Abundance of fruit and veg... plus the hedgehogs

SEPTEMBER is a wonderful time of year in the castle gardens with our late summer and autumn flowering perennials, such as Rudbeckia Goldsturm and our more exotic Canna Iridiflora and Ginger Lilies which are incredibly striking at the moment. The English herbaceous borders have grown back after their Chelsea chop and are still flourishing.

Friday, 2nd September 2011, 10:29 am

We have lifted our potatoes and our onions are harvested and drying out, whilst the runner beans are in full production and the first of our corn on the cob have been taken up to the castle. The organic kitchen garden has an abundance of fruit and vegetables to look at.

We have some wonderful new gardening assistants as we have spotted what appears to be a family of hedgehogs. It’s hard to know exactly how many, they’re rather shy and scuttle off at quite a rate.

They seem to be enjoying all the slugs and snails within the borders and are now considered part of the castle gardening team as they nibble their way through our unwanted pests. I thought this would be a good time to research the hedgehogs a little more, especially as we know they are on the decline and we need to protect them as much as possible and so I came across the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) website.

Hedgehogs are particularly vulnerable in the autumn when they are fattening up for hibernation and so extra food can be a lifesaver. The BHPS recommend that we should provide as safe an environment as possible in our gardens and allotments.

Whenever possible a small corner should be left as a wildlife sanctuary, the rewards of which could include the pleasure of seeing visiting hedgehogs, as well as the knowledge that they will be helping in clearing the ground of pests.

I was fascinated to find out that hedgehogs can travel up to two miles a night foraging for food and do not like a confined environment, which is perhaps how they have ended up here in the castle gardens and grounds, a perfect environment for them.

Litters of young, called hoglets, are born from May onwards to as late as September and average about two to six in number.

At about 4 weeks of age they venture out of their nest with their mothers and at about 6-8 weeks old they leave the nest and wander off on their own - they weigh around 250gms (8oz) at this stage.

They have small bright eyes but cannot see very well; at night they will use their excellent sense of smell and hearing to guide them. If you are out and about in your cars at night please look out for these wonderful little bundles as they go in search of food.

Here are a few tips from the castle garden team:

Laying a new lawn: Prepare your area ready for seeding mid September and if laying turf leave this until October or November.

Deadhead your plants to continue the flowering.

Collect flower seeds for next year.

Happy Gardening!

For full ticket, booking and garden tour details visit the castle website at www.arundelcastle.org or the Arundel Festival website www.arundelfestival.co.uk.