I seem to be getting a lot of questions at the moment so rather than a monthly Q&A, this may be the first of two for this month.
What is this?
John, can you tell me what this is? – found in my allotment
My first thought was pasta shells! But I reckon it’s some sort of fungus. Is it in compost or soil with a lot of decomposing wood? It won’t do any harm so I wouldn’t worry about it. It will die back of its own accord as the soil gets back into balance.
Happily fungi are beneficial to soil health and do not compete with our plants. Some are actually helpful symbionts and help plants grow – like the mycorrhizal fungi we inoculate shrubs and trees with.
Coping with Couch Grass
My young family and I got a half plot in August. Unfortunately it is infested with couch grass, almost 95% of the plot is covered. I strimmed it all down to ground level and covered with weed membrane in August.
I have tried to dig it out but it is taking me such a long time, my question is whether you think it would be a good idea for this season to grow through the membrane? And carry on digging and getting the couch grass roots out as much as I can. Also, in your opinion, does couch grass die off while it is covered?
The problem with couch grass is that it spreads from the long white roots that snake along under the soil, putting up new leaves every few inches. If you miss a bit of root when digging it out, that piece will throw up leaves and pretty soon you are back where you started. This makes organic control difficult to say the least.
I must admit I’m not too keen on weed membranes – basically I don’t much like the look of black plastic – but it is effective. Planting through the membrane will make use of the ground whilst the membrane is killing off the couch grass.
As long as there are no leaves above ground to power the roots, couch will eventually die off when covered. Once dead, the roots will rot and add to the humus in the soil.
I’d say the plan of covering the plot with weed membrane and digging out as you can is a pretty good way to clear it. There’s actually an article about controlling couch grass on the site which goes into a little more depth.
Growing in the Dung Heap
Thanks for your news letter.
I am planning to experiment this year with growing directly into a fairly fresh horse muck heap. The heap has been sitting since Jan and is 70% dung to 30% hemp bedding. I know that courgettes will thrive here, what chance do my runner beans, chard and potatoes have. I’ll be growing my carrots elsewhere.
All tips gratefully received.
I reckon the potatoes will like it but I don’t see the point in using that super resource for chard or runner beans. Squash and pumpkins will think they’re in heaven. If you could add more browns (straw, shredded card, etc.) it will probably heat up. Pop a cloche on the top, case with some sieved soil and you’ve a hot bed.
Thanks for the gardening tips.
I have very small garden . Last year I awaited a few raspberries ; but only got half formed ones and very few. How can I improve that this year?
My Dad grew lovely Raspberries but I never asked how he looked after them when he was alive.
I’m sorry for your loss, Tessa. I’m afraid there’s not much to go on but we know your father got a good crop so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. There’s an article on the site about growing raspberries here: Growing Raspberries – How to Grow Raspberries
Hopefully that will give you a place to start, at least.
My asparagus spears seem to start coming up already. Do I need to protect them from frost? as normally they would be much later. I inherited the asparagus plot on my allotment and covering it with manure and compost every autumn it seems to do quite well, but has never been so early.
Can’t find anything much in asparagus literature.
Hi Ursula – as I say in the article here Growing Asparagus – How to Grow Asparagus “Protect from late frosts with fleece.”
Hi John, Thanks for your top tips on growing sweetcorn. One question, you mention using 2L water bottles as mini cloche’s. Do you leave the screw tops on or off ?
Thanks for your advice (and a GREAT newsletter)
Hi Michael – At last a simple question. Leave the tops off to allow them to breathe. Remember the idea is to just provide a little shelter and a few degrees extra warmth – plant sweetcorn out when it’s safe from frost.
Last November I planted Douce Provence peas in a seed tray and left them in a plastic greenhouse over winter.About three weeks ago I replanted them into pots and they are now outside. They are now about six inches tall but they have flower buds. As I think they should be a lot taller before flowering I have been removing the buds. Am I doing the right thing?
Hi Fred, I don’t think you are doing the right thing. They’re reacting to the constraint of being in the pots and would be best planted out into the ground as soon as possible. Peas are pretty hardy and Douce Provence are an early pea anyway, suggested as a replacement for Feltham Early
As you can see from the drawing, in ideal soil the pea puts on far more root growth than you may have thought. The roots are concentrated in the first foot of soil but some go down to three feet. They spread horizontally to near two feet.
We plant peas quite closely so the roots from one plant share space with another. But that ‘crowding’ has far less effect than limiting to a pot.