Gardening Journal – Entry 20

Friday 26 March 2021

What a week! I feel like I haven’t stood still since Monday. It has been a week of learning and there as not been much gardening, at home or at work, but I don’t mind – I’m here for the knowledge! This week started off feeling like spring had finally come, with enough sunlight to have me stripping off the layers. It truly felt like the first time I had felt the sun on my skin in years. I simply cannot wait for the warmer weather to finally arrive in earnest. 

Monday 22 March

I moved sites on Monday, to a location I have been obsessed with since I moved to London. I spent the day getting used to the site and trying to find my way around the maze-like stairs, gates and underground car parks. I eventually found my way to some herbaceous borders than needed digging over in preparation for some planting later in the week. 

I found myself crawling under spiny Mahonias and hopping around delicate lillies as I lightly dug over the soil. The sun was out and my pasty arms were as well! It was a lovely day and, while I missed working with Laurence, I loved the quietness of the site and the quirky characters practicing their fencing, wandering through the shrubs and chatting away to me about planting. 

Tuesday 23 March

This was a field trip day. We visited Regent’s Park to have a look at their winter bedding displays, as we are going to be designing our own bedding schemes for our workplace. We noted a heavy use of Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’, as well as Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrecens’ for a darker look across the beds. It was interesting to see the planting choices and the unique designs they had created, although some had missed the mark, in my very humble and inexperienced opinion!

Wednesday 24 March

Our college day was spent… in college! Again! What a treat it was to see our classmates again and work on some of our upcoming practicals. We focused on planting containerised shrubs, spreading fertiliser, did our Alpine plant ident test and worked on edging a lawn. 

Planting containerised shrubs

  • These had to be a minimum of 2L pots
  • We made the holes we dug for these plants at least twice as big as the root ball and kept it sharp and square, to encourage the roots to grow outwards and down, instead of continue their circular growth pattern after being kept in a pot for a long time.
  • We prepared the soil by giving it a light dig over and raking it to a good tilth for planting of this nature. 
  • We checked the plants for weeds, pests, disease and ave it a little prune for diseased, damager or dead growth. 
  • The end result was quite pretty and it was shame to immediately have to remove them from the ground for the next group to practice with!

Spreading fertiliser:

  • This task is a lot more finicky than you might thing, due to the calibration required.
  • The calibration involves matching your walking pace and the size of the fertiliser spreader holes in order to achieve 35g of fertiliser per square metre. 
  • As most gardeners make two passes over a lawn, we worked to 17.5g per pass to add up to the total 35g. 
  • We measures the amount of fertiliser distributed by laying out a plastic sheet with a square metre drawn on it. We walked over this space at a steady pace and swept up the fertiliser that landed in the designated area and weighed it. 
  • We used vermiculite, as fertiliser is expensive and harmful if not handled correcting with appropriate PPE. 
  • Laurence and I worked together and managed to get to 18g on both the spreader and the drop spreader. But it took a good ten tries!

Edging a lawn:

  • This is where it all fell apart. 
  • Laurence and I have edged lawns at least twenty times, usually with excellent polished results. This time, we were contending with a hidden rotten wooden board and the wrong tools. 
  • We used a guide string to mark out the line we wanted to follow. Then we used scaffold boards to line up and stand on as we cut into the edge with a half moon. 
  • We removed the grass and soil that was protruding passed over the area with some edging shears, which tidied up any long blades of grass.
  • In theory, this should have been a quick job. In reality it took the best part of an hour and didn’t even deliver a straight line! 

Thursday 25 March

On Thursday we worked at a different site pruning fruit trees. I was incredibly excited for this practical day out, as I have only ever worked with ornamental plants. We started by identifying the species we were working with. There was a lot of Pear, Apple, Cherry, Damson, Plum and even Fig! The pear after bud break was incredible, as they had beautiful leaves protecting the emerging, plump flowering buds. 

The orchard was very neglected, with very few tree pits remaining and extensive damage to the trees, including broken branches and plants that had died completely. This was likely due to the popular football pitch adjacent to it. 

We started by removing the three Ds (dead, damaged and diseased), then removed any crossing branches that could lead to rubbing and then infection. After that, we used a half moon and hears to redefine the tree pit. This proved to be hard work, as the tree pits had likely not been attended to for over ten years. 

After that, Laurence and I walked to a nearby park and recorded our latest podcast episode

Friday 26 March

Fridays are always quite fleeting, as I am only in for half the day. On this particular Friday I was able to lay out some plants on the site I dug over on Monday. There were such beautiful ferns, including Dryopteris, Polystichum and Asplenium, as well as some Clyclamen, Euphorbia and Anemone

After that, I walked around the sites we will be designing winter bedding for and measured them out. We discussed our ideas for designs and have decided to opt for a winter prairie design, but I have created a more formal design using dot, subdots, groundwork and edge, just in case. But fingers crossed – it would be nice to add a little Jardins de Luxembourg, Paris to London. 

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