Learning some old fashioned skills at St Luke’s Community Garden and Orchard

Over these past 2 years of blogging, I’ve had some lovely invites off schools and community groups inviting me to have a nosey at their gardens and where possible, I will always try and take people up on their kind offer.

So, right at the end of my summer holidays I went to St Luke’s Community Garden and Orchard in Leeds, to check out their garden and to take part in a morning scything workshop and afternoon herbal sessions and it was absolutely fab!

Scything Workshop

A scythe is an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass or reaping crops

Luke the instructor, opened the session with an icebreaker, where we all said our name and what early memories we had of gardening that had influenced our passion for it. I talked about my first visit to RHS Garden Wisley, where the rock garden blew me away and how it had started my love for Japanese maple. My Mum said her early memories were the smell of tomatoes in her Dad’s greenhouse and my Grandma talked about her Uncle’s plot where he was really productive and packed the veggies in a really small space

Luke asked us why we would use a traditional scythe instead of using a lawnmower. My hand shot up, ‘cos I thought it must be better for wildlife and the environment.  Together we talked about how it’s good for cutting wild flower meadows, for mowing lawns, for making hay on a small scale, for cutting on a steep slope, for clearing ground in sensitive habitats… and it’s good exercise and therapeutic.

Luke explained all the different parts to the scythe and I really loved his traditional, wooden scythe, rather than the modern metal one. I think he said his was Austrian?

Parts of a scythe: 1. Toe 2. Chine 3. Beard    4. Heel 5. Tang 6. Ring 7. Snath or snaith    8. Grips



Having a go, the best way to learn

Luke demonstrated how to scythe, we all had a go and it was a bit hard, actually!

Peening and honing

It’s really important to sharpen the blade regularly, with a wet stone so it cuts the grass well. Luke explained all about peening and honing.

Peening is the art of cold hammering the edge of the blade to draw it out and restore the ideal cutting profile. It is also used to tailor the blade edge to the task in hand (eg ultra-fine for lawns, more robust for mowing weeds) and to repair damage to the blade edge

Thanks Luke for teaching me a new skill, I really enjoyed the scything session and there’s the possibility I might be getting one. We haven’t got any grass in our garden, but there’s a steep slope adjacent to our house, so I might have a dabble there.

The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth. The freckled cowslip, burnet and green clover. Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank. Conceives by idleness and nothing teems, but hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burrs. Losing both beauty and utility.   William Shakespeare

Radio Interview


BBC Leeds turned up to interview Luke and Donna about the project and the scything workshop. The interviewer asked me some questions too; the clip is available until the end of Sept 2017


Veg, Fruit and Herb Gardens

Whilst everyone was having a go with the scythes I walked around the raised beds, had a chat with Donna and took a few photos. They have some fab herb areas, plenty of fruit trees and soft fruit bushes and then some cracking sunflowers, which are part of The Big Sunflower Project Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy

Shared Lunch

Donna had prepared the most beautiful lunch with ‘green soup’ – where we guessed at the ingredients – some lovely salads and home-made bread. We took some lemon drizzle cupcakes, made by my friend, Kulwant. It was great to sit and eat with the volunteers; one lady said it was lovely to eat with others, as she lived alone and felt lonely sometimes. After lunch, I entertained the other kids, with a quick session on the bubble net.

Herbal workshop

I really love chemistry and essentially that’s what the herbal session was all about. Using natural ingredients, such as lavender and marigold to create balms, bath salts, bath bombs and scrubs. It was really easy to do and great fun and I think loads of kids could easily get involved.

Donna led the session and showed us how to:

  • Infuse oils with herbs and dried flowers. She also told us the healing properties of plants too, like how red clover is good for eczema
  • Ointment – this was so easy to make, We used an infused oil (or you can use veg oil), some beeswax pellets and a few drops of essential oils. All you did was put them in a bowl over a pan of water and when the beeswax pellets melted, boom it was done
  • Bath bombs – all they are bit of bicarb, citric acid and a few drops of essential oils, pressed into a silicone cupcake mould – well easy
  • Skin scrubs – using kitchen ingredients like brown sugar, oatmeal, honey and oil
  • Bath soaks – using things like Epsom salts

What a mess we made and what great fun it was!

What a nice bunch of people and what a great community project; me my Mum and Grandma were made to feel so welcome.

Thanks to Donna, Luke, Kevin and the volunteers; we learnt so much about traditional skills. I had a bath as soon as I got in (that’s a rarity!) and chucked in a bath bomb and some salts. I also can’t wait to get my hands on a scythe again.

Grow well St Luke’s Community Orchard and Garden!!


About greenfingeredgeorge

RHS Young Ambassador Gardening Geek and Nature Nerd!
This entry was posted in Gardening, Local Food, Visits to parks and gardens and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Learning some old fashioned skills at St Luke’s Community Garden and Orchard

  1. Donna says:

    Oh my word! How lovely! We are still talking about your visit! So happy you all enjoyed it! You certainly studied the day we’ll! I’ll send your link to Luke too! Dxxx


    • Hi Donna, thanks for the message. Am hoping to get a scythe to do more practice and I’ve enjoyed plenty of lovely baths – although the lavender blocks the plughole! See you again I hope George


  2. Joan says:

    Sounds a lovely day George so glad you learnt about old tools, such a lot still out there, that we could still use. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: HERE WE ‘GROW’ in 2018 !!! | Green Fingered George

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