LL's Gardening Diary

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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

Freeranger wrote:I'm very curious about your algae experiment. Is there a reason why the one species is preferable to any other?


Last year I did some research into the benefits of growing algae as part of my climate change projects. I came across a lot of scientific papers which compared different algal species for carbon capture and also some articles on using algae as soil amendment / fertilizer. In both researches, the species Chlorella vulgaris was mentioned. Chlorella is a fresh water algae (a lot of algae are sea water species), is easy to cultivate and is also usually more readily available for growing as a food supplement (the other is Spirullina which is cyanobacteria) and as live food for fisheries (to feed rotifers which are eaten by fish larvae) I also thought the lime coloured water looked really pretty too.

I found last year that the jars I had hanging outside also started to get tainted with wild type algae - and a lot of these actually adhered to the glass. Chlorella is a single celled algae which is in the water itself so was easy to just drain the jar into a watering can and use it directly on to the soil unlike the other algae which I would have to physically scrape off the glass (difficult to do with the mesh covers on the top to try and prevent mosquito larvae although not 100% successful last year as I found)

Anyway, a couple of articles I came across and some quotes:

Chlorella, a potential biofertilizer

ABSTRACT

Microalgae are photoautotrophic organisms with fast growth and the ability to adapt to different environments. They convert carbon dioxide into biomass and are considered to have great biotechnological potential because of it. Algal biomass can be used in food and bioactive compounds industry, in biofuels production, in bioremediation and biofertilization. As biofertilizers, chlorophytes and cyanophytes microalgae produce polysaccharides (mucilage) that can avoid erosion, improve the structure and organic matter content in the soil, and increase the ions concentration for crop plants. Thus, reducing the need for conventional crop chemical fertilizers. The use of this microalgae as biofertilizers is called algalization. Algalization uses mainly chlorophytes due to their high growth rate, their simple large scale cultivation, and their adaptation to soil conditions. Chlorella genus is of special interest because research has shown that it can help with nitrogen fixation, improve physical and chemical properties of the soil, and produce substances that can promote plant development and infections control. Therefore, microalgae from Chlorella genus are a viable alternative for biofertilization, generating benefits for agricultural production and the environment.


Bioreactor absorbs C02 400x more effectively than trees

The reactor uses a specific strain of algae called chlorella vulgaris, which is claimed to soak up much more CO2 than any other plant.


The purpose of growing algae as a biofertilizer was to increase soil carbon as part of my climate friendly gardening strategy (obviously on a small scale) - as a bio matter, it would feed various microbes which multiply (hence, transfer of carbon) which are then eaten by other larger animals including earthworms. Basically, improve the ecology of soil which along with mulches builds up carbon in the soil as organic matter (humus): Soil carbon

Soil organic carbon is present as soil organic matter. It includes relatively available carbon as fresh plant remains and relatively inert carbon in materials derived from plant remains: humus and charcoal


Humus

Humus is the dark organic matter that forms in soil when dead plant and animal matter decays. Humus has many nutrients that improve the health of soil, nitrogen being the most important. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) of humus is 10:1.


Not sure if that answered your question about using Chlorella but it all ties in if you can understand where I'm going with it.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Intriguing. Thank you for the information.
Being in a forest with lots of brash and with abundant moss, I'd been thinking along similar lines, but your method sounds superior.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Freeranger wrote:Intriguing. Thank you for the information.
Being in a forest with lots of brash and with abundant moss, I'd been thinking along similar lines, but your method sounds superior.


Oh, I'd like to know more please and how it is intended to work. I had to look up the word "brash" (showing my ignorance :oops: ) and googled. There seemed to be conflicting ideas (remove brash as a source of biofuel rather than cut trees down or retain to improve biodiversity) This RSPB report is long and a bit heavy reading tying in different types of scenarios and woodlands ... even the summary at the end was long winded so I'm still no wiser.

I'd be interested in your thoughts as in some ways my "hedge/tree" trimmings pile at the bottom of the garden (about 5m x 2m, with a varying height of about 1.5-2m when fresh trimmings are added) is meant to be a sort of mini carbon store (although to be fair I haven't been able to find the science behind it and for all I know may emit more CO2 instead) .... I know the pile decomposes as it settles down quite quickly for woody pieces so on the one hand, no doubt CO2 is lost to the atmosphere as part of the process but at the same time, there must be a deposition of carbon and minerals as microbes, fungus (and possibly moss and lichens) and insects (like woodlice) take up carbon and add to the soil and creates a unique environment compared to the rest of the garden, as well as providing a haven for overwintering insects like bees and ladybirds plus spiders (a sort of natural bug house), and at the bottom of the pile be damp enough even in midsummer for frogs I'd imagine (with handy food sources) When it rains, the decomposed matter at the bottom should act like mulch and so retain water in the soil underneath and prevent erosion (though most likely counteracted by all the trees and privet hedge taking up water) As the layer of decomposed bio matter builds up, the carbon layer eventually becomes buried (like humus) It's all a bit of an experiment that I'm not really sure of the outcome as I haven't found much information about it. The original purpose of the trimmings pile was to reduce my fossil fuel usage of garden waste collection (although the waste collection still goes on regardless as it takes other people's garden waste away but the idea is that I'm not contributing to it and so reduces my personal carbon footprint)

As well as the algae farming idea, my patio pond also plays a role to reduce my carbon footprint - from about April through to November, I "harvest" matter via the filter box and excess duckweed which are also a source of nitrogen and thereby reduce the need for fertilizers in the garden which use fossil fuel in manufacture. As the fish poo and plant matter decays, nitrogen is released into the water which (i) would become too toxic for the fish (ii) provide food for excessive algae growth which if not controlled via filteration/uv/chemical could encourage conditions that are bad for the fish. So harvesting the filter content (and water) and using it to water the garden/potted plants should mean the excess nitrogen is transferred to the soil to feed plants and trees (that are taking up CO2 from the atmosphere) and at the same time, when I weekly top the pond up with fresh tap water is also my backward way of replacing dissolved minerals required for water quality (pH) to ensure fish health and pond plant growth. Likewise, in summer the duckweed takes up the nitrogen via the roots and along with CO2 from air, converts it to growth and multiply - regular harvesting should take excess nitrogen (and carbon in the form of the plant matter) out of the water and transfer it to the soil (as mulch)

Finally the compost bin ... again, the idea is to reduce my personal carbon footprint by reducing my waste collections. It is a mixture of my kitchen waste, cardboard and paper as well as plant matter (weeds as well as end of year disposal of plants) plus ... urine. A bit controversial as a lot of people seem put off by the idea but as my bin contains more paper/cardboard than green material, the added urine is a nitrogen source. A daily dose (in summer when the compost bin is active) means also less toilet flushing which again reduces my carbon footprint as it takes fossil fuel to produce tap water. As for reducing the number of waste collections, it has been successful. Unfortunately, a lot of that now contains mainly plastic which can't be recycled ... I am trying to reduce some of that by filling plastic bottles to make ecobricks but what I'd really like to see is a ban on use of non-recyclable single use plastic because the ecobricks are not the answer but just storing it as a future problem. All I'm doing at the moment is trying to reduce the plastic dumped on landfill which inevitably end up as river / ocean pollution which is a big problem at the moment so the bricks just store it in a more compact form but it hasn't really gone away.

So getting back to the original algae farming post, it is only one of several ideas for the climate change strategy I had put into place.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Oh, I'd like to know more please and how it is intended to work.


Oh gosh, where to start?!
Some preamble to explain my own direction of travel.....
Firstly, I've belonged to an organic gardeners association for ages and it's, in general, something I'm interested in. Between selling our last house and buying this, we lived in a rented farmhouse where our antecedents had all been keen gardeners and the soil was just fabulous, and in way better heart than some of the neighbouring farmland. Everything I planted grew. We then bought this registered smallholding, with a view to more agricultural activity. This may make you laugh given the naivity of some questions, but what I was doing worked in benign conditions and I thought I could learn.....
I visited a couple who reclaimed their garden from farmland, and who compost everything - including from their indoor composting toilet, hoover bag, etc. Their soil was also fab and the garden verdant. Another visit was to an organic farm, where again I was told to concentrate on the soil.
I then came across a mind-altering (for me) article in National Geographic. I kept the link but they've changed something at their end and I can't pass it on. Talk nicely to a uni librarian to find Our Good Earth in Sept 2008 about soil conservation globally, and in Africa in particular. (You'd love a browse thro' the sustainability and soil management articles generally - just your thing!)
Our soil here is old in-bye land from a hill farm in a glacial area. It was heavily poached by large cattle, was clayish anyway, and is cold; windy; wet from run-off from badly planned forest neighbours, rain and high water table; and subject to leaching. It's weedy, but weeds like poor soil. We have quite a lot of it. Don't be jealous. It's cheap. This means I can do things you can't in a more confined space, but also brings huge challenges. The main ones are short growing seasons, harsh conditions and poor soil. Soil is biggest, I think.
Task 1 was to establish a proper garden. The intention is to layer it, with trees and shrubs providing shelter from snow, wind and rain. Deciduous trees and shrubs have not grown as well as I'd hoped, but older ones were also struggling and have needed harsh pruning. We have a lot of trimmings.
The forest that surrounds us shovels the brash into long piles to decompose. It's a monoculture of primarily spruce with some larch, now being replanted with deciduous margins. They used to burn but air-pollution regs stopped that. (We notice pros & cons - insect rich so attractive to birds, but inaccessible to mammals e.g. deer are deliberately excluded or shot. Also resin-rich and acidic. Overlaid with conservation of raptors etc that favours them but interferes with others.) We also have lots of watercourses providing habitat for insects (oh, do we!) and amphibians - when they're not being eaten by conserved raptors or farmed pheasants - and e.g. voles etc. The combination of their forest, our grassland, weeds & deciduous trees is a great habitat for lots of quite challenged species of birds and mammals.
Cut to (finally!) the article. In the rain forests, indigenous farmers used to fell clearings by slash & burn, rear animals & crops in closed system then move on. Trees regrew quickly due to climate, and improved light & soil. The low-intensity system worked well, and is damaging only because of scale (I paraphrase). Some cultures made charcoal, and the soil scientists observed high levels of microbial activity with increased levels that bound to the soil. It seems not only was this effective for carbon sequestration, it also promoted fertility.
I also learned that in Scotland, it was once common to grow crops on runrigs - larger scale ridges of earth - to give extra height for drainage for esp. root vegetables.
My own interest in organic gardening had introduced me to hugelkultur - glorified raised beds - but which is often misunderstood to be about the bed itself. The method was originally designed to create more soil in a depleted area. The idea is to dig a trench and add large logs, branches & trimmings, any slow release items e.g. natural fibres and wool or feather, leaves & grass then top soil and plant straight in. They can also be used to slow water flow, provide additional warmth from decomposition, and have some things in common with a runrig. Also an catch eroded soil at ends with silt traps and e.g. willow or brash barriers, and wildlife friendly.
So it was supposed to work by first establishing upper layers for weather protection then below that digging trenches, charcoaling those bits, hugelkulturing on top, planting like a runrig. Then as it decomposed, spreading out the contents, growing on the flat, and green manuring in between crop rotations or mulching with brash/sawdust. Move hugulkultur on to next spot and repeat. Composting is into daleks and a rotating bin system to provide the topsoil element for the hugs. As the garden became established, the intention was to extend the concept to the paddocks, with trees as cover, breaks and water absorption, and rotating growth, grazing and fallow in strips.
Not quite as scientific as yours - more pragmatic based on need, scale and availability, but along scientific principles. I like the idea of using algae for hummus and compost whilst also improving carbon sequestration. I can also easily grow it, along with moss and lichens to either compost or kultur My understanding is that the decomposition cycle can take in and release carbon and nitrogen at different stages (more your area than mine), but by improving soil 'diversity' and fertility it should always be net positive, I think.
Has it worked? Well the weeds are growing easier these days! Some pleasing progress but I'm the wrong person. It needs someone here 24:7 and with more money and energy - and a tractor.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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how interesting )t' You have certainly given yourself some challenges but I do understand the concepts you've mentioned - the more I looked into using my garden to tackle climate change (that is, reducing my personal carbon footprint rather than solve the world's problems LOL), the options were planting more trees (a bit limiting in a garden already with trees) or soil sequestration. I came across a lot of articles online using Permaculture principles so some of the things you mention like soil improvement and hugelkultur are familiar. However, my location is probably better suited for soil improvement after reading your post.

I'm sensing you may have taken on more than the average - not just location, soil type but previous practices have all contributed to poor fertility.

Freeranger wrote:Our soil here is old in-bye land from a hill farm in a glacial area. It was heavily poached by large cattle, was clayish anyway, and is cold; windy; wet from run-off from badly planned forest neighbours, rain and high water table; and subject to leaching. It's weedy, but weeds like poor soil. We have quite a lot of it. Don't be jealous. It's cheap. This means I can do things you can't in a more confined space, but also brings huge challenges. The main ones are short growing seasons, harsh conditions and poor soil. Soil is biggest, I think.


Freeranger wrote:The forest that surrounds us shovels the brash into long piles to decompose. It's a monoculture of primarily spruce with some larch, now being replanted with deciduous margins. They used to burn but air-pollution regs stopped that. (We notice pros & cons - insect rich so attractive to birds, but inaccessible to mammals e.g. deer are deliberately excluded or shot. Also resin-rich and acidic.


Freeranger wrote:Task 1 was to establish a proper garden. The intention is to layer it, with trees and shrubs providing shelter from snow, wind and rain. Deciduous trees and shrubs have not grown as well as I'd hoped, but older ones were also struggling and have needed harsh pruning.


I highlighted some things which struck me when reading your post - adding lots of organic material to soil will improve it but if it took decades to get into the state it is in now, it'll take time to improve it. The other thing which you are probably aware of, is that soil pH affects how different plants have access to minerals in the soil and which microorganisms thrive. Adding organic material may not in itself raise pH but likely to provide ideal conditions to release higher levels of methane (a far worse greenhouse gas)

Consider food preservation - we use vinegar in pickling to slow bacterial and fungal growth so acidic soil will have very specific microorganisms for the environment (such as in peat bogs) but this might conflict with soil fertility for growing plants and trees not native to the location. Different species of plants and trees also all have their optimum pH range - probably one of the reasons why heather is associated with Scotland - but also the other reason is how pH affects availability of certain minerals to plants, chiefly calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These are actually important soil nutrients for many plants (needed for growth and photosynthesis) but in low pH become insoluble. That's why plants not suited to low pH soil become stunted and show leaf yellowing - adding fertilizer containing these minerals won't make them anymore available to the plants until the pH is raised.

Raising the soil pH can itself then exacerbate poor soil fertility in areas of heavy rainfall - as those minerals go into solution, they can be leached out of the soil ...

Freeranger wrote:Some cultures made charcoal, and the soil scientists observed high levels of microbial activity with increased levels that bound to the soil. It seems not only was this effective for carbon sequestration, it also promoted fertility


Yes, I learned about this too so I think Biochar would seem to be a good long term solution and would certainly be the way to go down that road.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Well I certainly don't want to be generating methane. Does this occur only in anaerobic conditions? I thought it unlikely because 1) decreasing relative rainfall with tree cover 2) increasing actual drainage and tree/shrub root take-up 3) going no till & adding to soil surface 4) increasing aeration of soil with hummus. Is that wrong?
The combination of all your observations suggests that none of it, apart from the biochar, will work. Am I wasting my time?
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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sorry my fault - I had a doctor's appointment this morning and after realizing the time, I hurriedly posted what I'd already typed but maybe I should have waited to post later with more explanation.

Freeranger wrote:Well I certainly don't want to be generating methane. Does this occur only in anaerobic conditions?


Yes - methane is the product of respiration of anaerobic microbes (aerobic respiration produces carbon dioxide CO2 - in the absence of available oxygen, the carbon binds to hydrogen to produce CH4 instead)

I mentioned methane because I read:

Freeranger wrote:and is cold; windy; wet from run-off from badly planned forest neighbours, rain and high water table


lancashire lass wrote:Adding organic material may not in itself raise pH but likely to provide ideal conditions to release higher levels of methane (a far worse greenhouse gas)


Waterlogged conditions are ideal for anaerobic decomposition of organic material. Take for example, comfrey or nettle tea - fill the bucket with plant material then cover it with water. Weeks later you end up with a foul smelling brew - all made by anaerobic bacteria and emitted methane. Humus is a long term strategy (it takes years to produce) - as mentioned, no dig / no till and multiple/annual heavy layering on top with plant based matter will raise the level above the water table so you end up with healthy soil with air pockets. But below the water table, the organic material will be waterlogged and decompose into methane rather than CO2.

Now soil pH - when the pH is acidic, some minerals are more soluble while others become insoluble. Likewise, raising the pH tends to have the opposite effect. Most plants / trees grow best in a neutral to slightly acidic soil while some that have evolved to grow in acidic soils like rhododendrons, heather and blueberries don't usually thrive well in most garden soil. It isn't so much the pH itself but the availability of minerals in a soluble form taken up by the roots. If you simply raised the pH (say, added loads of horticultural lime to the soil), it may improve growing conditions in the short term but .... if you are in an area of high rainfall, those nutrients originally locked up in acid soil are now soluble and they will readily leach out, hence the soil fertility can then become poor. I mentioned biochar because (i) adding it will raise the pH but (ii) it is porous and traps water and a lot of those soluble minerals (as ions) so still makes them available to the plants. Hence my conclusion was a suggestion to improve your soil fertility (along with the other strategies you have already considered which I forgot to add as well as the bonus of carbon sequestration)

lancashire lass wrote:
"Freeranger" wrote:
Some cultures made charcoal, and the soil scientists observed high levels of microbial activity with increased levels that bound to the soil. It seems not only was this effective for carbon sequestration, it also promoted fertility


Yes, I learned about this too so I think Biochar would seem to be a good long term solution and would certainly be the way to go down that road.


My apologies if I explained it badly. I am in admiration of your plans and hope you are very successful.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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I remember the foul smell of 'nettle tea'. Are you saying that this is a bad idea. We read about it and tried it once but not more.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Mo wrote:I remember the foul smell of 'nettle tea'. Are you saying that this is a bad idea. We read about it and tried it once but not more.


... methane is a by product of some many different things both naturally and man-made, it is inevitable (such as food waste in landfill, poorly aerated compost heaps, stagnant ponds, farming techniques such as rice paddy fields and ruminating animals to name a few which are all on a grand scale globally) that I suppose one bucket of homemade tea is small in comparison and with benefits of improving plant growth (takes up CO2) and better crops. However, if you are making a personal conscious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (methane being worse than CO2) then knowing how these are produced is knowledge that you can use to weigh up the pros and cons of the processes and whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
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Sunday 14th June 2020

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Well, my planned vertical gardening with Busy Lizzie plans for this year was beginning to look like a disaster. Not only did I struggle to get many to germinate but the few that have come up are being particularly slow at getting going. Very disappointing until I went to do my Saturday morning shop at the local Aldi and outside was a trolley of bedding plants priced much cheaper than if I'd gone to anywhere else .... 10 plugs each of Busy Lizzie, Petunia and French marigolds somehow fell into my shopping trolley. The mix of Busy Lizzie & Petunia should make a lovely vertical garden. I may use the French marigolds in a hanging basket (I seriously underestimate watering hanging baskets and found French marigolds to be much more forgiving than most other bedding plants)

The repotted Borage has surprised me the most - they are all throwing up flower heads already! Meanwhile this year's dahlia sowings got a little stunted when the weather turned cold and damp but I think they'll soon bounce back. Today's task was to reorganize the corner of the patio that gets most sun and where I had successfully grown last year's dahlias. So not only are all the dahlias back but room for the new ones too until they get bigger. I'm not going to have enough big pots for all the seedlings so I have been seriously looking at the trough planters which can easily take 2 plants each.

All 10 of the asparagus crowns are now growing, the spears breaking out into fronds. A couple have got knocked over by strong winds but they are fine. My 5 sunflowers are now down to 4 - one was twisted when planted but again, the wind was not kind and this time collapsed. I managed to support the tallest when it was leaning and the others are manageable by turning the pot round so the stem turns to face the sun. I would like to grow them in big pots but I am expecting the sunflowers to grow about 5-6 feet tall so perhaps I'd better start looking at planting them in the garden instead.

Today's news is the mini algae farming (as biofertilizer) - last week I noticed the bottle of algae in the greenhouse was looking more cloudy green than usual so I decided to restart up the jars already hanging up on the mesh wall. Amazingly all the jars have all started to take on that green water appearance and (touch wood) perhaps I'd been too hasty in thinking the Chlorella had died off. Even the bottle I had salvaged early in the year and has been sitting on the windowsill has also bloomed - maybe this is the time of year they start growing (certainly can't be a heat thing as the greenhouse has been very warm this spring and the one in the house is on the south facing window) Thinking about it, I recall I think I did buy the algae culture about this time of year. This morning I finally got round to finishing off some new jars so another 10 are now hanging. I have about another 10 empty jars to wash out so they are next on my to do list.

The other news is last year's daffodils. Hardly any had flowered last spring so I dug them out of the planters thinking they had got crowded and had intended to plant them in the fruit tree bed .... suffice to say, I didn't get round to it. Thinking they had all perished by now, I tossed the bulbs/leaf litter into the compost bin to find the bulbs were still very much firm. Surely it is too late to plant now but might it be too late come September? I ended up rescuing them from the compost bin and think that I might as well plant them and see what happens.

I watched Gardener's World this weekend and Monty mentioned his meadow wildflowers that he sowed last year. I was particularly interested to learn that he sowed the seeds in early August - that is only about 6 or so weeks off so I will sow the wildflower seeds I bought earlier this year. And can you believe it, but this week I found the seeds I was looking for to sow in spring. I can't fathom out how I could have missed them because they were in an obvious place >coc< which I'm sure I not only searched once but several times because I was sure that's where I put them. There be poltergeists in my house I think, or I'm going a little dotty in my old age LOL.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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And can you believe it, but this week I found...

I can well believe it, given that my crowbar was hiding in plain sight exactly where it should have been, and where I looked.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Hi LL hope all ok with you, so long since you posted on your diary?
I had black bots on my toms which apparently is blossom rot >coc<
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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sandy wrote:Hi LL hope all ok with you, so long since you posted on your diary?
I had black bots on my toms which apparently is blossom rot >coc<


About a week after my last post, I got very ill. Partly my fault, I hadn't kept up with the flea treatment for Lucas the cat (with being at home all the time, days seem to merge and I lost track of time) and he has a bad habit of leaning against my legs where I got loads of bites almost overnight. Soon after we had a mini heatwave so I just put symptoms down to the combination of heat and allergy. But then I realised that I was actually ill when I could barely get out of bed, unable to eat anything but drinking way more than usual, rapid shallow breathing and felt nauseous. I was put a course of antibiotics from the doctor and it took a couple of days before they kicked in, and even then recovery was very slow. Every day I felt a little bit better than the day before but still unwell and seemed to sleep a lot.

It took nearly 3 weeks before I felt well enough to get "back to work" (on the computer at home) and even then the output was well below what I'd been turning out prior to getting ill as I needed to take longer breaks between sessions. Soon after in mid-July, I was contacted to actually go into work - some labs were being opened up for essential work only (for those PhD students whose grant money was near expiry or to carry out work to meet deadlines for papers to be published and so on) As the labs were shut down in a hurry in March, a full health & safety inspection had to be carried out especially as there had been a major malfunction in my lab during the lock down (some chemicals can become unstable if conditions change) as well as a risk assessment for the restricted Covid working arrangement and new procedures put into place. I got roped into stocking up and disposal of chemical and solvent waste as well as start up and check equipment were in working order. Although I had been fine at home, the physical effort was a shock to the system (I felt completely floored ... when a colleague notices and mentions you don't look well, then I knew it wasn't all in my head!) Suffice to say, gardening has been the last thing on my mind.

I managed to keep up with watering the potted plants on the patio but the effort of going down into the garden and tend to the greenhouse and polytunnel was too much. On top of that, being unable to get hold of fresh compost earlier in the season meant a lot of the repotting didn't get done so some of this year's sowings have struggled. Amazingly some have flowered but clearly under duress. I'm disappointed with the new dahlias - the ones that have flowered are neither pom pom or ragged - only a couple of the ragged petals have come through as most seem to be plain (but still had spectacularly pretty colours) One sunflower has flowered - amazingly still in a 4" pot, the stem well over 5 feet high. Only a small flower head but I can't believe it is still alive. The borage and pot marigold have done well as they were the first to be potted on with decent compost.

The potatoes in the polytunnel planted in the used growbags have been okay considering the conditions. I haven't harvested yet but I'm not expecting it to be great especially as the watering regime collapsed from about the time I got ill. The pop bottle vertical garden didn't happen - again, lack of compost was the main reason. The other reason is the poor germination of the Busy Lizzies. One success and probably because of the neglect has been the house leek / sempervivum sowings - I'm really pleased with them. The Bunny Tail grass have also done better than expected - like the house leeks, they do better when stressed with infrequent watering and the little fluffy seed heads are ever so cute and pretty. I have taken a liking to specialist grasses and might try some of the other more exotic ones in the future. Last year's dahlia sowings / saved tubers have been alright - again, planting in fresh compost would have been ideal but the biggest problem has been water. With warm dry sunny weather, the pots quickly dried out and when watered, it just flooded out straight away so I had to soak the pots and then try to find suitable trays to fill with water. The difficulty was finding trays big enough for the pots to sit in.

The pond - disaster has struck. At the moment I have kept the water level as low as I reasonably can for the fish because one of the raised walls has shifted and I am trying to reduce the load on it. I'm not sure if that is the result of subsidence or if the wall has broken/come away from the corner post. To the untrained observer, the pond is still standing and looks fine but I know the wall has moved by about 5 inches from where it should be. On top of that, I have been unable to keep on top of the blanket weed this year. I've probably not been treating it as often as I should so only myself to blame. Health-wise, the fish are fine - Big Bertha the Shubunkin goldfish is HUGE and almost the same size as the biggest koi. Last year's baby goldfish are almost adult size and I think we have another 2 or 3 small ones so thankfully not a population explosion. Meanwhile I have been trying to find an alternate temporary home for the fish so that I can completely drain the pond and find out what the problem is and repair. The only thing I can think of is a paddling pool which is wide and deep enough for the fish, and somewhere safe from predators such as herons, curious cats and urban foxes! However, anything of decent size for the big fish is proving too expensive.

As for the proposed wildlife pond ... like the rest of the garden, it has been put off again. Meanwhile, all the pond plants which I split and repotted that are sitting in trays of water are doing really well. After watching a Gardener's World programme, one of the presenters had tanks that captured rain water from greenhouses as a source of water for the garden. He had some pond plants in them and I have to say it seemed like a good idea ... I just need to consider what to use as tanks (maybe something similar to the pond planter using pond liner?)

Fruit trees - the earlier flowering trees like the plum, pears and some apple varieties have done exceptionally well and are heavy with fruit. The elders are full of berries too which are in the process of ripening. I also noticed the hazel has been dropping loads of nuts (and also noticed lots of broken shells so the squirrel is obviously having a feast) Talking of wildlife, I haven't seen the birds but I am aware of different bird songs I'd never heard before and the occasional distinctive cry of what must be the sparrowhawk that visited my garden last year. So my garden is certainly getting lots of visitors probably gorging themselves on the fruits, nuts and bugs, and not put off by the new resident cat.

One thing I am aware of during the lock down and working from home, is that some people (I overheard a colleague brag about how his garden had never looked so good) seem to have more time for gardening than others. Having once before been made redundant in the past of which I have never financially or professionally recovered, I am acutely aware of the stakes especially as I only have a couple more years mortgage and debts built up from the last time to pay off (plus the final payment on the car is due in October). And being of an age when I can ill afford to be in the same predicament especially as I know no-one is going to take on a 60 year old when so many others are seeking work, especially graduates, at a time when so many are being laid off. So I have probably subconsciously been doing more work than would be expected at the expense of leisure time. 2020 is certainly going to be a year to remember but not about what was or wasn't achieved in the garden.
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

sandy wrote:I had black bots on my toms which apparently is blossom rot >coc<


sorry, I forgot to answer the question - blossom rot (the bottom half of the fruit looks rottened) is common with tomatoes and peppers, and usually as a result by not getting enough water during fruit development. The cause is actually lack of calcium - without sufficient water near the roots, it becomes locked in the soil/compost and becomes unavailable to plants.
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Mo
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Mo »

Glad you are recovering. hope you soon get up to strength
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
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