Arundel Castle’s unusual gardeners

THE Arundel Castle garden team are not quite what most people would expect, yes they constantly work hard on maintaining the gardens and grounds for everyone to enjoy, but there are some members that I realise have gone unmentioned for not only their hard work, great enthusiasm, mischievous behavior, general good nature, and are an ecological part of keeping our grass banks and paddock areas well maintained.

Tuesday, 21st September 2010, 8:22 am

They are, of course, our unusual breeds of goats and horses, seen grazing the steep Keep banks and grass meadows! They don’t ask for much in return and love all the attention they are given by the rest of the team, they are, however, given a few ground rules.

They are not at liberty to roam our grass labyrinth and kitchen garden, although have been know to try on occasion!

This leads me to the topic of maintaining lawns. This is a good time of the year to re-seed and focus on the grass in general, especially after such a hot summer.

Here are a few pointers in helping you with your lawns before winter comes:

Mow the lawn as normal.

Rake out moss and thatch, for small lawns use a flexible wire tooth rake and for larger lawns consider hiring a powered lawn raker. You can keep some of the moss for winter hanging baskets; remove the other debris first though.

Mow the lawn again.

Aerate your lawn by spiking - this stops compaction and helps drainage, use a fork or hire an aerator.

Feed the lawn with an autumn lawn feed fertilizer.

Top dress the lawn with a mixture of topsoil, compost and sand, which should be sprinkled thinly to a depth of 5mm and then brushed in.

Laying Turf - if you would prefer not to seed your lawn then laying turf is an alternative.

It can be costly but will give a more instant effect. Make sure you start with the longest and straightest part of your garden and then place the turf down as close as possible, so you do not see the joins.

Stagger the turf as if you are laying bricks. Push it down with the back of a rake or place a plank on it and thump it with the back of a sledgehammer.

Overlap the turf when you reach a flowerbed and cut the shape required with a knife, such as an old carving knife. Any gaps in the turf can be filled with soil, this helps the grass to grow in and you will not see the lines.

Some of the plants to look out for in the gardens at the moment are the vibrant Hedychium coccineum ‘Tara’ - ginger plants, located in the Collector Earl’s garden, the wonderful Magnolia grandiflora which can been seen on the way up to the gardens and in various other places and the different varieties of dahlia’s throughout the borders.

Numerous onions from our organic kitchen garden have been harvested and strung up; these are used widely in cooking and salads here at the castle. Onions are used in natural medicine and known to help blood clotting. They have been recorded in history as being in use as far back as 3,000 BC! Keep your onions in a dry and airy room.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Ensure you have a good compost bin or site going, autumn is a time when there will be a good deal of waste to add to it.

Plant up your spring bulbs, you can leave your tulips and hyacinths until October.

Plant winter bedding and bulbs in containers

Pick blackberries, early varieties of apples and the pears towards the end of the month.

Continue with the cut back slow growing hedges such as yew and box, deadhead roses and clip back hedges such as hornbeam and Cyprus at this time of the year.

Reminder – The final seasonal Garden Tour will take place on Friday September 24 from 11am to 12.30pm. Places are limited and the tours are very popular. Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. For tickets and further information contact:

Penny Horsfield, Head Guide (telephone: 01903 882173), email: [email protected] or www.arundelcastle.org

Volunteers: if you have some time to spare and are interested in joining our garden volunteer team, I promise not to put you in with the goats and horses, then do get in touch by writing to me at the castle, our details can be found on www.arundelcastle.org or via email [email protected]

Happy Gardening!