Thursday, 26 November 2009

New plants from old

Just take a look at this sad-looking specimen.


It, along with a dozen or so similar plants, was ‘rescued’ from a rather neglected one-time ‘display’.  What, we wondered, had gone wrong.  The crisp brown flowers and the withered buds, not to mention the dusty soil that was as-dry-as-the-proverbial-bone pointed towards them not having been watered for a very long time.

But never mind.  Class 2i to the rescue!  Our job?  To give the plants a ‘hair-cut’, snipping off the crispy flowers and those withered buds…..


(just the crispy flowers and those withered buds mind)…..


being careful to keep our fingers…..


safely tucked out of the way.


You see, we needed to stop the poor plants from wasting precious energy trying to keep themselves covered in blooms, when actually they ought to be conserving their strength for the cold weather that is on its way (and incidentally, as I type this I am looking out at freshly snow-dusted pine trees).


The newly-trimmed plants were then tucked into some of our friable well-dug soil…..


and most-importantly, watered in.  There to over-winter.  And recuperate.

But, that was not all.  There were also trimmings from the rosemary bushes.  Far too much for Sunday’s roast lamb!  No, we were going to have a go at making (more) new plants from old.

First, grip a sprig of rosemary firmly in your hands.


Using your thumb, scrape off the leaves on the lower part of the stem.


Toss these into the bucket…..


later to be dumped onto the compost heap.  Next, snip the stem with a diagonal cut.


Finally, poke it into a pot of our famous soil…..


trickle on a dribble or two of water…..


and fingers crossed until spring!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Dig It!

We couldn’t help noticing during last week’s garlic-planting session, that in spite of our best efforts, the raised beds were looking a little squished.  In need of a bit more soil.

Thursday therefore, saw us stomping en ligne to a newly-acquired heap of healthy soil that had been dumped in an area under the trees.  Our job; to fill buckets with spades full of crumbly soil which would be lugged over and emptied on top of the needy beds.

First we would need to learn the correct back-saving way of using a ‘proper’ spade.


Grip the handle and then carefully place one booted foot on top of the blade.


Push gently so that the blade slides down into the soil. 


Wiggle the spade backwards and forwards to loosen the soil, and then, gripping the handle with two hands (while making sure you don’t forget to bend at the knees) carefully lift the spade, complete with its load of soil…..


and dump it into a bucket.  When a bucket is full, find a strong friend to help you carry it…..


across to the garden.


Keep your eyes open while digging – we don’t want too much grey sticky clay to end up in our soil-mix!


Thursday, 5 November 2009

The outdoors equivalent of housework

Now that the weather has taken a turn for the colder – and wetter - nothing much is growing at this time of year – other than the odd plant that escaped the harvest.  Like these potatoes, for example.


So November in the garden largely means the outdoors equivalent of housework.  There are leaves to be raked…..


and gathered up.


Herbs such as mint need to have their straggly stems cut back.


There are weeds to be pulled up.


All of which can be tossed into buckets…..


and dumped on the compost heap.  There may also be the odd plant that needs to be put back into the ground.  Oops!


Soil that has been rained on (and goodness, how it has rained these past few days!) is likely to become compacted, or squashed, if it is trodden on too much.  Boards placed on top…..


help to spread the load and stop that happening.

Something else that helps keep the soil aerated is this wonderful stuff.


From seed to ground cover in two or three weeks.  It can either merely be pulled out and used on the compost heap…..


or can be dug back into the soil so that it rots – and passes on all its goodness directly.

Either way, we are guaranteed crumbly weed-free, tidy soil.


Thursday, 29 October 2009

How the weather confuses us all…..

Bitingly cold wind a week or so ago was soon replaced by the most gloriously clear and sunny weather, giving warm and balmy days. Finally, the perfect autumn.

Unless you are a daffodil bulb that is.  You see, the cold snap tricked the bulbs into thinking it was already winter (actually, I have to admit to being tricked too!)  And then when (thankfully) it got all warm and lovely again, those poor confused daffs thought that winter (blessedly brief) was over and spring had come.

And we know what bulbs do in springtime, don’t we.  They send down wiggly roots…..


and push out new green shoots.  Like these.


Well, that won’t do, will it?  What will those tender green shoots do when the real winter…..


hits us?

So we carefully replanted them, using good healthy soil…..


in sturdy orange boxes…..


and secreted them away to a cool, dark, wintery place (the store room beneath the school) where hopefully they will stay safe until spring really comes.


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Bulbs and boots – and a surprise in store

Whatever do you do with Wellington boots once you have outgrown them?  Unless you have a younger sister or brother, that is.

We had earlier been given a rather puzzling note requesting that our worn-out and too-small ‘wellies’ and the like should be brought to school.  What for, we would find out in due course.

On Thursday, to be precise. When we went outside for our weekly session in the garden, we discovered a heap of apparently perfectly sound boots.  On closer inspection, however, they turned out to have had holes mysteriously drilled into the soles.


How very odd!  What’s more, there were also lots (and lots) of different spring bulbs in various packets and buckets.


Curiouser and curiouser.

It turned out that we would be planting the bulbs in the boots!  All that was needed was a scoop or two of the perfect mix of soil…..


and a bulb - or two, or three (the correct way up!)…..


tucked down inside.


A further sprinkling of soil on the top…..


patted firmly down.  Finally, carefully stand your bulb-stuffed ‘wellie’ in place on the garden…..


where they will wait, lined up on their long walk towards spring…..


and hopefully the surprise of a beautiful show of spring colour.

And what about those holes drilled in the bottoms?  We know what they are for.  Do you?

Friday, 2 October 2009


We gathered under the trees for this week’s session in the garden.  Found a bit of clean dirt on which to sit – and looked upwards.  Up towards the canopy of leaves.


What did we notice about the leaves?  That leaves which had been green during the long summer months, were beginning to change colour.

Looked down to where we were sitting.  What did we notice there?


Brown, crisp, dry, curled leaves.  Dead leaves, as Can noted.

What, we wondered, made those leaves turn brown and fall from the tree?  Well, take a green leaf and tug at it.


You can tug quite hard, but the tree doesn’t let it go.  But just watch for a moment; and you will see brown ones floating and twisting and curling down to the ground.


In the summer, the tree ‘sucks’ up moisture from the soil; it travels through the roots…..


up the trunk…..


and all the way along the branches to the leaves.  But as the weather gets colder, the tree needs to conserve its moisture so that it doesn’t die.  So it closes the little ‘trap-doors’ to the leaves, thus turning off the water supply and allowing them to shrivel up and fall off.

Now think back to what we learned last week about the ‘ingredients’ of soil.  Water, air, minerals and organic matter.  Organic matter, remember, is things that were once living.  Things like dead leaves…..

We want to use some of this organic matter to improve our soil.  We are going to have a go at composting.

Just like last week, we will work in ‘teams’…..


with each team responsible for raking up…..


and gathering the leaves…..


before putting them into buckets and carrying them…..


over to our ever-growing pile…..


and emptying them onto the top.


Next stop, rich dark well-rotted compost?