Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Very Brown

After having a break from scarifying, thanks to the August Bank Holiday, Joss has spent yesterday and today back on the main quad lawn. Truck loads of thatch have been taken down to the compost heaps as the height of the scarifying blades are continually lowered.
By the end of the day, Joss has finished scarifying and will, over the next two days, aerate, seed and feed the lawn with an autumn winter fertiliser.

Friday, 26 August 2011

What Has Happened To The Lawn?

Since the work on the lawn started, both visitors and staff have been concerned at the sudden change in the appearance of the grass. The team decided to put a notice up to explain:


As you walk through the cloisters to view the main quadrangle, you may be asking yourselves, ‘Why the lawn ahead of you is looking so brown?’
This is not due to the very dry weather we have had over the last few months, but a process called ‘Scarifying’.
Scarifying is an extremely beneficial procedure, removing the layer of dead grass and thatch that have built up over the years, allowing water and nutrients to, once again, reach the grass roots.
As we approach autumn, it is the perfect time to scarify, as it will allow sufficient time for the lawn to recover, taking advantage of the reasonably warm temperatures and increased rainfall. Once the scarifying has been finished the lawn will be over seeded and this will soon germinate.
Unfortunately, the lawn will look a bit of a mess for a few months, but will be restored to its former glory.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Two Men, Two Mowers.

Kieron and Joss spent the day, the first of many over the next few weeks, working on the lawn in the front quad. Their task to scarify the lawn, removing all the thatch that has built up over the years.
Joss, using the Dennis mower that has had its cutting cartridge replaced with a scarifying cartridge, starts on the lawn first. Kieron, following behind with the Allett mower, picks up the scarified grass that has been pulled up from the lawn. This process will be repeated again and again, the heights of the cut reduced after each completed lawn cut, so far the cutting height has been reduced from 16mm to just 8mm.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Team Work

Ady had a new helper today when spraying a few of the weedy paths in the college. Usually accompanied by Graham, Callum put on the BananaMan suit and learnt how to apply weed killing chemicals next to grass. Using a large board, Callum placed it on the edge of the path to protect the grass, being careful not to tread on any area that had been sprayed.

Friday, 19 August 2011

After A Rain Break

For the second year running rain has interrupted the cutting of the yew hedge columns in the Provost's garden. Kieron started trimming the columns on Wednesday, but by midday on Thursday had got soaked from a continuous heavy downpour and was unable to finish them all. The sun returned today so was able to finish them all, as well as the small curved yew hedge by the Provost's lodgings, maybe next year we will get a few dry days and complete the task uninterrupted.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Mist Unit

With September fast approaching, the month we start taking cuttings, it is time to give the mist unit in the greenhouse a deep clean.
The top layer of dirty sand is removed and the water pipes lifted in order to clean them thoroughly. Ali mixes a bucket of hot water with Jeyes Fluid, rubber gloves on and armed with a scrubbing brush, begins to remove all the dirt and grime that has built up over the last twelve months.

The mist unit nozzles are removed and allowed to soak in the Jeyes Fluid mix before being washed off with clean water and replaced. (The pictures above and below show the nozzles before and after their deep clean).

The wooden surround is scrubbed until all the algae has been removed and hosed down until clean, then allowed to dry. Whilst all the pieces of the unit are drying, an inch of new sand is placed in the unit to cover the under soil heating cables. A kettle of boiling water is poured through the hose, that connects the tap to the water pipes, to remove any algae that may have built up in the hose during the hot summer.

Once all the pieces are reconnected, the mist unit is tested and is now ready for the many hundreds of cuttings that are about to be taken.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

4 Tonne Bags and 2 Wheelbarrows

Ady, Callum and Ali have spent the day working in the Provost's rose garden. The Geranium 'Brookside' and 'A.T Johnson' have finished flowering and flopped all over the grass paths and borders, so needed to be cut back. The numerous weeds were dug up, expired rose flowers removed and the soil moved back away from the metal edging until finally, with 4 tonne bags and 2 wheelbarrows filled, their work is finished.

A New Path

The path that runs along the top of the banks, in the front quadrangle, is having a new top layer of hoggin. With the plants tied up off the path, the area is clear for the machinery to start carving away at the old path. The new hoggin is spread over the old, disturbed path, then levelled by rake, finally being compacted by a roller and wacker plate.

Now that the work on the path is complete, the string and wooden stakes that have supported the plants are removed and allowed to fall back over the path.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Bindweed is a trumpet flowered, twining, choking weed, that smothers the plants it climbs. It has become a problem in a few areas of the college, notably in two of our borders, in one of the Cassan Building borders and the other, in the Provost's Lodging border. Very difficult to eradicate, Ali spent three hours painting the numerous leaves with a mixture of Glyphosate, a weedkiller and washing up liquid. Why washing up liquid? Adding it to the weedkiller helps it to stick to the leaves and prevent run off on to other plants.

painting bindweed

Friday, 12 August 2011

Path Preparation

On Monday morning the path that runs on the terrace above the banks is going to be replaced with a new hoggin path. Ali spent the day cutting back and tying back the plants that overhang the paths edge.

The Lavender caused the biggest headache as it spreads over the path's edge by some two to three feet. Unable to cut the plants back, as they do not break, regrow, easily from old wood, they had to be tied back, being very careful not to snap them. By the end of the day the path was ready for its refurbishment next week.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Pricking Out and Calibrating

The Wallflower seeds sown on the 29th July are now ready to be pricked out into plugs trays and Callum, under Ali's guidance, pricks out 160 seedlings. With all the plug plants now received from Ball Colegrave and potted up into larger plug trays, they have all moved into the cold frames until they have grown larger and are ready to be potted up into individual pots.

Whilst Callum and Ali work in the greenhouse, Joss is recalibrating his sprayer on the quad lawn. A new selective herbicide, Trafalgar, is going to be used on the quad and as the dose rate is different from the previously used weedkiller, a trial run, using water, needs to be completed.

Once the correct amount of water to millilitre of chemical has been worked out for the area of the lawn, the correct spray nozzle needs to be chosen to allow the tank to be emptied over the entire quad. The pace at which Joss walks is also important as he doesn't want to reach the end of the lawn with some spray mix left in the tank. Having made all the adjustments to the nozzles and his walking pace, Joss is ready to spray the quad tomorrow, weather permitting.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pointing and Hedging

For the last three days Simon, Kieron and Callum have been repairing the york stone path in the provost's rose garden. First they removed all the old pointing, then replaced the cracked stones with new ones, finally re pointing the entire path.

Over by the car park, Joss starts to cut the tallest hedge that runs along the provost's drive, a few more days will be needed to complete this hedge.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


As Graham and Ali cleared up the wood from the fruit trees, a delivery of plug plants arrived from Ball Colegrave. The second, and last delivery, contained 360 plugs of Viola Sorbet Mixed Halloween and 84 plugs of Ivy, all needing to be potted up into larger sized plug trays. A few hours later 444 plugs had been potted up and it's back to clearing up wood for Graham and Ali.


With fruit a plenty on the trees in the orchard, their weight has resulted in a few cracked branches. The early plum lost a large branch a month ago, now it is the turn of the greengage tree and one of the apple trees.

Graham and Ali made the trees safe by cutting the branches off and removing the wood to the chipping pile, lets hope we don't lose any more before we get to pick all the fruit.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Tug of War

This afternoon was the annual staff sports day and bbq. One of the many different sports, and new this year, was the Tug of War. Split into two teams, the gardeners joined up with the groundsmen and a few other staff competing against the maintenance team, who were joined by office staff and scouts. Out pulled by the opposition, our team lost 2 pulls to 1, better luck, and perhaps technique, next year.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

In The Pouring Rain

After three days of heat the rain has come to cool us all down and give the plants a well needed drink.
Graham started the day in the greenhouse potting up 240 plug plants into larger plug trays, Viola 'Avalanche Yellow Golden'.

Joss put on his thick rain coat and went outside to work in the wet. He spent the morning spiking the main quad lawn, the rain providing the perfect condition to do this, but not so good for Joss.

Ali started the day with Simon, helping to choose the bubs needed for the college spring display, Tulips and Daffodils for the tubs and borders. Once the decisions had been made, Ali moved into the greenhouse to scrub down the aluminium staging frames, the wooden slatted tops and the floor. The weeds were then sprayed with a weedkiller, all that remains to be done, in the next few weeks, is the cleaning of the propagation mist unit and power washing all the glass.

Not deterred by the rain, Ady and Callum headed down to an outside property garden in desperate need of renovation. The picture above and below were taken back in May when we went to visit the garden to assess the work that would be required. As you can see, it was more like a jungle than a back garden and would require some time to bring it back to order, well today was the day to start that task.

By the end of the day an incredible amount of progress had been made, joined by Graham during the day, the overgrown tangle of shrubs and weeds had been cut down, all in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

It's Hot Up There

Three days of hot, muggy weather and the gardeners are wilting along with the flowers in the garden.
Ady, Callum and Graham have spent the last few days in The Secret Garden continuing the work started back at the beginning of March, see blog entries 'The Secret Garden' and 'Longer Than Expected'. A south facing garden, in full sun, more shrubs have have been cut back, weeds cleared, new soil added to borders and sown with grass seed to make it easier to maintain, it's hot in there.

Joss, exchanging his mower for a hedge trimmer, has been cutting one of the three hedges surrounding the car park, it's hot there too.

Having finished clearing the rubbish out from The Secret Garden, Graham joined Ali to cut back the wispy growth of the Wisteria. Now that it has finished flowering all its energy has been put into growth and has climbed up the roof of the cottages twinning up drain pipes and roof tiles, south facing and at the top of a ladder, you've guessed it, it's hot up there too!