Saturday, 9 February 2013

Castle Garden Autumn 2013

In between that warm time and this slightly colder snowy time, lots of exciting things have happened in the Castle Garden. In early autumn, as the summer flowers began to die, our team of staff and volunteers were out seed collecting.  Although we weren’t the only ones! The birds, fearless of our giant scare crow, and its miniature underlings (mainly aimed at slugs), ate all the sunflower seeds, massacring the giant heads in the process! This means we will have to rely on seed swaps if we want more sunflowers brightening up the edge of the Forest garden next season.
We did get lots of other seeds however and by removing the dried seeds from dying plants we will be able to propagate seedlings in the spring and control the spread of the more prolific plants. This also meant that we have been able to swap and sell interesting flowers, such as Cosmos and Dahlia Roxy at our events to local budding gardeners. The coriander and fennel seeds even made it into the kitchen!
As the seasons changed, so did our activities. Moving around being a priority as temperatures crept down and sunlight dwindled. There was a lot of clearing of dead plants and left over scrap from the busy summer as well as a seeming endless amount of leaf raking. Our brave rakers spent hours tidying up leaves and barrowing them, against the wind, to our newly organised leave mould area, just to return the next day to a fresh coating on the grass!

England’s best event over autumn is obviously Bonfire night, so in respect for this dramatic occasion we held a Bonfire workday, with wicker men, a roaring pizza oven, and of course a massive bonfire.
Spring bulbs were planted in the day, all over the front hill, where the old sign used to be. This will look amazing from the road and from the garden when the fresh shoots, then flowers, line the hill in spring.

Elsewhere in the garden Lauren used her creative talents to construct an army of beautiful stick men with a variety of heads from leaf bundles to conkers…or even snails. Inspiring the children (and adults) with an effect that was somewhere between disturbing and really cute!
Barry of course took charge of building a monstrosity of a structure that made our fire pit look like a tea cup in the hand of a giant. 
The turnout for this evening was brilliant, with everyone revelling in the excitement of building men and women of sticks… then burning them.

The crowd got so carried away that even our scarecrow, in its staff uniform, vanished in flames!
The end of the growing season was a busy time for herbs. Even though we harvest throughout the spring and summer, in the autumn we finally had the time to get on top of processing and packaging. This year we decided to sell the excess of herbs that the Castle kitchen could not use. So, on the run up to Christmas, we had a small ‘shop’ on the counter of the Cafe selling produce marked as castle garden grown  , with a menu telling customers what was available and explaining a little about the garden and its ethics.

The ladies: Veronica, Claudia, Victoria (and sometimes Barry), spent a couple of rainy days working on the presentation of our produce. Either packaging dried thyme, oregano and sage or creating herbal bath infusions of Rosemary and lemon balm!
The tea front saw Nick experimenting with exciting new blends of mint, yarrow, elderflower, rose, lavender and calendula flowers. Whist our in house sewing master: Doug needled away making hops pillows and lavender bags. 
There are still herbal teas on sale on the counter as well as seeds for spring planting, if you’re lucky you may even be able to snap up some of our special garden Honey!

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