Monday, 31 March 2014

Coppicing Willow

The Scarlet Willow by the weir in the Provost's garden, Salix alba 'Chermesina', have provided a stunning display of colourful stems this winter. Grown for these stems, the willow is coppiced at this time every year, the resultant growth of 2 to 3 meters in one year produce the young yellow-orange-red stems that created this display, enhanced by their reflection in the water. 

Each stem is cut back to 2 to 4 buds, about 5-10cm above last year's cut, then the willow is collected and tied into bundles for drying out and storage.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The First Egg Laid (2014)

The first egg has been laid by the pen, female swan, which is six weeks earlier than last year, see blog entry 3rd May 2013 'The First Egg Laid'. Let's hope that this is the year that cygnets are finally seen on the lake, the staff will be watching and hoping.

Potting Up And Moving Out

The more hardy of the cuttings, that were taken last September, had their final pot up today and were moved out the heated greenhouse to start the hardening off process, toughening them up before they are planted outside in June. They were placed in the old peach house that is unheated but south facing so generates sufficient heat to protect against any cold nights, their next move will be into the cold frames towards the end of April.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

'Pruning With Confidence'

Ali spent the day attending the 'Pruning With Confidence' course at the Garden School of Coton Manor Gardens, Northamptonshire. With so many differant plants in the college gardens pruning is a regular, essential task undertaken throughout the year, the day of training and education was very informative and inspirational.  The course:

"In everyone's garden, large or small, pruning is an essential task each year if you want healthy, flourishing and re-invigorated plants to retain their optimum shape and flower abundantly. Brian Davis will explain both the theory and practical aspects of pruning and banish any notion that this is a dry, academic subject – you will be both informed and entertained during this full day course. A considerable part of the day is spent in the garden demonstrating pruning techniques on many of the mature shrubs at Coton."

Monday, 24 March 2014

Lawn Maintenance On The Nuffield Lawn

The Nuffield lawn is in need of a bit of attention following the very wet winter. One area, the entrance to the sheds, suffered considerably from water logging and has remained wet and sticky ever since the rain stopped. To try and prevent this from happening again the area underwent some maintenance today. To relieve the compaction the area was spiked and air lifted using garden forks, once the fork had been inserted into the soil it was given a little wiggle backwards and forwards to lift the turf slightly. 

Once the spiking had been finished, sand was delivered to the area, spread over the holes and then brushed in. 

Other areas of the Nuffield lawn also needed maintenance, bald patches with no grasses rather than compaction was their problem. These areas were dry and hard so before a top dressing could be added a lawn scarifier was used to 'scuff up' the soil.

A sandy loam was then tipped in to piles over the scarified areas and spread using shovels, dispersing the loam using a throwing action, any remaining small piles were then raked level using landscape rakes.

The top dressing will be allowed to settle over the next few days then grass seed scattered on to it. Whilst germination takes place the area will be roped off and will remain in place until the first cut. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Rebuilding Last Year's Nest

The swans have been rebuilding last year's nest over the last few days. The male has been pulling and breaking the reeds and passing them to the female to add to what was left of last year's nest. Last year they were building the nest at the beginning of May, see blog entry 1st May 2013, 'Nesting Swans', so they are six weeks earlier this year.

The Sound Of Spring 'The Chiffchaff'

One of the first signs of spring has been heard around the college gardens, the Chiffchaff. Heard today, perched in the Holm Oak on the Nuffield lawn, the Chiffchaff is one of the first migrant birds to arrive back in Britain and, for Ali, this song heralds the start of Spring, the next migrant bird to be listened out for is the Blackcap. To hear the Chiffchaff, click on the highlighted Chiffchaff.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Last 50 Meters

The last 10 tonnes of hoggin arrived this morning to complete the final 50 meters of path that needed resurfacing. The hoggin was transported from its delivery point to the path using the dumper truck, then levelled with a landscape rake into a slight camber and compacted using the wacker plate. The newly laid hoggin was given a final roll along the entire length of the path with the walk behind, heavy weight sports ground roller.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Resurfacing 150 Meters Of Path

The resurfacing of the path that runs along the side of the sports field to the leaf peat, located in the far corner of the college grounds, began last week, see blog entry 13th March 'Resurfacing Of The Leaf Pit Path'. Today's section, the 150 meter sports field section, started with the delivery of 20 tonnes of hoggin and a dumper truck. Before Simon and Kieron could start moving the hoggin to the path, the old surface had to be broken up using the New Holland tractor with the grab attachment.

Once the grab had been replaced with the bucket attachment, the hoggin could be loaded into the dumper truck and tipped into piles along the path, starting from the furthest point near the sports pavilion, working backwards along the path so as not to drive over any of the newly laid hoggin. Each pile of hoggin was raked to form a slight camber.

Callum joined them in the afternoon to compact the path using the wacker plate. Another 10 tonnes of hoggin is due tomorrow to finish the last 50 meter stretch from the netball courts, past the chipper to the canal building exit gate.

Canada Goose Proof Fence

The Canada geese have begun wandering into the Provost's garden, emerging from the lake through the marginal planting onto the lush grass. To try and restrict their movement Ali and Callum spent the morning building a temporary fence to try and stop them, it will be removed in January when the marginals need strimming down, see blog entry 9th January 2014 'A Busy Day Working By The Weir'

A dozen wooden posts were hammered into place, two holes drilled into each post fifteen centimetres below each other, galvanised wire was then fed through the holes along the full length of the marginal planting. "But they will fly over the fence" I hear you saying, these geese are lazy and, as proved with last year's fence, if they can't walk from the lake to the grass, they wont fly over it, it's too much bother!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sweet Peas And A Mouse Or Two!

The sweet peas that will be planted out in the cut flower bed in May were sown today. This year's varieties are from 'Thompson & Morgan':
  • Sweet Pea 'Anniversary', sweet scented, pink blooms with darker pink margins.
  • Sweet Pea 'Juliet', citrus scented, creamy bloom with a hint of apricot.
  • Sweet Pea 'Apple Blossom', sweet scented, ruffled, blush pink petals.

Following last weeks discovery of mouse droppings, disturbed flower pots and eaten seeds, a humane mouse trap was put in the mist unit capturing two mice over the weekend which were released far away from the greenhouse. The trap has now been refilled with tempting goodies to entice any of their friends, glass placed over the pots to protect the seed, as well as helping their germination and, hopefully, they were the last of the mice that will visit the mist unit. 

Azara microphylla

The scent of Azara microphylla, Box Leaf Azara, is filling a corner of the college gardens. If you have visited the gardens in the last week and wondered why you have a sudden craving for chocolate, vanilla ice cream, custard or even a vanilla latte this shrub is the reason why. This large evergreen shrub has clusters of small, yellow, highly fragrant flowers that waft the aroma of vanilla stimulating these cravings.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Hand Weeding The Broadwalk Borders

Ali and Crystal spent the morning carefully hand weeding the Broadwalk borders. The weed, Veronica hederifolia, Ivy-leaved speedwell, had spread throughout the borders nestling amongst the hellebore, snowdrops, aconites, iris, cyclamen and primrose even disguising itself as an aconite or hellebore seedling. Unable to use a hoe each weed had to be hand picked, a slow and painstaking process.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Resurfacing The Leaf Pit Path

Ten tonnes of hoggin arrived today to begin the project to put a new surface on the path that runs from the leaf pit at the top of the sports field to the sports pavilion, approx 250 meters.

The length of the path is split into sections, the first part to be resurfaced is from the leaf pit to the gated exit to the Canal Building. The old surface is broken up using the grab attachment fixed to the New Holland tractor, once completed the grab is replaced with the bucket loader attachment.

Using the bucket loader the hoggin is then loaded into the trailer and transported to the path where it is tipped ready for levelling.

Using a landscape rake the hoggin is raked to form a slight camber, a raised center which sheds water to each side. Once all ten tonnes have been levelled the hoggin is compacted using a wacker plate. The first part is complete, the next, and longest part of the path is scheduled to be done next Tuesday with the delivery of twenty tonnes of hoggin and a small dumper truck.   

Monday, 10 March 2014

Planting Four Young Fruit Trees

This morning Simon, Kieron and Ali spent a few hours planting four young, bare rooted, fruit trees in the orchard. The two year old trees are:
  • Apple 'James Grieve'. Eater/cooker. Red flush stripes over pale green, crisp and juicy, excellent flavour and reliable cropper.
  • Apple 'Egremont Russet'. Eater. Golden in colour with pale brown russet, nutty, sweet and aromatic.
  • Plum 'Victoria'. Eater/cooker. Pale red fruit with golden yellow flesh.
  • Pear 'Gieser Wildeman'. Cooker. Small russet brown fruits turning red when cooked.

For each tree a circle was marked out in the desired location and the turf removed. A hole was then dug out in the centre of the circle, the bottom broken up with a fork and a small amount of leaf mould added to the hole.

The tree was then placed into the hole, the soil back filled around it, heeled in and leaf mould added to the top of the soil as a weed suppressing mulch. A tree stake was then placed next to the tree, hammered into place and, using a plastic tree tie, fixed to the stake to prevent wind rock whilst its roots spread into the hole over the next few years. Lastly, the tree was given a good watering in.

Leaf Pit Improvements

The task of moving the leaf heap was started on Friday and completed this morning. After it was emptied the pit, and the area in front of it, were given some improvements. The ground in front of the pit had got very muddy during the recent wet winter and, to help prevent this happening in the future has been covered in wood chip. Further improvements were also made to prevent the contents of the pit from spilling out on to the wood chip. A slatted front was constructed out of decking boards supported by posts left over from the recently built Post And Rail Hedge Protection.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Moving The Leaf Heap

The grass is beginning to grow and soon the grass cutting season will be in full swing. Space is at a premium in the compost areas so it is time to clear one out to make room for the grass.

Ady, Joss and Callum spent the day clearing the heap at the bottom of the orchard, using the grab attachment on the New Holland tractor to move the heap a bit at a time, filling the trailer and transporting it to another compost area at the bottom of the sportsfield.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Post And Rail Hedge Protection

Two weeks ago the team planted a new yew hedge between the orchard and the car park, see blog entry 20th February 'Planting A New Yew Hedge'.

To protect the new hedge over the next few years, whilst it matures and the young trees anchor themselves into the soil, Keiron and Simon constructed a temporary, low level post and rail fence. Not the first time this type of fence has been used in the garden, see blog entry 9th January 2013 'Post And Rail Fence'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Lifting, Splitting And Transplanting Winter Aconites

Having spent the morning mulching the ornamantal grass borders of the Canal Building, Ali and Graham moved back into the main garden to lift, split and transplant some Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconites).

The carpet of bright yellow, buttercup-like flowers have faded so now is the best time to move them, 'in the green'. Being careful not to trample on the crocus and daffodils that are flowering amongst the faded blooms, they carefully lift clumps of winter aconites using a fork. Each clump is then gently pried apart to form smaller clumps and then transplanted to extend the area, as there was no rain forecast they had to be watered in, something that would have seemed inconceivable a few days ago following the wettest winter on record!