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  • CharLady blog – July

    Have you joined the GIY UK gang yet?

     

    GIY (Grow It Yourself) team

    GIY (Grow It Yourself) team

    In last month’s blog I was encouraging you to get yourself along to the GIY (Grow It Yourself) Gathering that is taking place on Saturday 20 July at Birmingham University. There’s still time to book and Mark Diacono, gardening writer & smallholder, promises that it will be entertaining as well as illuminating. There’s a packed programme, which should be irresistible to anyone keen on growing their own food.Craig Sams, the founder of Carbon Gold, is among the keynote speakers. He will be talking about how growing your own food is a political and revolutionary act and part of the counter movement to the concentration of power in fewer hands – making the connection between the microcosm of your garden or allotment and the macrocosm of our global food and farming system. He will also run a practical workshop session about ‘Growing with Biochar’, so if you are keen to learn more, here’s an opportunity to hear all about it from the man who knows.

    Full details on how to book and the programme of events can be found under the ‘Events’ section of:

    www.giyinternational.org

     

    “Fold a couple of sheets of newspaper into a quarter their original size, soak thoroughly and place alongside slug-ravaged plants – when they have finished their nightly chomping they will take up residence and you can dispose of them as you please.”

     

    Preparing your garden for a summer holiday absence

    It’s always difficult for a gardener to go away when the garden is in full growth, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that you return to something that still resembles a garden rather than – a) a jungle if the weather has been cool and wet or b) a parched desert if it has been hot and dry: 

    * Give all containers a good drenching and liquid feed, even in cool damp weather – containers dry out far quicker than the soil.
    * If possible cluster containers together so that they can create their own microclimate – ideally in partial shade.
    * Trim back annual flowering plants, removing all spent and open flowers so that they don’t set seed – new flowers will form and open in time for your return.
    * Stake or tie in plants that might be damaged by windy conditions in your absence.
    * Offer a neighbour the opportunity to pick flowers, fruit and vegetables (within reason!) in return for watering the greenhouse and attending to any flagging plants.
    * Mulch, mulch, mulch – but be sure to soak the soil first if it hasn’t rained.
    * Enjoy your holiday!

    Dahlia staked for holiday absence

    Dahlia staked for holiday absence

     

    “Net your vulnerable fruit and vegetable crops before they are snaffled or munched by pests.”

     

    Peas in the present & tomatoes to come

     

    Tomatoes grown in GroChar compost

    Tomatoes grown in GroChar compost

    The first crop of biochar grown peas is now ready to pick, although whether they will actually make it as far as the kitchen remains to be seen. Of all the homegrown vegetables they are the most delectable if eaten within seconds of harvest and vastly better than anything you might buy. I’m just hoping that some boffin doesn’t decide that, like raw beans, they are now declared to be mildly toxic and shouldn’t be eaten until cooked. I will take the chance. In the greenhouse I topped up the border with a deep layer of GroChar compost and planted the tomatoes directly into it, rather than using organic growbags as I usually do, to see how they fare grown this way. Craig Sams had great success last year and found the plants needed a lot less watering. So far they are very happy, flowering away and growing so fast that during a week’s absence (mine) they shot up a further 20cm and formed additional flower trusses.

    Peas grown in GroChar compost ready for picking

    Peas grown in GroChar compost ready for picking

    Tomatoes grown in GroChar compost, 10-days later

    Tomatoes grown in GroChar compost, 10-days later

     

    “Find time to relax and enjoy your garden while it’s at its peak – otherwise what is all the work for?”

     

    Herbs with a sunny disposition

     

    Sun loving herbs include all those that grow in the dry rocky places in the Mediterranean – and that’s a clue to how they like to be grown. Rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano and small-leaved basil all like as much sun as possible. If you have a rich, moisture-retaining soil, consider growing them in gritty, loam-based compost in containers. They can survive on remarkably little water, but what they hate most is to have cold, wet roots in winter. If you buy plants from a nursery they will generally be grown in a multi-purpose compost and this can cause problems unless you gently loosen the rootball and scatter some GroChar Soil Improver into the planting hole so that the roots can find their way into the surrounding soil. Otherwise the multi-purpose compost can dry out completely forming an arid plug that even a Mediterranean plant finds hostile.

    Sage in a pot

    Sage in a pot