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Shepley First School

The Garden Diary 2015 - 16


Brought in step ladders to get on the Eco roof to weed the alder trees that are growing there, but my step ladders weren’t tall enough to reach the roof, so will get some longer ones from school next term.  Pruned a large branch of alder tree that was dangling over the Eco roof and a probable source of seedlings growing there. Reassembled the redundant water butt from the Eco downpipe and placed it under the drip section of new piping, which needs sealing with masting paste. Watered the grow bags in the wooden greenhouse and transferred two potted aubergines back to the potting shed where they will have more room and twice-weekly watering now. The winds had blown over (again) the new butt by the potting shed, so repositioned it and added two watering cans full of water from another butt to weight it down in place. Pulled out all the stinging nettles growing around the compost heap, then cut out the brambles causing a thicket there. Watered needy raised beds and allotment plants, then weeded all the raised beds (worst of) to look reasonable and stop the veg. plants being choked. Pumpkins developing nicely, celery looking good, and one of the artichokes planted from seed this year now has a ‘choke’ on it. A good crop pf apples almost ready again, and thornless blackberries have done well too


Short visit to check and water the greenhouse grow-bags, which were again dry. 3 large cucumbers have grown. The new potting shed water butt now has some rain in, and the large Eco water butt is now full and over-flowing, after yesterday’s rain, so that has been a success which will ensure any dry spell next summer can be withstood with a good supply. Borlotti beans are ready to pick, and leeks and curly kale are doing well. We also have some large and still-growing pumpkins for Hallowe’en and 2 types of squash. The recent rainy summer has benefitted all the 2016-planted fruit trees, including many which have fruited in their first autumn, including medlars, apples and plums


Came in again after my hols. to check everything. Wind had blown the new water butt down so re-assembled. Watered greenhouse grow-bag plants and opened for ventilation. Despite recent heavy rain, some beds still needed watering, so did that. Liaised with new bee-keeper colleague about keys for Eco (not in school apparently). Checked new big butt system is working. Yes, it seems to be, but was full only to level of the tap, which we had left in the open position when we moved it, so rectified this. Collected up unused surplus parts from the big butt work, including some unused bricks, and took back to B&Q to collect refund, and to purchase the one remaining part I needed to complete the downpipe system. (No charge for petrol). Brought part back and fitted to the downpipe which now appears strong and complete. Emptied the small water butt under the Eco, as this is now detached and redundant, and used to water remaining dry beds, fruit shrubs, newly-planted fruit trees, hedges and willow tunnel. Did some weeding. 


Brought in tools, step-ladders and new downpipe parts to finish the Eco butt system. Have left it connected, but I will take back a few parts, exchange one for a better fitting final angle, and get refunds for the unused parts. Then turned to the potting shed, which was fitted with a gutter, downpipe and water butt, like the other two we have on the shed, as the frequent dry spells, (even if not hot), have shown that our rainwater storage capacity can be exhausted easily in summer. Repotted two aubergine plants from the potting shed and p[laced them into the greenhouse, where they can be watered whilst I’m away, (next 2 weeks) as the potting shed key is locked in the shed, so OOSC can’t get in there. Also took out a flowering geranium which can live outside in summer and get rain. Recent rains have replenished our butt supply, so I watered some dry raised bed plants


Brought in all the B&Q building materials to set up the large Eco butt in its new position behind the Eco. Reversed up the lane at the bottom of the Henny field to be nearer to the Eco for these heavy materials, bricks, etc. Raked a level area next to the Eco and built a prop of 4 ‘legs’ to stand the butt on, which took several trial-and-error attempts, as the distance from the sedum roof downpipe had to be exactly the same length as the new long downpipe, set at an angle to transport the water sideways to the butt, whose aperture on the lid fitted it perfectly. Dissembled the previous downpipe system of parts, to be reconfigured in a new system. Removed and replaced a wooden supporting bracket from the old downpipe, to support the new longer one, which was fixed in place, but this still left a short but fiddly gap, to be bridged with some new angle junction parts from B&Q


Brought in a gutter and two downpipes, plus a bag of smaller guttering parts and stored in the potting shed. Liaised with Sue from OOSC who said she had watered twice now, so at least that’s going. Watered greenhouse grow bags, beds and allotment, plus willow tunnel, which all needed it despite last night’s rain. Cut off all dock seedheads in the gravel paths surrounding the raised beds, as the seeds are not killed by the herbicide, so composted separately. Set up the Round-up sprayer and sprayed all gravel surrounds as it was a good warm sunny afternoon with no rain in the forecast. Reluctantly pulled out the borage plants, now beautifully flowering (self-seeded each year), as they are choking the leeks and carrots. The two water butts are nearly empty, despite last night’s rain, so devised a way to use the Eco butt, whose handle has been snapped off by intruders, but is easily twisted with the claw hammer, so that is another source. Did some ‘worst of’ weeding in the beds and allotment. 


Brought in the water butt for the potting shed roof, and checked the watering situation. Again, watering didn’t appear to have been done, in this very dry warm weather, with many plants again very dry and in need. Spent some time quickly watering most urgent plants, and propped slightly open the wooden greenhouse frame


Selecting and purchasing equipment to fit another gutter, downpipe and water butt (to the potting shed), and also for the new downpipe arrangement to be fitted to the large water butt from the Eco roof


(First day of Summer hols.) Came in to begin jobs agreed, and it’s a good job I did, as the watering regime agreed with OOSC doesn’t appear to been carried out, and in the heatwave we’ve had everything needed watering, with the tomato plants in the wooden greenhouse shrivelled and almost dead through drought. So…spent 1½ hours watering, and, in the remaining time, lopped and sawed some overhanging, shading branches from the quick growing alder by the compost heap, measured up for the two water butt systems agreed beforehand, and weeded. A good crop of raspberries, which I ate, and a further ripening of strawberries, which I ate and took a bag home. 


Opened wooden greenhouse for airing and watered grow-bags. Cucumber plants already have small cucumbers on – they must love the heat in there now it’s in the sun. Watered raised beds, young fruit trees in the ‘avenue’ and the ground allotment veg. Groups of children harvested ripe fruit and veg.: white currants, (a lot from just one bush in only its second year), strawberries (none left for the kitchens!), raspberries (only 2 so far), peas (2 basketfuls –shelled later), radishes, and rhubarb taken to the kitchens. Some more perennial artichoke plants were re-planted in their permanent positions along the inside of the allotment fence, with some weeding being done first. Rationalised pots in the potting shed, and re-potted two reserve aubergines. Sue Thorpe, in the OOSC, was busy all afternoon, so Sue, one of the other helpers there volunteered to be shown round the garden seeing what needed watering during the summer hols., as agreed. No after-school gardening club this week, so got Dan and Steve to help empty and move the large water butt from the currant garden down to the position behind the Eco (where the wooden greenhouse had come from), to be set up properly during the hols


Watered potting shed grow-bags and plants. Watered recently-planted fruit trees, and re-staked a couple that were leaning over. Pruned basal suckers from two plums again. Watered allotment veg. and blackberry bushes. No children came out, so weeded raised beds and allotment veg., and planted out the remaining leek seedlings, plus the reserve pumpkins to replace slug and cat losses, plus 2 courgettes and an odd sweet corn. Repotted the propagated geranium in the potting shed. The ‘new’ greenhouse is now in position facing the sun, so brushed and cleaned it out, then moved all 3 grow-bags from the potting shed to there, as the tomatoes had grown above the window light level in the shed. Also put the alpine strawberries there. Liaised with Val and Dan about the Bee Hotel design re inspection by Andy Booth on Friday this week. No after-school club as it’s Tuesday


‘Millie’, the new school-visiting dog, made her debut with the children, who made friends and threw her ball for her. Then they were told to leave her alone and concentrate on gardening. Thoroughly watered the potting shed grow-bags. Outside, with such continued wet weather, no watering was needed, and at least all the newly-planted fruit trees are growing well – in fact, there is even a Victoria plum on a tree planted this spring, and the flowers seem to be setting to fruit on the medlar tree, also newly-planted. The willow tunnel is growing well, and the peas’ pods are swelling up well in the rain – every cloud has a silver lining! Unfortunately, weeds are also growing very fast with this warm and wet weather, so one group weeded the raised beds and the large allotment, after the customary ‘catch-up’ round the garden that the children like to do first. The second group replaced leeks in the raised beds that had been eaten, from a spare tray left over. I weeded various areas between groups, and tied up the new long stems of the thornless blackberries to a higher level on the fence, plus re-staked a fruit tree. After-school Gardening Club dug, weeded and composted the ‘near’ half of the smaller ground allotment, to make room for more leeks to go there. The 3 rhubarb plants are growing very well, some topping out of their inverted bins, with many long stems. The Bee Hotel design is looking OK, with the HTAFC-coloured Lobelia coming into flower, but we need more sun in the next week to bring the marigolds back into flower, to show the ‘100’ design to best effect before judging.


Brought in 6 more celery plants to complete the re-planting of the raised bed of kale completely eaten by slugs (despite pellets being laid down). With 2 year’s classes away in London on a trip, no children turned up for either session in class time, so I took the opportunity to do some weeding. Cleared out weeds from the bottom of the hedge recently planted outside the allotment fence, which were choking the young saplings, and which contained many stinging nettle seedlings, which we don’t want there. Deadheaded the marigolds in the Bee Hotel pallet, and added slug pellets, as evidence of damage was noted. Watered plants in the potting shed – mainly now the tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines in grow-bags, and added stakes too support them as they’re getting taller. Children in the after-school Gardening Club showed great interest in the progress of plants in the garden, and asked so many questions and comments that we stood chatting for a while, with some very perceptive points made by them. They then planted up the celery (some of last week’s planted celery had been eaten by slugs, so, after watering in, I sprinkled slug pellets, giving a warning to the children regarding safety). Slug and cat damage combined in the last wet week have killed most of the pumpkin plants unfortunately, but we have some spares in the potting shed. The children then were set the task of tearing the grass and weeds away from the bases of the recently-planted fruit tree avenue to avoid competition for water and space leaving a neat circle of soil round each tree. The weeds and grass were all composted. At least the rain has been good for the willow tunnel, which is now growing well.

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