Cheeky goats help to keep the grass ‘mown’

Arundel Castle goats.

Arundel Castle goats.

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IT’S SO exciting that we are only a week away from the opening of the castle gates, Friday 29th March, here at Arundel Castle after a very busy winter preparing the castle and gardens for our visitors.

The castle gardens are really beginning to flourish, our lawns are getting their first cut, with the steep grass banks around The Keep being carefully mown by our seasonal helpers, the wonderfully cheeky goats, who come in from their winter estate paddock for the spring and summer months to slowly munch their way through the grass banks of the castle working well alongside our groundsman.

The goats are not only an added attraction for our visitors but are an essential ecological part to the upkeep of the castle grounds.

There’s so much colour in the gardens at the moment from the variety of yellow narcissi, to the bright blue Hyacinth’s and the contrasting pale blossom of fruit trees, giving it a mystical but romantic feel that lends itself well to the dramatic backdrop of the of the castle walls and turrets.

Hyacinths – these highly scented plants have been known throughout history, originating from the eastern parts of the Mediterranean from Turkey through to north-east Iran, and known to have been grown by both the Greeks and Romans, they were even mentioned by both Homer and Virgil for their ‘sweet fragrance’! They arrived into Europe during the 16th century and became very popular in the 18th and early 19th Century. They are now grown commercially in the UK and Netherlands. In Iran the flower s are used as the ‘Haftseen’, table setting for the Persian New Year celebration called Norouz held during the Spring Equinox.

In the organic kitchen garden the team has just completed mulching the beds with good organic manure and now busy directly sowing carrots and seasonal vegetables which are grown for the castle and castle restaurant.

As the weather warms up (hopefully!) it is a good time to look out for the unwelcomed pests, being an organic garden we control these through a number of ways, our companion planting methods work well, whereby planting various herbs and flowers alongside our vegetables helps to deter the unwanted insects.

Here is a helpful guide of plants to help rid you of unwanted pest’s throughout the year:

Basil - Repels flies and mosquitoes.

Catnip - Deters flea beetle.

Dill - Deters black bean beetles.

Garlic - Deters Japanese beetle.

Horseradish - Deters potato bugs and phytopthora

Marigold- The workhorse of pest deterrents. Discourages Mexican bean beetles, nematodes and others.

Mint - Deters white cabbage moth, ants.

Nasturtium - Deters aphids, squash bugs and striped pumpkin beetles.

Pot Marigold - Deters asparagus beetle, Manduca quinquemaculata (tomato horn worm), and general garden pests.

Peppermint - Repels the white cabbage butterfly.

Rosemary - Deters cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot fly.

Sage - Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly.

Southernwood - Deters cabbage moth.

Summer Savory - Deters bean beetles.

Tansy - Deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetle, squash bugs and ants.

Thyme - Deters cabbage worm.

Wormwood - Deters animals from garden – except for my Patterdale Terrier!

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Feed your lawns.

Directly sow sweet peas outside, or plant out your plants raised under cover, we recommend pinching out the growing tips of young plants to encourage side growth.

It is a good time to plant & divide your summer perennials, if you have any additional divisions give them to a friend.

Plant pot grown evergreens.

Feed roses, herbaceous borders, hedges, trees and shrubs with a good general purpose organic fertilizer. Roses love bone meal – as do most plants!

Happy Gardening!

The Castle will be open to visitors from 29 March to 3 November 2013, Tuesday to Sunday.

Tickets for the gardens and grounds start from £8. Further information on Arundel Castle and its 2013 even calendar can be found at www.arudelcastle.org

Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle head gardener