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The Gardening Year at Weleda
Over the coming months Weleda would like to share some news and information on the activites in our gardens in Ilkeston
Meet Claire, one of the Weleda gardeners who cares for our This is whats been happening lately......
15 acre growing site called 'The Field'.
This is whats been happening lately......
Click for larger versionGrasp the nettle!
Have you noticed how prolific the Stinging nettles are this time of year? They seem to have enjoyed the recent weather conditions and are in full flowering mode. We love nettles at Weleda! It’s the perennial nettle (Urtica dioica) that proliferates at The Field and we recently harvested 3kg of whole flowering plant (including the roots) to make a medicinal tincture. This tincture goes into one of Weleda’s own herbal remedies, prescribed by doctors, for anaemia.
Sometimes we just harvest the nettle flowers, which is always a double-gloved challenge for the gardeners. The flowers are dried and are used in another of our remedies for regulating and balancing the menstrual cycle.
Nettles bring many benefits to the garden; they’re an important food plant for the Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies – lift a leaf and you may find a gang of caterpillars lifting their heads at you, trying to scare you off! Nettles are a great compost activator as they are rich in nitrogen – just roughly chop and add to your compost heap. You can also make a useful tonic feed for the garden – fill a bucket with chopped nettles, cover with water and leave for a fortnight (best put a lid on as it gets quite smelly). You can then dilute 1:10 in water and feed your plants. We use the perennial nettles in our biodynamic compost preparations and they’re also a good companion plant, so its always worth leaving a patch of nettles in your garden; you can even eat them by making a soup from the fresh young leaves in Spring.
Click for larger versionThe annual nettle (Urtica urens) is also a useful medicinal plant. It’s an ingredient in our Combudoron Spray, which is used to treat insect bites and stings; the Weleda gardeners always have some to hand at this time of year!
Click for larger versionOur Cowslip Meadow is putting on a good show. They're moisture loving plants so have thrived with last years soggy summer. The story is quite different for many of our other herbs - they didn't appreciate last years cold, wet summer (or the never-ending winter) so we'll be busy this year increasing our stocks and improving our soil drainage!
Click for larger versionThe Cowslip flowers are harvested in Spring and are one of the key ingredients used in Weleda medicines, prescribed by doctors, to help strengthen the heart and rhythmic system.
Looking around the Weleda gardens it’s hard to believe that it’s April and that we’re actually in British Summer Time. The trees are still bare and the plants are refusing to awaken from their winter slumber.
It is however British Seed Time! Time to engage in that most optimistic of gardening activities, seed sowing. We’ll be sowing the bulk of our seeds the third week in April, but have already got an early March start for our Calendula crop. At Weleda, we follow Maria and Matthias Thun’s Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar, which tells us the optimum days to sow, prune and harvest according to the planetary and cosmic rhythms. We selected a ‘flower’ day in March before the full moon to sow eight trays of Calendula seeds in the greenhouse. Germination has subsequently been swift and strong. We’ll also choose a ‘flower’ day to plant them out in the Allotment Field, hopefully when it’s a little bit warmer!
For more information about biodynamics: www.biodynamic.org.uk
Spring is rapidly coming towards us, but until it arrives we've found time to get a 'bit' of hedgelaying done. We have a 100 metre Hawthorn hedge on one of our boundaries that we think is at least 100 years old.
It's important to do this work while the trees are still dormant, before the sap starts to rise. Laying the hedge will improve our site security, but will also rejuvenate the hedge.
It will send new vigorous growth up from the base, so we will hopefully be harvesting plenty of berries next autumn. Hawthorn is a traditional herbal remedy for the heart and circulation.
Above you can see the before and to the left the after photos I took this morning.
January snow is falling here at Weleda in Derbyshire, putting a stop to our hedging and fencing work – time to retreat to the sheds to do some maintenance and tidying.
It’s often thought that everything outdoors ‘in nature’ is dormant in the wintertime, as there are few visible signs of life above ground.
However the living soil is actually at it’s busiest at this time of year, utilising the earth’s crystallising forces to replenish and recharge itself, ready for the plant world’s needs in spring and summer.
In recognition of this important task, we avoid any disturbance of the soil
(i.e. ploughing or digging) from January 15th to February 15th.
However, there’s still plenty for us to do; tincture and planting plans, seed ordering, machine maintenance, cleaning out the greenhouse; you really are never stuck for work in a garden!
November surely has been a record breaker for rainfall...
Our land at The Field is completely saturated, we've had streams
pouring off the gardens and down the pathways and tracks.
Because the land is far too wet to work on, we've retreated inside the garden
shed to clean the seeds that we harvested in August and September.
By saving our own seed we've found that the plants we grow gradually adapt
to our own particular conditions and are often more resilient if the growing
year is a challenging one.
We can also be sure that the specific medicinal variety
is correct (sometimes the seed companies do get it wrong).
One of our least favourite seed heads to clean is Milk Thistle
(Silybum marianum), as it's very, very spiky.
The seeds are used herbally as a detox and liver protector -
perfect for the aftermath of all those Christmas and New Year parties!
October "It's late Autumn now and we've just about put the garden to bed for the coming winter. We've dug the soil, sowed our green manures and top dressed the perennials with our wonderful 'home-made' biodynamic compost.
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