Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A bit on spring bulbs

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A bit on spring bulbs: Spring bulbs I’m sure that many would agree that nothing looks healthier than a garden when it’s full of beautiful spring flowering bulbs. W...

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A bit on spring bulbs

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A bit on spring bulbs: Spring bulbs I’m sure that many would agree that nothing looks healthier than a garden when it’s full of beautiful spring flowering bulbs. W...

A bit on spring bulbs

Spring bulbs
I’m sure that many would agree that nothing looks healthier than a garden when it’s full of beautiful spring flowering bulbs. With a huge range of colours, shapes and sizes, there are spring flowering bulbs to suit just about every size garden in almost all areas.

Many  of the spring flowering bulbs actually welcome spring itself by just bursting into bloom during the cold early spring months, adding colour to the garden when it is most needed. Other spring flowering bulbs bloom later in spring time, making it feasible to jam the garden with continuous colour over many months.
Planting bulbs is one of my favourite autumn gardening tasks. I do this on crispy, sunny autumn days, knowing that in a few months crocuses, daffodils and tulips will brighten those winter-weary days. If you prepare carefully, the show can last from late winter to June. The beauty of all spring-flowering bulbs is their incredible variety, in size and shape, colour and flowering times.
In autumn when the garden is still full of foliage from the summer's perennials, and shrubs it's hard to remember how desolate the beds can look in early spring.Remember to be sure to plant in abundance so that your springs show has impact.
Spring colour with tulips, daffodils and hyacinths
If there is one definitive bulb that seems to exemplify spring, it has to be the tulip. These bulbs are the crucial visual spring tonic, and there are so many of wonderful varieties to choose from. You can even go for the drama of 'black' tulips.                Next to tulips, daffodils are amongst the best-loved spring bulbs. Dearly loved for their spring bouquet, modern hyacinths come in lots of showy colours, and are easy to force for an indoor display.

More attractive spring flowering bulbs

Tulips may be the for the greater part the most popular of spring flowers, but there are many other charming, easy-to-grow and somewhat lesser-known bulbs, such as windflowers (Anemone blanda), wild hyacinth (Camassia), guinea-hen flower (Fritillaria meleagris), Persian fritillaria, (Fritillaria Persica) and Bulgarian ornamental onion (Nectaroscordum siculum).

Some other must-grow spring bulbs include:


Alliums (ornamental onions)
Naturalizing with spring bulbs
For a beautiful flowering lawn, use early, low-growing bulbs such as crocus, mini-daffodil cultivars such as 'Jack Snipe' or 'Tête à Tête' , snowdrops, glory-of-the-snow, scillas and windflowers.
These bulbs create a  lush carpet of colour and will tolerate cutting back by the time the grass needs mowing in early summer.
Naturalize larger, later-blooming daffodils in areas where mowing can be put off for a good six weeks or so after they bloom. A splash of small early-flowering bulbs, such as windflowers, crocus, scilla, snowdrop, glory-of-the snow or grape hyacinth, (which look magnificent) beneath deciduous shrubs and trees such as ash, birch, Japanese cherry, oak, fruit trees and generously flowering crab apples.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A History of Vegetables, part two

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A History of Vegetables, part two: A HISTORY OF VEGETABLES Lentils Lentils are an ancient vegetable. There is evidence that they have been eaten since prehistoric times.They...

A History of Vegetables, part two

Lentils are an ancient vegetable. There is evidence that they have been eaten since prehistoric times.They are native to Asia and they were also eaten the Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks. They were also eaten in India.
Lettuce is another very ancient vegetable. It is originally a native to the Mediterranean area. The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans also ate lettuce. The Spaniards originally took and introduced lettuce to the New World.
Okra or Lady Finger
Okra originally grew in Ethiopia. The Egyptians were the first peoples to cultivate it along the Nile, by 12th century B.C. From North Africa it soon spread out to most of the Middle East and India.And also with the salve trade, okra finally reached North America , at around the end of 16th century
Olives are native  to the East Mediterranean and people have grown these also since prehistoric times. Olives were very important to the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, ask a gladiator!
Onions are said to have been cultivated around 5000 years ago, with the earliest evidence going back to China and India.
By about 3500 BC, onions spread through to Egypt and they were more than just foods. They had both religious and medical importance. Gradually they spread to other parts of Europe, and by the middle ages, onions along with beans and cabbage became the main vegetables of European cuisine
. Onions were one of the first vegetables grown by people. They were eaten by the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. During the Middle Ages onions were one of the staple foods to the majority of people in Europe.
Parsnips are historically thought to be a native to the Mediterranean. The Romans grew them and they were a popular vegetable also in the Middle Ages.  In   England however, parsnips became less popular once potatoes became the common staple in the 18th century.
Peas are a native to Asia and were one of the very earliest vegetables grown by humans. The Greeks and Romans grew peas prolifically, and during the Middle Ages peas were an important part of the diet of ordinary people throughout Europe.
Potatoes originated in Peru and were cultivated since around 500 B.C. The early potatoes had dark purple skin and a yellow flesh and were known as papas.
In 16th century the Spanish arrived in Peru in search of gold but instead found potatoes. It almost took 30 years for potatoes to become popular in the rest of Europe though.
They were first introduced to England in 1586. However at first potatoes were regarded as a strange vegetable and they were not commonly grown in Europe until the 18th century. In the 1840s potatoes in Ireland were afflicted by potato blight and the result was a catostrophic famine as the people had come to rely on potatoes for their primary food.
The pumpkin is a native of central America. The Native Americans used them as a main food. Pumpkins were adopted as a food by European settlers. Meanwhile Christopher Columbus brought back pumpkin seeds to Europe. In Tudor England pumpkins were curiously called pompions.
Radishes are originally a native to Asia. They were grown by Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans. Radishes were bought to the New World in the 16th century. The word radish interestingly enough, comes from the Latin word radix, meaning root.
Runner beans
Runner beans are originally a native to central America and were grown there a long time before they were discovered by the Europeans in the 16th century. Runner beans were first grown in England in the 17th century.
Spinach is a native to Asia. However it was unknown strangley enough by the Greeks and Romans. It was first grown in Persia (now Iran). Later it was grown both  by the Arabs and the Chinese. The Arabs introduced spinach to southern Europe and by the 14th century it was eaten commonly in England..
Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn cultivation first began about 7000 years ago in Mexico. The natives started by domesticating a wild grass known as teosinte. Teosintes were very small edible seeds, found on the husks on the ear of the corn, which formed the primary staple diet of this region. This method of cultivation was adopted for several generations, to produce the corn that we know and eat today.
Tomatoes are also a native to South America. The Spanish came across them in the 16th century. However tomatoes were an unknown food in England until the end of the 16th century.
Turnips were originally a native to northern Europe. They were grown by the Romans and during the Middle Ages, turnips were a staple food for the poorer people in Europe. In the 18th century Charles 'Turnip' Townshend(wonder how he came by that name)pioneered the growing of turnips to feed cattle.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): part one of A History of vegetables

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): part one of A History of vegetables: "If you are curious as to the origins of some vegetables, then here is part one: Artichokes Artichokes are origainally native plant in the Me..."

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): part one of A History of vegetables

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): part one of A History of vegetables: "If you are curious as to the origins of some vegetables, then here is part one: Artichokes Artichokes are origainally native plant in the Me..."

part one of A History of vegetables

If you are curious as to the origins of some vegetables, then here is part one:
Artichokes are origainally native plant in the Mediterranean region. They were eaten by the Greeks and Romans and later by the Arabs. Though after the fall of Rome artichokes were rare in Europe until the 15th century when they were grown in Italy. From there artichokes spread to the rest of Europe and worldwide.
Asparagus is a native to the Eastern Mediterranean region. Asparagus was grown primarily by the Greeks and Romans and it became a popular vegetable throughout Europe in the 16th century.
Aubergines (or eggplants) are a native to India. Later they spread to China and by the 15th century they were being grown throughout southern Europe.
Beetroot is descended origainally from wild sea beet, which grew around Europe and Asia. However for centuries people ate only the leaves of the plant rather than its roots. Eating beetroot only really became popular in the 18th century.
Broad Beans
Broad beans are a native of the Middle East and Southern Asia. They were known to the Ancient Greeks and they have been eaten in Europe ever since.
Rasenna, an ittinerant community came originally from Asia Minor and settled in Tuscany and began broccoli cultivation. The Romans were enamoured by this vegetable and it became a firm favourite.  In 1533 Catherine De Medici married Henry II and introduced broccoli to the French cuisine. It was eaten in France and Italy in the 16th century. However broccoli was rare in England until the 18th century. It first became a popular vegetable in the USA in the 1920s.
Brussel sprout
Brussels sprouts were grown in the area funnily enough around Brussels in the 13th century. However they were only very occasionally eaten in England until the 18th century like Broccoli. Brussels sprouts were grown in the USA from the 19th century.
Butter Beans
Butter beans are a native to Central America. They were first recorded in Europe in 1591.
Cabbages were brought to Europe originally from China, by Celtic wanderers in 600 B.C. The early cabbage was a loose leafy variety. But, by the middle ages, the European farmers developed a full-head for the cabbage, which is found today. They were also grown by the Greeks and the Romans and in Europe they have been a popular vegetable ever since. Cabbages were brought to North America in the 16th century
Carrots originated around 5000 years ago in Afghanistan and eventually spread to the whole Mediterranean region.Initially they were very small thin purple or white coloured root plants, with a very bitter flavour. But over the course of a few centuries they have changed to black, red and even yellow colour but never orange!
It was only in the 16th century, when the Dutch growers, experimented on improving the flavour of carrots. By cross breeding pale yellow ones with red varieties, to produce new sweet flavoured orange carrots. Having beta carotene, which was healthier and therefore all other varieties ceased to be planted. They first became popular in England during Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
Cauliflowers are said to have originated in China. Thereafter the vegetable was found in the Mediterranean region in 600 B.C. and remained exclusive in Italy and Turkey. . However in the 16th century the cauliflower spread throughout Europe. Cauliflower was first grown in North America in late in the17th century.
Celery had its earliest use mainly for medical purposes, by the Egyptians in 850 B.C. The Greeks believed it to be a holy plant. The Romans were the first to use celery for culinary preparations. is a native to the Mediterranean. Wild celery was known to the Greeks and Romans. However cultivation of celery only began in Europe in the 17th century.When Italians began cultivating celery as a vegetable. They brought about a change in the basic characteristic of the vegetable. By eliminating its hollow stalk and reducing the strong bitter flavour of the plant, for better culinary use.
Chickpeas are a native to the Middle East. They were very popular with the Romans and they have been eaten in Europe ever since.
Chillies are originally from Central America where they have been grown for thousands of years. The Aztecs amongst others were fond of chillies and the Spanish brought them back to Europe. Chillies came to England in 1548.
Cucumbers are a native to south Asia. They were grown by the Greeks and Romans. Cucumbers were also grown in England in the Middle Ages. The Spanish introduced cucumbers into the New World in 1494.
Garlic originated in Central Asia over 4000 years ago. As an ingredient in culinary preparations primarily and as a medicinal plant garlic spread to the Mediterranean region. By 3000 B.C. it was being used in Egypt. And other ancient civilisations like the Indus valley. From here it spread to China. The Spanish, French and Portuguese took it all the way to the new world.
Green Beans
The different kinds of beans such as green beans, kidney, navy beans e.t.c originated  from a common bean plant in Peru. With the spread of the migrant Indian tribes, they reached North and South America. From there they were introduced to the Mediterranean by Christopher Columbus in 1493, at the end of his voyage to the New World.
Kidney Beans
Kidney Beans are a native of South America. They were common in England by the mid-16th Century.
Leeks are native to central Asia. They were grown by the Egyptians. The Greeks and Romans also grew leeks and the Romans are said to have introduced them to the rest of Europe. The leek is the symbol of Wales. According to folklore, Welsh soldiers wore a leek in their caps to distinguish themselves from their Saxon enemies during a battle.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A Basic Guide to Storing VegetablesWell you have w...

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A Basic Guide to Storing VegetablesWell you have w...: "A Basic Guide to Storing Vegetables Well you have watered, weeded, fertilized and cultivated. Now you are standing knee-deep in vegetables a..."
A Basic Guide to Storing Vegetables
Well you have watered, weeded, fertilized and cultivated. Now you are standing knee-deep in vegetables and are now wondering just when and how to gather them.
Here's a harvesting introduction that will guarantee highest nutrition and flavour from the crops that you tended so carefully all season.
Celery and late cabbage: Harvest after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with roots attached; cut cabbage and remove loose outer leaves. Store celery by packing into a trench in an upright position; backfill with soil to cover the celery; place paper, boards and more soil on top of this. The celery will root, bleach, tenderize and develop a nutty flavour when removed at Christmas time. Pack the cabbage in a pit upside down so the covering soil doesn't work its way into the head.
Root crops (including beets, turnips, Swedes, winter radishes and kohlrabi): They store best where grown until there's a danger of soil freezing. You can delay harvesting by hilling soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets; To further protect from freezing, you can pile straw and soil over the rows, thus delaying harvesting even longer. This group of vegetables store best at home in an area of near freezing with a high relative humidity.
Potatoes: For "new" potatoes, harvest any time and use for cooking. For storing, wait until the haulms die down and store the same as squash.
Onions: Harvest as soon as the tops fall; this will prevent basal rot. Pull, remove tops and store onions in mesh bags until the necks have dried down. During this drying time, hang the bags outside in a protected area where they'll get good air circulation. When the onions rustle while handling, they are ready to move into indoor, protected storage where it is cool and dry.
Swedes and Parsnips: They will withstand freezing which means you can leave part of the crop in the ground to be dug in the spring when the flavour will be greatly improved.
Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes if they've started to turn light green or blush. If they are a dead green, they probably won't ripen. Wrap individually in newspapers, place in a box in a cool place and check periodically. The tomatoes probably will ripen within 2 weeks depending upon the temperature of the storage area and the maturity of the tomato.
Green beans: Harvest snap beans when there's a slight bulge to the seed, but before it becomes firm. If they get lumpy, they've gone too far. The bean will be too firm and tough and the pod will be stringy.
Shell beans: Let them go all the way. They are specific varieties that are meant to be left until the pods dry on the vine. If you pick them too green, they'll begin to mould and will be difficult to dry.
Winter squash and pumpkins: Harvest when these vegetables have reached their full ripe colour and when it is difficult to penetrate the skin with a thumbnail. Pick before a frost and store in a cool, dark place that will not reach freezing temperatures. Leave stems on to prevent disease invasion.
Remember to store only top-quality vegetables, this is very important. Do not store vegetables that show deterioration from a disease, bruising or insect damage; such damage could spread and cause, not only the loss of one vegetable, but the loss of adjacent vegetables.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): plants suitable for softwood cuttings

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): plants suitable for softwood cuttings: "§ Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) § Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) § Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis) § Burning bush..." ammended plant list from yesterday, apologies

plants suitable for softwood cuttings

§  Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)
§  Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
§  Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
§  Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
§  Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
§  Chinese stranvaesia (Stranvaesia davidiana)
§  Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
§  Daphne (Daphne caucasica)
§  Deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron cvs.)
§  Elders (Sambucus spp.)
§  Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)
§  Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
§  Forsythias (Forsythia spp.)
§  Fuchsia (any spp)
§  Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.)
§  Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.)
§  Japanese maples (Acer palmatum cvs.)
§  Kerria (Kerria japonica)
§  Large fothergilla (Fothergilla major)
§  Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
§  Magnolias (Magnolia spp.)
§  Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
§  Redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba and sericea)
§  Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa)
§  Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.)
§  Slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
§  Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria)
§  Spireas (Spiraea spp.)
§  Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
§  Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
§  Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)
§  Viburnums (Viburnum x burkwoodii and carlesii)
§  Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
§  Weigelas (Weigela spp.)
§  Willows (Salix spp.)
§  Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
§  Winter hazels (Corylopsis spp.)
§  Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Semi ripe cuttings

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Semi ripe cuttings: "With a small number of simple tools and the use of a windowsill you can save yourself some cash and have a great deal of pleasure growing yo..."

Semi ripe cuttings

With a small number of simple tools and the use of a windowsill you can save yourself some cash and have a great deal of pleasure growing your own shrubs for free
Forget the myth about green fingered people its all about knowledge and know how, it’s very easy:
To start with it is vital to understand the key requirements that a plant needs to produce roots from a stem cutting. –

Because the cutting in the early days has no roots it is imperative to keep the environment you place it in humid and away from full sunshine. The best way to create these conditions is to use a plastic bag to form a mini green house over the new cuttings.

With the humid conditions comes the problem of disease, in particular a rotting of the cuttings base, in the majority cases this can be solved by taking cuttings that have small piece of older more mature wood on the base( sometimes refered to as a basel cutting) which is more resistant to rotting. This type of cutting is called a semi-ripe softwood cuttings.  Harvest cuttings from semi-ripe growth.
The trickiest part of propagating shrubs from softwood cuttings is to know when a shrub's stems are ready to be cut. Softwood, the segment of a shrub's stem that's neither brand new nor fully mature, is the stage of growth on a deciduous woody plant that is best suited for rooting The newer, green growth that lies at the end of the stem will rot before roots are produced, and the older, more woody growth at the base of the stem has a harder time putting out roots.
Softwood cuttings can be taken from most deciduous shrubs in July and early August. I decide a stem's maturity by taking it in my hand and bending it. If the stem breaks with a typical snapping sound, it is in the softwood stage and ready to be harvested as a cutting. If the stem is still too green, it will bend but not break. If the stem is entering the woody stage, it won't bend at all.
The optimum time to take cuttings is early on in the day, when shoots are fully hydrated. Lateral shoots, (or those that grow from a leader,) make the best cuttings. I avoid weak, thin shoots, as well as overly thick, heavy ones. As soon as I take a cutting, I nestle it into a plastic bowl that I've filled with damp paper towels. The towels will keep my cuttings moist and cool until I'm ready to head inside and pot them up. They also shade my cuttings from the sun. Exposure to direct sunshine, even for only a few minutes, can cause irrevocable damage. Also avoid taking cuttings on hot days, when plants may be drooping. Keep cutting short to conserve energy.
A cutting's size is also something to think about. I like my cuttings to contain at least two sets of leaves. I use secateurs or a sharp clean knife, to cut the stem from the shrub at about one-inch below the second leaf node. Since the length between leaf nodes differs from plant to plant, the size of a cutting, using this rule of measurement, will vary. The average cutting should measure between 3 and 5 inches.
To prepare the cuttings for rooting, I remove the lower set of leaves to open up wounds on the shoot. It is at these wounded sites that rooting will occur.

Always provide good drainage and air in the rooting compost.
Insert the stem into a pot or seedling tray filled with a moistened mixture of perlite and peat mix. The mixture I generally use is about 60 percent perlite and 40 percent peat mix. This mix provides the good drainage and maximum aeration that new roots need. Cuttings placed into a mix that holds moisture is apt to rot before rooting occurs.
Once the cuttings are inserted into the soil, I trim the remaining leaves in half to cut down on transpiration loss. These leaves are still performing photosynthesis, even though there are no roots to draw moisture out of the soil. Next  soak the cuttings and the compost with a watering can with a fine rose head and allow the excess water to drain away for 10 minutes or so.
Finally,  place the tray into a milky white plastic bag and seal the end to create a small humid micro climate , which will generate the conditions needed for rooting to take place. then place the tray or pot on a sheltered windowsill away from direct sunlight.
Checking for root development
Some cuttings root quicker than others do. After four to five weeks, check the bottom of each tray for small white roots that could be poking out of the drainage holes. If none are visible, another way to check for root development is by lightly pulling on a cutting. If it shows some resistance, then it's a good bet that roots have developed. If it pulls out of the tray easily, inspect the stem for very fine root hairs. If no roots are apparent, place the cutting back into the tray, reseal the bag, and wait a few more weeks before checking again.
Depending on the species and the growing conditions, a strong network of primary and secondary roots should develop after six weeks in the bag. The success rate varies from shrub to shrub, but generally you should get roots on about 70 percent of the cuttings. Once they've rooted,  pot up the tiny new shrubs into 4 inch pots that are filled with a mixture of 80 percent soil(or john innes) and 20 percent perlite, water them with a nutrient-rich seaweed- or kelp-based fertilizer and place them in a sunny spot in the garden. In the autumn, un-pot them and transfer them to a sheltered nursery bed where they'll spend the winter. Come spring, you’ll have a good supply of shrubs that I can move to a new, more permanent home.
Some Shrubs That Are Suitable and Easy to Propagate from Cuttings
Many deciduous garden shrubs can be propagated by softwood cuttings taken in summer. The ones I have listed below tend to root quickly and grow into feasible shrubs in a short period of time.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Green manures, and there usefulness

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Green manures, and there usefulness: "(photo from web) Green manures or cover crops are the organic cornerstone of an ecologically sensible gardening. They can provide outstandi..."

Green manures, and there usefulness

(photo from web)

Green manures or cover crops are the organic cornerstone of an ecologically sensible gardening. They can provide outstanding benefits for the soil, crop and you by:
Increasing organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms.
Increasing the soil's available nitrogen and moisture retention.
Stabilising the soil to prevent erosion.
Bringing deep minerals to the surface and breaking up hardpans.
Also by providing habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reducing populations of pests. And of course improving water, root and air penetration in the soil
Green manures are plants grown specifically to benefit the soil - replacing soil nutrients, improving soil structure and increasing humus content. They tend to be quick growing, producing a mass of weed smothering foliage. Some are legumes which have the ability to take up nitrogen from the air, tapping a free source of soil fertility. Nutrients which would otherwise be washed away are taken into the plants and then released when the green manure is cut down and turned in to the top six inches of soil. A green manure crop should be considered whenever an area of ground is to be left free for six weeks or more, and is of particular value through the winter.
Planting green manure will help your soil in many ways. Perhaps most important, it boosts your plot's organic matter (O.M.) level. And a high O.M. level (2.5 to 4%) It keeps nutrients from leaching down beyond reach of crops, it provides food for microbial soil life, It helps legumes fix nitrogen in their root nodules. And it also helps the soil produce good structure and maintains the air-pores necessary for a good crop. In addition to nitrogen from legumes, cover crops help recycle other nutrients on the farm. Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (KB], calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), and other micro nutrients are accumulated by green manure/cover crops during a growing season. When the green manure is incorporated, or laid down as no-till mulch, these plant-essential nutrients become slowly available during decomposition.
(a mixed green manure/cover crop
Green manures also provide living mulch that will protect soil from erosion and other weathering effects. Indeed, right now, during the late summer and early autumn, is an excellent time to put in a green manure crop. The plants will protect your garden from winter damage and will produce organic matter during the off-season, when much of. Your plot would otherwise lie fallow. Then next spring, your soil will have good tilth instead of being hard and compacted. Many fall-planted green manure crops will also pump excess water out of the soil, allowing you to prepare the soil and plant crops much earlier than usual. French beans, for instance, can pump soil dry in as little as five days of warm weather. (If, however on the other hand, you are trying to conserve soil moisture in early spring, you may want to harvest your green manure crop on the first warm day.)
Winter green manure crop
A winter green manure crop is planted in late summer or autumn to provide soil cover during the winter. Often a legume is chosen for the added benefit of nitrogen fixation, the plant selected needs to possess enough cold tolerance to survive hard winters. Hairy vetch and rye are among the few selections that meet this need. These cool-season legumes include clovers, vetches, medics, and field peas. They are sometimes planted in a mix with winter cereal grains such as oats, rye, or wheat. Winter cover crops can be established by aerial seeding into maturing cash crops in the autumn, as well as by drilling or broadcasting seed immediately following harvest.

Summer green manure crop

A summer green manure occupies the land for a portion of the summer growing season. These warm-season cover crops can be used to fill a niche in crop rotations, to improve the conditions of poor soils, or to prepare land for a perennial crop. Legumes such as cowpeas, soybeans, annual sweet clover, sesbania, crotalaria, or velvet beans may be grown as summer green manure crops to add nitrogen along with organic matter. Non-legumes such as sorghum-sudangrass, millet, forage sorghum, or buckwheat are grown to provide biomass, smother weeds, and improve soil tilth.

The Benefits of Cover Crops and Green Manure

The foremost benefit obtained from green manures is the increase of organic matter to the soil. During the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, compounds are formed that are resistant to decomposition—such as waxes, and resins. These compounds—and the mycelia, mucus, and slime produced by the microorganisms that help bind together soil particles as granules, or aggregates. A well-aerated soil tills easily and has a high water penetration rate. Increased levels of organic matter also influence soil humus. The material that is the result of the decay of plant and animal materials into the soil. This provides an extensive range of benefits to crop production.
Sod-forming grass or grass-legume mixtures are important in crop rotations because they help replenish organic matter lost during annual cultivation. However, several years of sod production are sometimes required before measurable changes in humus levels occur. In comparison, annual green manures have a negligible effect on humus levels, because tillage and cultivation are conducted each year. They help replenish the supply of active, rapidly decomposing organic matter.
There is also a very informative piece on green manures on Wikipedia:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Japanese knotweed, a noxious weed

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Japanese knotweed, a noxious weed

Corrigans city farm, Blackpool: Japanese knotweed, a noxious weed

Corrigans city farm, Blackpool: Japanese knotweed, a noxious weed: "These noxious weeds go by numerous other names, including Polygonum cuspidatum (one of its scientific names). But no matter what you call ..."

Japanese knotweed, a noxious weed

These noxious weeds go by numerous other names, including Polygonum cuspidatum (one of its scientific names). But no matter what you call them these plants deserve the title of "killer bamboo." It is effectively a giant herbaceous perennial which grows at an alarming rate of up to 10cm per day in any type of soil. It forms dense clumps of up to 3m (10ft) in height. Japanese Knotweed thrives on disturbance and spreads by natural means and by human activity. Very small fragments of rhizome (underground stems), as little as 0.7g - approximately the size of a fingernail - can produce fresh new plants. But it is below ground where this invader causes the biggest problems, as each stand creates a rhizome network that can extend to 3m in depth and 7m in all directions. This makes it a serious threat to construction where it can have devastating consequences damaging foundations, drains and other underground services.
Japanese knotweed plants were introduced from Japan first into Ireland the U.K., then into North America in the 19th century as a landscaping ornamental (alas, there is no accounting for some peoples tastes!). Japanese knotweed soon spread like wildfire, a mad killer taking on a life of its own, independent of its human sponsors. A common habitat for Japanese knotweed is sunny, moist areas, including riverbanks, roadsides and, yes, your lawn and garden. Japanese knotweed is often spread via landfill: all it takes is one fragment of one root, furtively submerged within a pile of fill dumped onto an unsuspecting ditch and, next thing you know, a burgeoning menace is gaining a foothold. Before you know it, all other plants are crowded out by this highly successful competitor for landscaping space, resulting in a monoculture.
(pictures courtesy of BBC)

Luckily, Japanese knotweed is not inclined to occupy forested areas. Rather, it typically takes advantage of areas disturbed by humans, areas affording not only ample sunlight but also friable soil for its invasive roots. If you already have a patch of Japanese knotweed at the edge of the woods on your property, whatever you do, do not begin clearing the wooded land until you have completed the eradication of this killer bamboo. You'll only invite it to spread, if you clear land adjoining the currently infested area. Eradication of an entrenched stand of Japanese knotweed, however, is easier said than done. You can slash Japanese knotweed to the ground, but they come back. You root them out and destroy by fire on a would-be funeral pyre; but it is only you who feel lifeless, fatigued from all your labours. Why, Japanese knotweed even mocks concrete, bursting up through any available crack in a driveway or path with its incredible tenacious strength.
But is killing knotweed a realistic goal? Is it possible to kill the Japanese bamboo and reclaim your lands? Well, for those who would like to free up some landscaping space for a garden by killing an well-established stand your hope resides in different tactics, as part of a multipronged strategy, carried out diligently over a long campaign. There is hope for your garden, but you'll have to be persistent with your tactics and wage a smart war. And if you'll settle for just suppressing the enemy at first, using landscape fabrics or even old carpets, you can at least reclaim the war-torn land for the short term, while you maintain the siege that will (hopefully) kill Polygonum cuspidatum for the long term.

Begin by investing in some plastic , with which you'll cover your patch of Polygonum cuspidatum and smother it. Invest the money in the biggest  you can find,  the outlay will save you a lot of labour. If the landscape area from which the Japanese knotweed emerges is covered in the early spring with plastic or carpet, the Japanese knotweed's growth is immediately impeded.
The covered knotweed will still make a protest. It is not for nothing that in Japan, home of this killer bamboo, Japanese knotweed is referred to as itadori, which means "strong plant." With their Godzilla like strength, the new shoots will act like tent poles, pushing your coverings up. But you can then simply trample them down by walking over them. What growth does occur under these will be unsuccessful, deprived of sufficient sunlight. Make sure your covers overlap each other considerably, and are weighted down all along the seams and the outskirts; or else the sun-seeking shoots will be pushing through the gaps in no time. This is why buying the largest covers you can find, is a good investment.
One reason why I would say that this covering tactic is perhaps the most powerful of your options is the fact that, during carrying out this, the piece of your lands can be reclaimed for above-ground gardening uses. For example, you could apply an attractive mulch on top of the covers, and display containers in this area. You could even build raised-bed gardens right on top of the covers. No matter how long it takes the Japanese knotweed down below to be smothered, your raised beds will be safe: the covers act as a protective barrier against incursion.
Knotweed can be suppressed (but not eradicated) by cutting it back all the way through the summer, so that its photosynthesis is never allowed to operate at high levels. Since cuttings will  easily sprout new roots and re-entrench themselves in the landscape or garden, pick up the cuttings and bag them afterwards. Don't rely on the cutting method in isolation, though. Cutting back Japanese knotweed regularly is a tactic only meant to be used in conjunction with injections of weed killer into the cane stumps. But this is a lot of work, and certainly not my preferred method.
Finally, dig into the ground where the bamboo shoots come up most vigorously in your garden. In these areas you will probably discover the rhizome-clumps from which spring the knotweed's roots and shoots. In stands of Japanese knotweed that have flourished for many years, these rhizome-clumps are very woody and quite easily reach widths of a foot or more.  The rhizomes can be dug up and bagged. Do not, however, expect immediate results from implementing this tactic. For no matter how careful you are, some of the rhizome roots will snap off. And from even the tiniest root of Japanese knotweed left in the ground, a new plant will eventually emerge. But remember: this is a long-term war. In this case, the nourishment your enemy requires to fight you most vigorously is stored in its rhizomes. Think of the rhizomes as strongholds. Although enemy soldiers will fan out and hide after their stronghold has been destroyed, the loss of the stronghold makes their long-term success more difficult.
There is hope on the Horizon though: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8555378.stm

“A tiny Japanese insect that could help the fight against an aggressive superweed has been given the go-ahead for a trial release in England.”
Since Japanese knotweed was introduced to the UK it has rapidly spread, and the plant currently costs over £150m a year to control and clear.
But scientists say a natural predator in the weed's native home of Japan could also help to control it here.
The insect will initially be released in a handful of sites this spring.
This is the first time that biocontrol - the use of a "natural predator" to control a pest - has been used in the EU to fight a weed.
Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: "These tiny insects, which naturally prey on Japanese Knotweed, will help free local authorities and industry from the huge cost of treating and killing this devastating plant."
(Alphalara itadori)

A little known fact is though that it is edible and likened to rhubarb! Here is a link to a site, I may just try some! Why not, it’s very nutritious, has many medicinal uses and also contains an organic pesticide; this is well worth a visit! Highly interesting!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corrigans city farm, Blackpool: Giant Hogweed

Corrigans city farm, Blackpool: Giant Hogweed: "Species Heracleum mantegazzianum Family Apiaceae Common names Giant hogweed, The Hog, giant cow-parsnip and cartwheel flower. A Brief Histo..."

Giant Hogweed

SpeciesHeracleum mantegazzianum
Common namesGiant hogweed, The Hog, giant cow-parsnip and cartwheel flower.

A Brief History:
Heracleum mantegazzianum was first recorded on the seed list of the Botanic Gardens at Kew in 1817. A likely first incidence of introduction in the wild was 1828 in Cambridgeshire. The plant then spread through the greater part of Europe by 1900, mainly vectored by those most potent agents in the circulation of invasive plants; namely, gardeners and plantsmen. Here is Gertrude Jekyll, (probably the most influential gardener of the twentieth century), in a couple of articles written for "Country Life". These articles begin in the 1890's, but were mainly written after 1912.
"For cool, quiet places where there is a backing of copse, there should be free planting of the giant Heracleum mantegazzianum, with its very large leaves and branches of white bloom four feet across. It is a distinct improvement on the older kind of giant Cow Parsnip, Heracleum giganteum, for the leaves are larger and a glossier green, more deeply slashed and more sharply toothed, and the massive bloom is larger altogether."
In another article:
"Prominence would be given to the fine Heracleum Mantegazzianum, a notable improvement in all ways on the older Heracleum giganteum, give it the appearance of a specially proud and sumptuous plant. It is a native of Abkhasia, a small Russian province on the Black Sea at the foot of the Caucasus." Quite correctly, Miss Jekyll ascribes the source of the new plant to the western Caucasus.
Giant hogweed does what invasive plants do. Its height, spread and capacity for producing dense stands of plants, cuts out around 80% of daylight reaching lower growing species. Many of these are out competed as the plants germinate or start vegetative growth very early, and grow with alarming rapidity. This lost of plant diversity leads to subsequent loss of the other organisms that depend on that very diversity. Like Japanese knotweed, (Which I will be covering in my next blog) its size and alien appearance, whilst sometimes breathtaking, does not look well with the visual congruity in our rural areas.
This mammoth plant grows from the seed to build an enormous rosette of foliage, with leaves up to 3 metres long.
When it has enough energy stored in its rootstock, it thrusts up its tall flower stem to hold multiple umbels of flowers, which can generate as many as 100,000 seeds. In extremely poor growing conditions it will delay the flowering stage until it is big enough to make a good job of it. This may take 12 years or so. Under more sympathetic conditions, flowering is from between the 3rd to the 5th year of life. The plant is usually monocarpic, and its life ends when seed has been set. It is reported that some individuals form perennating crown buds arising from the rootstock, and that ancillary flower stems can be produced in seasons succeeding to the main flowering.

Its main claim to notoriety is in its ability to produce a virulent contact dermatitis on the human skin, (Phytophotodermatitis) when conditions of strong sunlight and high temperatures and humidity combine with skin exposure to sap.
The chemicals causing this unpleasant syndrome are known as Furocomarins which are also found in other members of the Apiaciae and some other plants. Symptoms consist of intense reddening and extensive blistering, dark pigmentation of the skin, and a discoloured scarring, which remains noticeable for a very long time. Sap splashed in the eyes can have particularly bad consequences.
Organic Control Methodssafety of the operators affecting the control of this plant is the first concern when instituting a control programme. Long gauntlet gloves, waterproof overalls and boots and eye protection must always be worn. Where strimmers and powered cutters employing high-speed blades are used, suitable protective masks should be worn to prevent atomised sap being inhaled.
Unless circumstances dictate that the control method is cutting of the umbels, all other control methods should be started early in the growing season.
Perhaps most surprisingly enough I have found out, sheep and cattle can be used to graze the plants, and will develop a distinct liking for it, making substantial control possible. Introduction of animals early in the season on sites where there is still a mixture of vegetation, or performing a pre-grazing cut to encourage a mixed sward, reduces the possibility of initial rejection by the animals, or of toxic effects being experienced. Breeds with dark skin on exposed areas and external mucus membranes are unlikely to suffer phytophotodermatitis. (The nostrils, eyes, anus, genitals and udders of the grazing animals should however be monitored,) and any animals adversely affected, removed to clean pasture.
Mechanical methods include cutting the root of the plant at a depth greater than 10cm below ground level, using a sharpened spade or similar implement. The above ground plant parts are then pulled and spread to dry. This is a no-argument method for small infestations.
Mowing conducted 3 times in the growing season for a number of years will exhaust the seed-bank and finally the more mature plants, and can eliminate infestations. Competing grass swards should also benefit and become denser.