Making Meadows

So its been a while since our last post, mainly due to the fact we’ve been super busy planting our new meadow! Last month we took delivery of 5000 plug plants, all British natives, in order to create 1000sqm of meadow in the lawn under the lime grove. The whole team worked really hard on getting these plants into the ground, and 2500 holes and 5000 plants later none of us ever want to see another spade or plug plant again for quite some time!!!

5000 plugs ready to be planted

5000 plugs ready to be planted

The plants were supplied as well rooted 25mm plugs, this will give them a great chance at becoming established quickly and being able to compete with the existing grasses. The plants are bladder campion, teasel, red campion, birds foot trefoil, toadflax, selfheal, field poppy, ragged robin and knapweed. Yellow rattle plugs will also be planted when they become available this month.

well rooted plugs

well rooted plugs

Before we began planting the turf was mowed very short and the area scarified using spring tine rakes. We dug planting holes into the turf, which were turned over and replaced upside down, giving a square of bare earth into which the plugs could be planted. Two plugs of the same species were placed into each square.

4. holes

square section of turf removed and replaced upside down

6. meadow planting 2

the Tuesday team doing some planting

5. meadow planting 1

more planting by Team Tuesday

We had help with the planting from school children involved with Richmond Pupil Parliament and also from those attending the Feel Good Garden course here at Strawberry Hill. A huge thank you to all who helped us with the planting, it allowed us complete the task much more quickly!

7. poppies

The plants chosen are mainly perennials so will give colour year after year, we will also collect seed and propagate more plants each year to help fill out the meadow and also extend it to other areas.

The leftover plants have been potted up and are now available for sale from outside the shop, so visitors can have a go at creating their own meadow at home! All funds raised from this will go towards purchasing materials to allow us to propagate more meadow plants for next season.

plants now available for sale!

plants now available for sale!

We are also running free tours and talks about the meadow as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival 2014, so why not come along and see how its done!

Details at http://www.chelseafringe.com

building benches

Last summer over £100 was raised through donations given for vegetables produced from the community garden. This money was raised through the efforts of the community gardening team under the watchful eye of Strawberry Hill garden apprentice Jamie Kenny. The money raised was matched by Urban Food Fortnight with all the proceeds earmarked for the purchase of staging for our poly tunnel.

Fast forward to early this year when we began searching online for some good quality timber staging which would be within our price range. In total we wanted to buy four benches and the ones we wanted to buy came in at a whopping £198 each! So fresh from the shock of that price tag we decided it couldn’t possibly cost that much or be that difficult to make our own. Turns out we were right!!!

Below are some photographs of the first bench being built. It came in at around £50 for a bench of exactly the same dimensions as those we had seen online and took around two and a half hours to build, including sawing all of the timber.

Each bench is 950mm (H) x 600mm (D) x 1800mm (L) or about 3ft by 2ft by 6ft in old money!

Cutting out the usual teething problems I think we can reasonably hope to build each of the others in under two hours, making the total cost of the project about 8 hours and £200!!! An absolute bargain in my opinion!!!

Check back later this week for the final photos of the finished product.

measuring and sawing the timber

measuring and sawing the timber

initial laying out

initial laying out

going up!!!

going up!!!

one down, three to go!

one down, three to go!

Stepping up work in the woodland

Its been a busy start to the new year, and efforts so far have been concentrated around improving our woodland walk. We’ve been pulling pesky brambles and throwing loads of clippings through a chipper and as a result have tidied the glade areas and produced enough woodchip to cover a small country. We decided in the end, however, to put our plans for world domination aside and use it to chip the woodland path.

Over the past week we have been installing a set of steps to the end of the woodland walk on an area which was previously a steep muddy bank. The recent rain had definitely highlighted the problem of this section of the trail, as it had become quite slippery and potentially dangerous. We terraced 6 wide steps into the bank using wooden boards and tree stakes to retain the soil. We have now also wood chipped the steps and installed some planting to the side.

The entire garden volunteer team had a hand in this one, and as can been seen from the pictures below, their hard work has most definitely paid off!

 

Before the installation of the steps could begin we needed to remove several tree stumps

Before the installation of the steps could begin we needed to remove several tree stumps

Sandy limbering up with a spot of woodland yoga!

Sandy limbering up with a spot of woodland yoga!

the Thursday volunteer team laying out the steps

the Thursday volunteer team laying out the steps

the Tuesday volunteer team finishing the installation of the first three steps

the Tuesday volunteer team finishing the installation of the first three steps

All but one of the steps complete

All but one of the steps complete

Jamie playing hardball with an old tree stump!

Jamie playing hardball with an old tree stump!

with the retaining wood in place we just needed to back fill, for this we used a pile of old turves we had lying around

with the retaining wood in place we just needed to back fill, for this we used a pile of old turves we had lying around

steps wood chipped to give a nicer walking surface

steps wood chipped to give a nicer walking surface

the Tuesday volunteers installing a low dead hedge to the side of the steps for soil retention and to improve the look!

the Tuesday volunteers installing a low dead hedge to the side of the steps for soil retention and to improve the look!

all done! the volunteers survey the product of their hard graft!

all done! the volunteers survey the product of their hard graft!

Awesome I’m sure you’d agree! Check back later for the final completion photos!

The final product!!!

the completed steps, planting and dead hedges!

the completed steps, planting and dead hedges!

More winter interest: Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree)

I just couldn’t resist throwing another plant into the mix, as it is looking so good at the moment! The Strawberry Trees in the theatrical border are currently bearing lots of very colourful fruits and so I just couldn’t resist adding a post about it!

Arbutus unedo is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the plant family Ericaceae, so related to many common garden plants such as heather and Rhododendron. Although, unlike many other members of this family which prefer to grow in acid soils, the strawberry tree is perfectly happy growing in neutral or alkaline (limey) soils.
It’s common name strawberry tree comes from the fact the ripe fruits resemble strawberries. Each fruit takes a full year to develop, and fruits mature at the same time as the new flush of flowers are produced. The fruits are edible, however the latin species name ‘unedo’ points to the fact they are not particularly tasty, coming from the phrase ‘unum edo’ literally translating to ‘I eat one’. The fruits are more suited to making jams rather than eating fresh! In Portugal a strong brandy known as medronho is produced from the fruit.
IMG_5073
Above: ripe fruits on a plant in the theatrical border

A great plant suited to growing in a wide variety of situations with year round interest….what more can we ask for!!!

Winter interest: Taxus baccata

While many plants have now shed their leaves or retreated underground until the spring returns there are some plants which are looking at their best during this time of year.

We have several European yew trees which really are at their best in winter, this is the time of year when conifers really come into their own!

The latin name for yew is Taxus baccata. This name gives a hint as to the characteristics of the tree, with the genus name Taxus meaning ‘toxic’ and the species name baccata meaning ‘bearing red berries’.

Unlike many other conifers which bear their seeds in cones the yew produces seeds individually on branch tips, which each seed surrounded by a red fleshy ‘berry’. Though if we really wanted to get technical the fruits present on the yew are not, in fact, berries. The red flesh around the seed is an aril, with the fleshy outgrowth being derived from the ‘stalk’ (or funicle to give its correct name!) on which the seed is held inside the ovary, rather than being derived from the ovary wall itself, as in a true ‘berry’…..anyway, I digress….ignore my fruit related musings and check out the photo below!

IMG_5066

Above: the attractive fleshy aril of the yew.

Every part of the plant is toxic except for the red flesh covering the seed, which is edible but pretty tasteless so I’m told. How toxic you ask? well the plant contains the chemical Taxine, which is a highly toxic alkaloid linked to the inhibition of heart depolarisation. In short, it stops the heart from beating. It’s thought that ingesting just a couple of seeds will kill a person in a matter of minutes….not sure I’ll be tasting those fruits after all!

Winter work begins…..

At last winter seems to have arrived and with it the ever growing list of winter jobs!!! I’ve added a few photos below, just because I thought they were nice really!

Works are getting underway on the new garden building, and over the past couple of weeks we have been moving our compost piles to newly built temporary bays to allow the contractors to remove the old ones. In addition to moving the compost we have been doing lots of leaf collecting, and our leaf mould pile now resembles a brown Mt. Everest!

Image

Log cutting is now underway, with logs available for sale at very reasonable prices!

ImageImage

Our temporary compost bays, before and after! - very simple to make and only took a couple of hours using pallets and some spare fence panels. This is a low cost idea you could try at home for your own compost piles, but perhaps on a slightly smaller scale!

Image

Leaves almost covering the house!

Stumped!

So, with phase one of bulb planting complete (nobody mention to the volunteers that there is a phase two or I will be in big trouble!) last week it was time to wage war on some troublesome tree stumps around the garden. We hired in a stump grinder (see photo of scary looking machine below!) and set about removing six stumps. A full day was spent removing the largest stump which was in the middle of the front lawn and made mowing quite difficult. The turf was lifted, stump removed and then the area levelled and the turf replaced. Within a few weeks when the turf regrows it will be hard to imagine there was ever a stump in the first place!

20131121_083008
Stump in the front lawn
20131121_114858
Turf lifting
20131121_122752
Jamie our apprentice wielding the stump grinder!
20131121_125546
Jamie and Paul, one of our garden volunteers, forgoing the machine for brute force!
20131122_151627
Turf replaced, with only a small hole to seed!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 626 other followers