottinger who graduated with a first in 1847 and was Lecturer in Modern History and Law from 1865. He was elected a fellow in 1883 and became Librarian in 1884. Pottinger is shown sitting at a table among his books.  In the background he is seen looking at swans in the lake"

Swans on the lake by Sydney Paviere

A stained glass window in the Lower Library depicting swans on the lake.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Harvesting The Fruit For 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice' 2018

Picking The Apples From The Blenheim Seedling Tree

Throughout the hot, summer months the fruit trees in the orchard have been dropping their crop and, therefore, reducing the yield that will be used for pressing into this year's 'Worcester College Apple & Pear Juice'. The dropping of the fruit has influenced the team's decision to pick the crop earlier than in previous years so the harvesting of the fruit started last week with the picking of the apples from all the small trees which are easily accessible from the ground. The harvesting continued yesterday through to its completion today with the apples and pears on the large trees being picked. All the fruit used to make the juice is hand picked so the tall ladders had to be used in order to reach it on the tallest trees and a long reach fruit picker was used for those wishing to keep their feet on the ground. 

Joss Picking Apples

Graham and Simon Picking Apples
Staying On The Ground, Ady With The Long Reach Apple Picker

Kieron Up The Tall Tripod Ladder Picking Apples

The fruit is placed into specialised fruit picking buckets and cloth bags and, when full or too heavy, carefully tipped into plastic 'Stack & Nest Baskets'. At the end of each of the three picking days the full baskets were driven to Waterperry Gardens, unloaded and tipped into third of a tonne wooden bins ready for pressing into juice. Two and a half bins have been filled and pressing will take place next week. 

Unloading The Fruit Picking Bucket

Peter Picking Apples

Boot Full Of Fruit Filled 'Stack & Nest Baskets'

Bin 1, 1/3 of a tonne

Bin 2, 1/3 of a tonne