Published: 14 February 2014
Sue's Views: Week 15
Sue shares her college week where good practical sessions were followed with a walk in the garden.
This week, the best is saved to last. We started slowly with a machinery assessment. We learnt safety checks for starting a hedge cutter and had a quick go using one. My last attempt with one of these was on a ball-shaped box bush. It was sadly less ball shaped by the time I’d finished. More of a potato. It’s not as easy as it looks.
Schumacher garden was fun, looking at how to train peaches in fans and pears in espaliers. The fan is created by chopping off the leading shoot and letting the two lower branches fork and spread over the wall. The espalier just gets trimmed so that branches go neatly sideways every so often. It takes such a long time to create one of these. You need a permanent home and a plan to stay in it for decades to come to make all this worthwhile. Some gardening is really long term, especially with trees. I think gardeners and foresters are some of the few who think ahead in decades. Not many of us get beyond the next five years. I’m going to try to extend my life plan to at least 10 years. Anyone have a 10 or 20 year plan?
At School Farm we were putting down cardboard followed by mypex followed by wood chip to try to delay weeds coming through. I daren’t say ‘prevent’ weeds as nothing does. I’ve included a photo of grass happily growing on top of Mypex. It’s unstoppable.

We’re learning ‘proper’ organic growing this week. The detail of how to sow, maintain and harvest specific crops: root crops, salads, brassicas. Great stuff. Just what I’ve been wanting to know. I feel so inspired now to try out the veg I haven’t grown before. Also to really start using the seasons and maximise my growing area. I could produce probably twice as much if I managed it better. I’ve also only done growing from seed straight into the ground. It seems very easy to make your own propagator and sow from seed then transplant. Could be good for getting some veg early in the year.
Friday afternoon turned into a stroll around Dartington Gardens. We practiced our Latin names on the way but mostly just admired the camellias (some of which are flowering) and the incredible avenue of witch hazel. We also saw a tree that had been completely stripped of its bark. Apparently male squirrels do this when there are territory battles going on. That tree must have been growing for 20 years. Now it doesn’t stand a chance.

A stroll around Dartington Gardens

On the positive side, we have a fabulous line up of lectures next week. Rupert Sheldrake is doing one of the earthcare talks at the Craft Ed building on Wednesday. Then we have various people coming to see us in the Chicken Shed. Jonathon Dawson, an economist, is coming and I really want to ask him about the whole peak oil issue and how nations should be responding to this. My own editor, Chris Allen is coming for a question and answer session and to top it all off Satish Kumar is coming. Need I say more…
Reported by Sustainable Suzi  

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