Thursday, 30 January 2014

Helping Our Feathered Friends

Ali and Simon spent a few hours today helping our feathered friends by repairing old nest boxes and putting up new ones. The four boxes located in trees along the canal side path, put up in August 2012, needed to have metal plates put on the front to protect the area around the entrance hole from predators such as woodpeckers. Last year one of the boxes was continually attacked, the entrance hole enlarged and the young removed, see blog entry 31st May 2013 'Nest Box Update', hence the reason for the metal plates.

Once the four boxes were put back up in the trees, four new boxes were put in place around the grounds. Three of the boxes have been bought and are made from Birch logs, the other made from a spare decking board. This brings the total number of nest boxes around the college grounds to nine with more being over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Weed Suppressing Membrane With Gravel On Top

Following on from where they left off on Monday, the team continued with the creation of a low maintenance area at the back of the Lindbury Building.

The heavy roll of weed suppressing membrane was manoeuvred in place and carefully cut into pieces around the many drain covers.

Once the required area had been covered with the membrane it was fixed in place with plastic turf pegs, covered in gravel and a wooden edge fixed in place.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Picking Leaves Off Roses

Simon and Ali spent a few hours this afternoon removing leaves that haven't fallen off some of the roses. The theory behind this, attained by Simon after recently attending a rose care course, is that by removing the old leaves it prevents fungal spores, such as black spot, from spreading to the new leaves as they emerge in the spring. By taking time to remove the leaves the need to use a chemical fungicide to spray the roses should be reduced.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Gravelling A Dingy Corner

The team have spent the day trying to brighten up one of the dingiest corners of the college, an area at the back of the Linbury Building.  

The tall weeds had been removed a few weeks ago leaving a layer of dirty gravel which needed replacing. The easiest option would have been to cover the area with new, clean gravel, but the levels would have been too high so the top few inches had to be removed. 

Once the level had been reduced the new gravel was barrowed round from the front of the building, then shovelled into trugs, carried to the dingy corner, poured onto the cleared surface and raked level.

Once the corner had been finished, a new step was built to improve access for the future maintenance of the area. Part two of the project will begin later in the week once a delivery of weed suppressing membrane has been received from the suppliers, the plan is to cover the adjacent area in the membrane and cover it with gravel creating a low maintenance garden.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Looking Ahead To Christmas

The use of peppers to decorate the Christmas tree last year caused so many positive comments that this year's decorations have been sown today. The Cayenne Pepper 'Heatwave' has been chosen again, see blog entry 29th November 2013 'Hot & Spicy, With A Slice Of Orange', along with a new pepper to the gardeners, Chilli Pepper 'Padron'.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

First Cut Of The Banks

The warm, wet weather over this winter has caused the grass to continue to grow resulting in the need for them to be mowed for the first time this year. This time last year the banks were covered in snow, see blog entry 22nd January 'Footprints And Snow Angels In The Snow' and would remain that way for the next week. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Apple And Pear Tree Pruning Begins

The pruning of the climbing plants is almost at an end so as Ali and Callum finish the final few, Kieron starts to prune the apple and pear trees in the lower section of the orchard. This will be a common sight over the coming weeks, gardeners on ladders in amongst the fruit trees,

Monday, 20 January 2014

Mulching The Rose Garden

Ady, Graham, Callum and Ali spent the day working in the Provost's rose garden mulching the rose beds. A month ago, 16th and 17th December, the roses were pruned and 200 additional tulips were planted, but due to the Christmas break and wet weather, the mulching has had to wait.

Due to the slippery conditions around the leaf mould pit, today's mulching had to be done by hand. The trailers are usually loaded using a tractor with front loader attachment, but the tyres were unable to get a safe grip on the ground around the pit so had to be loaded by the good, old fashioned method of forks, spades and manpower. Ady and Graham loaded the trailers up with leaf mould and Callum unloaded it into wheelbarrows for Ali to tip and spread on to the rose beds. A great achievement to complete all the rose beds in one day.

Please Do Not Unwrap The Banana Plants

On one of the rare frosty mornings of this mild winter, the team returned to work after the weekend to find one of the bananas had been unwrapped exposing it to the freezing temperatures. This is the first winter these plants have been left outside, protected from the cold by horticultural fleece, so must remain wrapped at all times. "PLEASE DO NOT UNWRAP THE BANANA PLANTS"

Friday, 17 January 2014

The First Seeds Sown For 2014

Getting off to an early start, the first of this year's seeds were sown today, a pink and white flowered pelargonium, Pelargonium x hortorum 'Maverick Star'. These 18 seeds are the first of many that will be sown over the coming months.

Compost Storage Alterations

The compost storage area has been causing the team some problems when moving the heavy bags to and from the bay. The bags usually fill the entire bay behind boards at the front, the only way of reaching the bags, especially at the back, is to clamber over the bags and drag the bags out, a manual handling nightmare.

On the 7th January, Simon and Ali redesigned the bay making the bags more accessible by changing the frontage and creating a path through the middle. First the retaining boards from the front, and the rotten floor board from the base, were removed, then a hole two foot deep dug out.

Next the cement was mixed with water and an aggregate to make the concrete, which was then poured into the hole around a slotted concrete fence post, checking the post remained straight as the concrete was poured.

The old boards from the front of the bay were then cut to fit the new, reduced size frontage and a new board, cut to fit, was placed on the floor.

Having allowed the new floor board to dry over the last week, it was slightly wet when brought in from outside, the remaining bags of compost have been moved back into the bay today. The result, and as planned, a modified compost bay with a walk way allowing safe access, a great result for safer manual handling.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Ali, Graham, Ady and Callum took a break from pruning today to add plants to an area that was last worked on in November, see blog entry for the 28th 'Salix alba ssp. vitellina Yelverton'.

This time the visit was to plant nine Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' beneath the rich bronze-red stems of the Salix. The Cornus, smaller than the Salix, will bring the colours orange, yellow and red to the lower level of the border.

Simon placed the Cornus out into their final positions and once they were all planted a layer of mulch was added to the border. The sun shone throughout the morning and as it hit the tips of the newly planted Cornus the lower level planting did look like flames of a midwinter fire. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Week Of Pruning Begins, Weather Permitting

Weather permitting, a week of pruning started today beginning with the large wisteria that grows along the railings at the far end of the quad. By the end of the day this wisteria had been pruned along with a Campsis and Kiwi fruit that are also found on the railings. A good start to the week, leaving a further seven Wisteria, two Campsis, a Kiwi fruit, Goji Berry and a Vine still to be pruned.

Friday, 10 January 2014

As Seen On TV

As seen on TV,  Joss and Simon in tonight's episode of the 'Great British Garden Revival'. If you haven't seen it here is a link to the BBC iPlayer, episode available until 7:59PM Tuesday 21st Jan 2014, 

"One Of The Last Bastions Of The Perfect British Lawn"

Joss - Lawn Man Extraordinaire

Head Of Gardens and Grounds - Simon Bagnall

Fighting Back The Spread Of A Vigorous, Spreading Reed

When cutting back the marginal plants yesterday, Ali and Graham noticed that the reed had spread away from the water's edge and begun spreading into the border. Unable to dig it out, due to the black, weed suppressing membrane covering the border, they had to remove the membrane first. Not an easy task as it was covered in soil with a layer of tangled, spreading reed growth above and below it.

First they removed some of the soil so the membrane could be cut into manageable pieces. Each piece then had to be dug out, not an easy task as the reed had created a thick matting through the membrane. After a day of digging, cutting, chopping, ripping and pulling, the reed had been removed and a fresh layer of bark placed on the border. The reed is still growing at the water's edge, but as it spreads back into the border it can be easily dug out and contained.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Busy Day Working By The Weir

There are a number of jobs that need to be done by the weir; the marginal planting needs to be cut down; an overhanging tree covered in ivy needs to be cut down and the bridge needs to be power washed to remove the moss and algae. Ali and Graham worked together at the water's edge, taking out a small wire fence by the marginal planting before cutting them down with the long reach hedge cutter.

Simon, Ady and Callum worked together to remove the ivy covered tree that was leaning, precariously, over the weir.

They tied a rope to the tree to secure the trunk, and control its fall, as Simon cut it down with the chainsaw.

Once down, it was cut up into smaller pieces, taken across the weir and transported to the chipper ready for chipping later in the day.

The last job of the day by the weir was to power wash the bridge, which had become very slippery since it was last cleaned 18 months ago, see blog entry 13th June 2012 'Preparing For The Encaenia 2012'.

By the end of a busy day by the weir, the team were treated to a visit by the swans that had just arrived on the lake. This time last year, 11th January to be exact, the swans arrived on the lake, the same pair possibly, the lake may well be their mating territory, see blog entry 'To Enhance The Winter Reflection'. If they are, it is their third year, always arriving in early January. In their first year they mated, started building a nest, then left and then last year they mated, built a nest, laid eggs but left after they failed to hatch. This year, hopefully, their 3rd and our 300th, they will go one step further and successfully hatch eggs and cygnets will be seen on the lake.