Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Lawn Maintenance

September is not only busy for plant propogation and the beginning of leaf fall, but also for Josh and his lawns. As the grass growth rate slows down, now is a good time to start restoring them after all the summer mowing. With the height of the cut raised and the frequency of mowing reduced, Josh has started to scarify, top dress and add grass seed to the lawns.

Scarifying can be done with a lawn rake with spring tines or by a powered scarifier. It removes the layer of dead grass and lawn clippings that have built up during the summer mowing regime, allowing water and nutrients to, once again, reach the grass roots.
After collecting all the raked up grass, a dressing of soil is added to the area and levelled.
Finally, Josh, with Grahams help, scatters seed onto the soil, using a board to prevent the seed falling in to the hebaceous border. Once the seed has been sown, it is lightly raked into the soil and watered in. A light green haze should be seen within the next two weeks as the grass seed germinates.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


September is a busy time in the greenhouse, not only to keep the seedlings well watered, but also to take the several hundred cuttings from the tender plants from around the college grounds. Armed with Tesco carrier bags, other retailers bags work just as well, and a pair of sharp secatuers, Lucy and Ali have been out in the grounds searching for any plant that will die in the frosts. With next years Summer display also in mind, numerous healthy young shoot tips and side shoots have been removed carefully from the plants to be used as cutting material.
Each shoot is approximately two/four inches long. The stem is cut below a leaf joint and the lower leaves are removed, then dipped in rooting powder and placed into an individual cell filled with compost. Once the tray is full, it is placed in the misting unit to give the new plant the best start. Once it starts to establish, it is removed from the mist where it will continue to grow until it is repotted into its own pot.

Monday, 21 September 2009

They All Fall Down

It's started! They come quietly, one by one, then in bigger numbers and before you know it the invasion has begun. Leaves, in their millions, have started to decend on Worcester College, but the gardening team will not be defeated. Armed with rakes and leaf blowers, they battle to stem the attack. It is about equal at the moment, but as this September has been the driest in 12 years, the leaf fall is speeding up. The big leaf collecting machinery will be brought in to play soon and the gardening team will unite, all for one and one for all.

Now for the educational part of this blog entry, Why do the leaves fall?
The beginning of leaf drop starts when an abscission layer is formed between the leaf petiole, the small stalk attaching leaf blade to the stem, and the stem. This layer is formed in the spring during active new growth of the leaf, it consists of layers of cells that can separate from each other. The cells are sensitive to a plant hormone called Auxin that is produced at a rate consistent with that of the auxin from the body of the plant, the cells of the abscission layer remain connected; in the fall or when under stress the auxin flow from the leaf decreases or stops triggering cellular elongation within the abscission layer. The elongation of these cells break the connection between the different cell layers, allowing the leaf to break away from the plant, it also forms a layer that seals the break so the plant does not lose sap.

Friday, 18 September 2009


And the winner of the Oxford In Bloom display by a university and college in 2009 is.............
Thursday night saw the gardening team attend the Oxford In Bloom award ceremony at the Rover sports and social club in Cowley. Having seen University College pick up the Bronze and Keble College the Silver, it was left for just the Gold to be awarded and then they announced our name.
Congratulations to all the team for all their hard work to produce the best display by a university and college in Oxford.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


You may remember back in August, Blog entry a 'Change On The Horizon' 19th August, the diseased Beech tree in the Provost's garden was cut down. Well, now the tree surgeons have returned to reduce the height still further. From the photo above, the tree was rotten inside with large hollow areas clearly visible in the trunk. All that remains now is a stump.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chris from Waterperry

Back in February we benefited from
a training session on fruit tree
prunning by Chris from Waterperry
. Today, seven months later,
he returned to give his verdict on how well
we had prunned our trees following his instruction.
"Very well done" was the verdict.
The other reason for his visit was to help identify
the many unknown varieties that reside in our orchard.
Varieties identified include, cooking apples, Lanes Prince Albert and Grenadier, eating apples, Ellisons Orange, Beauty of Bath and Egremont Russet.
Chris advised us to prune the plum and greengage trees now, so this will be done by the end of the week.
Lanes Prince Albert has an interesting origin. It takes its name from the event of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert changing their coach horses near Berkhampstead at the time the first young tree was being planted there by Mr John Lane.

Donald and Daffy are still on the island and do not seem to want to go in the lake, so Lucy and Graham, watched by Donald, set about making a ramp to aid them.
So far, they still want to remain dry, but the other ducks love their new drawbridge.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Donald and Daffy

As promised, here are the first pictures of our new ducks, Donald and Daffy. They have been with us for two weeks now and are settling into their new home well. Both are male, drake, Muscovy Ducks.
Muscovys are the only domestic duck that is not derived from mallard stock. Their feet are equipped with strong sharp claws for grabbing tree branches and roosting. They do not swim as much as other ducks as their oil glands are under developed, resulting in their tails and wings fraying easier. They are gentle birds, the drakes don't quack, just produce a low hiss.
One of their only drawbacks is they fly well and are good escape artists!
Quote from a web site"The supreme bird with character, males wag their tales and raise crests when talked to. All have a sick sense of humour, a breed worth the time as VERY individual. The nicest character of any of the breeds with a pronounced sense of humour, very intelligent and head of any escape committee!" Should fit in perfectly at Worcester College, Welcome Donald and Daffy.