Sunday, 30 December 2012
I suspect that the onion sets will lose.
"Mmmmmmm comfrey" to quote Allan Shepherd from his "The Little Book of Compost"(1)
"... picture me at my desk with a glazed look in my eye and a cascade of dribble sliding over my chin towards QWERTY. Comfrey to Allan the composter is donut with double caramel topping to Homer the fridge raider. This is a mouth-watering treat of a plant. It's easy to grow, perfect to compost and great to turn into a liquid feed"
The beauty of this - let's be honest - rather ugly plant is that it sucks up nutrients hidden deep in the ground and accumulates them in their leaves. These can be composted or turned into a liquid feed for other plants in the garden. There is more information on comfrey in Allan Shepherd's book and at Comfrey http://www.allotment.org.uk/grow-your-own/comfrey. Allotment.org.uk describes the comfrey in water method for making liquid feed, which has the disadvantage of smelling "like an open sewer when finished". Allan Shepherd favours the less smelly, dry, holed bucket approach one version of which is shown in this YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRbHqz1m7kk.
A big disadvantage of comfrey as a plant in the garden is that the original, wild version is invasive. If you don't want to spend time pulling up plants that keep popping up where you don't want them you need a variety called Bocking 14. I discovered that one of my permaculture friends on Facebook had some in her garden but if you are not so lucky the Organic Gardening Catalogue at http://www.organiccatalogue.com/ is one source in the UK that stocks it.
The comfrey roots from my friend are now overwintering in pots surrounded by leaf mulch. I shall be working on a holed bucket for the fertiliser generation in the spring.
(1) The Little Book of Compost: Recipes for a healthy garden and happy planet Allan Shepherd. Collins (5 Nov 2007). ISBN-13: 978-0-00-726727-9
It then occurred to me that they could serve a useful purpose over the winter as a hibernaculum, so I carried on adding logs and branches and then some of the fallen sycamore leaves that usually cover the garden at this time of year. It now looks quite impressive.
Am I am going to do anything else with it next year? Possibly. As I was finishing the log and leaf pile I came across an article on building a Hugekultur bed (How to Build Irrigation-Free Raised Beds with Hugelkultur http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-agriculture/how-build-irrigation-free-raised-beds-hugelkultur.html). Hugelkultur beds can be as large or as small as you want (How to Build Hugelkultur Irrigation-Free Raised Bed Gardens (Video) http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/how-to-build-hugelkultur-irrigation-free-raised-bed-gardens-video.html). This looks as though it could be the perfect solution to the problem of disposing of the wood and to making a small problem area of my garden suitable for planting.
Construction is planned for late spring. In the meantime any wild life that would like to use the log and leaf pile as a snug, hideaway over winter are more than welcome. Perhaps I should put up a sign: Winter hidey-holes available - rent free!
Thursday, 25 October 2012
But there was a slight problem. In order to pick the beans I had to trample on the bed to get to them. Permaculture fail, I'm afraid.
I then remembered that the ground immediately in front of the beans was already trampled on by the local cats who use it as a thoroughfare. So perhaps that is a "path", albeit a very narrow one, I can use to harvest my crop. Maybe not such a permaculture fail as I first thought.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Sunday, 29 July 2012
Another approach is to use a garlic wash. I have not tried this yet so cannot vouch for its efficacy but many people say that it does deter snails, slugs and some other insect pests.
A recipe that is doing the rounds again is one that was mentioned on Gardeners' World and has been repeated many times elsewhere. I originally found it on the Bowden hostas site at https://www.bowdenhostas.com/pages/Garlic-Wash-Recipe.html. There are two other versions of the wash, one of which includes hot peppers, at "Get Rid of Pests with Garlic" http://www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/get-rid-pests-garlic
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Monday, 16 July 2012
After a good start to the gardening year we have had nothing but rain, rain and yet more rain here in Caversham. Despite that - or maybe because of it - parts of the vegetable garden are flourishing. Potatoes and peas are doing well as are the herbs and lettuces, but there is only so much salad and lettuce soup I can eat and I am running out of ideas for consuming the abundant greenery!
Tomatoes are slow this year as are the cucumbers. I made the mistake of planting out my cucumber seedlings too early and they were quickly battered to the ground by heavy rainfall. The second batch seem to be doing well now but it will be a late crop this year, if any at all. Surprisingly, the aubergines seem to be surviving and the chilli peppers are racing ahead.
Monsoon conditions of course bring out the slugs and snails but I haven't noticed any appreciable difference in the damage caused compared with previous, drier years. I did spray part of of my vegetable plot with Nemaslug as an experiment, but there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two areas in terms of plant destruction, which has been minimal. It could be that the slugs from the untreated area moved into the treated ground once the nematodes had done their stuff and died or the nematodes infiltrated the unsprayed ground. I also use a number of barrier methods which possibly helped (see 20 Ways to control slugs in the permaculture garden or on the allotment | Permaculture Magazine http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/20-ways-control-slugs-permaculture-garden-or-allotment) or maybe the slug and snail predators have been out in force banqueting on the blighters! Whatever the reason, I certainly have not seen the scale of devastation reported in the Transition Culture blog (The Four Slugs of the Apocalypse http://transitionculture.org/2012/07/13/the-four-slugs-of-the-apocalypse/). I'd be interested in hearing what other UK gardeners are experiencing re mollusc infestations.
As an aside, if you have a particular interest in slugs and snails (apart from wanting them off the face of the planet altogether) the Field Studies Council has a number of identification guides including Land snails in the British Isles (2nd edition) - FSC : http://www.field-studies-council.org/publications/pubs/land-snails-in-the-british-isles-(2nd-edition).aspx and the much older (1983) A field guide to the slugs of the British Isles http://www.field-studies-council.org/fieldstudies/documents/vol5.5_156_a.pdf.