October 2023 Newsletter
Autumn is upon us, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” - Well, so far, there has been little in the way of mist, but plenty of fruitfulness, apples, pears, damsons, blackberries have all done well, despite the topsy turvy weather we’ve had this year. It has it’s problems though for us as gardeners. I am wanting to plant out more of my winter and spring veg plants but the beans and courgettes are still producing so the pak choi, winter lettuce and mizuna are mostly still in their modules waiting for the ground to be cleared.
I have started planting up spring bulbs in pots, just iris and a few narcissi so far. I went out yesterday to plant some more, but got distracted. I decided to weed the back of the border where I was going to stand the pots, but as soon as I started to hoe the weeds I spotted some self seeded plants I wanted to save, verbascum, knautia, thalictrum and verbena which I carefully lifted and potted on. Which brings me to the topic of potting compost.
I have experimented with peat free compost for over ten years, and peat free is all that I use now. At first these composts were pretty rubbish, but they have got better, however, I don’t find them consistent. I think I have tried all the readily available ones and it is the same issue with each of them, though I must admit that I haven’t tried the most expensive ones. Yesterday I had a half full sack to use up and even though I had kept it in a water proof bin the consistency had gone decidedly soggy. In order to use it I mixed it with one third sieved garden soil and one third sieved material from my compost bin. The next sack I opened, which was from the same company was totally different in nature. Whereas the first one was dark and fibrous, the new sack was light coloured with remnants of wood wool still obvious and a lot of white speckled material. The sack was labelled as “containing a range of natural ingredients, carefully sourced and processed to grow the healthiest plants whilst helping to promote a better environment.” It also said that the company was, “an accredited member of Responsible Sourcing Scheme,” - website: - responsiblesourcing.hta.org.uk . Checking the website, my product was not listed, though some of the ones I have used in the past were and rated from A to E, though none of them give more details of what is in the compost.
I fully endorse going peat free, but I would like to know more of what goes into the peat free composts that are available. Coir fibre, wood wool, composted bracken and recycled green waste are all mentioned in general information, but when you cannot rely on getting the same mixture each time from the same brand the outcomes have got to be problematical. Perhaps it is time for the horticultural industries to be more open about the contents of their products.
In my last newsletter I mentioned that I was trailing wool pellets as an organic measure to ward off slugs and snails. Creatures that I have plenty of; - at least seven varieties of slugs and three varieties of snails. I know that some slugs are important in recycling dead material but I could do without the little black ones which delight in consuming young plants. So far, the wool pellets appear to be providing a barrier for the small number of plants I have put in the ground. Unfortunately, it does not stop flea beetles, so the pak choi is looking rather like a set of lace curtains. On the pack of pellets, it says that “one application lasts the season,” I will wait and see if this is the case.
Things to do: -
It’s time to to either mulch bare soil or sow green manures on it
Gather up fallen leaves, store them in sacks or a wire mesh container to make leafmould.
Lift and divide herbaceous perennials such as hostas and geraniums
Lift the blades on your mower to allow the grass to be a little longer for winter and reduce the number of cuts
A place to visit: -
Mayfield Park Manchester
Boardman Gate Entrance
Baring Street, Manchester M1 2PY
A newly created park in the centre of Manchester, just over an hour from Poynton by train or bus.
Free: well-rotted horse manure
Contact Brenda Dale
Tel: - 01625 871102
Street Lane Adlington