Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The old ways are sometimes the best way ... ...

Over the last few years I've become some what obsessed with experimenting on the garden, seeing how far things can be tweaked in order to get the most out of things, and more often than not I've found that gardeners of old knew their stuff.

It seems that the simple way of doing things is most likely the best way, for example how many different types of plant food can you buy ? there are a few, they do this and that and are good for this type of plant or that type of plant, does this mean then that in order to get the best out of things you need a shed full of potions and powders for everything you intend to grow ?

I've reached the conclusion that you don't, in fact I've found that the old fashion way does pretty well, people have been growing stuff for thousands of years, and although the plants we grow are slightly different, they are on a basic level the same, forget all your f1 hybrid varieties and such like, they are plants, and plants like any living thing need things to be right in order to grow, but this doesn't mean using a myriad of chemicals to achieve that, the gardeners of old didn't have them and they did okay.

I have a book, it's a small book that my wife got me, and it's great and sometimes a little odd, but all of the things I've tried from it work, and they are pretty simple things.

Here's the book -

It's a great book.
Like I said it has some unusual things in it, but I guess it's how things used to be done, before we got all this new technology, for example the next picture is taken from a page in the book, it shows what I'm getting at, and if nothing else it adds a touch of humour into the mix, which is good.

I can't say I've tried this myself -

Frost bite anyone ?
Now I have heard this before, and to be honest I can imagine this method being used years ago, before thermometers and other temperature gauges, not sure I'll be trying it, don't think the neighbours would cope with my bare backside first thing in the morning ;-) but (no pun intended) I can see how this works, seeds generally germinate better when the soil is warm, although I tend to use my hands, if the soil feels cold a few inches down then you might want to hold off planting things out, unless you use a cloche or something to warm the soil first.

Yes there is a fair bit of folklore in the book, but again it came from somewhere, so at some point these things were tried out, and perhaps used year after year, and some of the things I have to wonder about, for example the next picture taken from the book mentions the planting of parsley, which apparently according to folklore has to be planted by the lady of the house, I grow parsley it doesn't seem to mind that I'm a bloke, so this got a raised eyebrow, I'll let you read it.

A little non pc perhaps ? -

Good stuff is parsley :-)

Okay so this probably isn't going to go down too well if you try telling your other half she has to plant the parsley, some folklore isn't always helpful.

However there are some very useful tips in this book, for example marigolds, these are great, you can plant them amongst a lot of plants and they will help to keep pests away, it's because of chemicals that come from their roots, and the scent of them is also a warning, we plant them all over the place, and it works, most pests will stay well away from them, and it's not like they are an ugly flower, a lot of people like them.

In the next picture marigolds are mentioned but it also mentions companion planting, which again is worth reading up on, see some plants when planted with other plants will do better than they would on their own because each plant brings something that the other ones can benefit from, whether it be marigolds helping to ward of pests or plants like peas and beans that hold nitrogen in their roots, which is good for growing sweetcorn, so planting your corn with your beans and peas should give you a better corn crop, there are loads of good articles online and in books about companion planting, it's a very useful way of growing things, even more so if you have a small amount of land for growing.

I like these old methods because they work, and more often than not they work better than buying something chemical based that does the same thing, take slugs and snails, they are a pain in the backside, we used to buy organic slug pellets and although they worked sometimes they weren't really good, so what to do ? again a simple solution, egg shells (everyone knows this one ?) broken egg shells are hell for slugs and snails, they can't bare to crawl over them because they are very sharp and the foot of a slug or snail is very sensitive, we use quite a few eggs each week and so far have had a good supply of chemical free slug repellent and even though you can get organic slug pellets these aren't that good for things that eat slugs, like frogs,toads and hedgehogs where as egg shells don't cause any issues, it's a win win.

So start saving your egg shells -

Crushed and ready for deployment :-)
Just give the egg shells a little rinse out, then leave them to dry in a tub, put them in the sun on a warm day, it doesn't take long, then give them a good crush ( a potato masher works well

Here's some egg shell protecting some of our corn -

This was taken a few weeks ago, corn still doing well :-)
Simple, but effective, and costs nothing extra than the price of the eggs, the shells do break down over time, they actually put calcium back into the soil, which helps some plants and worms, yes worms need calcium, although not loads, I think it helps them produce the cocoons they lay their eggs in, or something like that.

An finally here are a few tips involving nettles, again taken from the book, and one I have tweaked a little, yes nettles are great, they make good liquid manure, you can eat them, and you can make wine from them, so why not let a few grow down the bottom of the garden ?

Nettles (stinging nettles)

There are lots of things you can do with nettles, so don't bin them if you find them in your garden, use them for plant feed, and a pest controller.

To make a plant feed you need to soak the nettles in a bucket of rain water (or water from a water butt) for a month, it'll stink, but your plants will love the stuff.
Once it's soaked for a month you can use it as a liquid manure round the roots of plants, water it down about 1:10 (1 part nettle juice to 10 rain water) you can also lay the nettle mush around the base of plants as well.

For pest control again soak the nettles in rain water, but only for a few days, you can then use the liquid in a spray bottle to deter aphids, and other pests.

Remember nettles sting, so wear gloves :-)

You can just compost them as well, and apparently if you let nettles grow around your fruit bushes (currants and the like) they will share some of the nutrients with the fruit bush and also help it to be more disease resistant, can't be bad.
If you let the nettles flower they'll attract butterflies and bees as well.

Okay the tweaked bug spray, I've found this works very well, I use the nettles in some water, but I also add a few cloves of garlic, then I let it all sit in water for about a week, then I liquidize it all and then strain it to get the liquid out, which by this time will stink (and I mean stink) then all I do is put it into a spray bottle.

I've found this is very good at stopping slugs and snails eating the seedlings in the greenhouse and cold frames, it also stops other bugs, but be warned it will make your hands smell for a while if you get it on them, and if you do spray it about in your greenhouse, you may want to stand back a little when you open the door, especially in warm days, it can be quite over powering, but it works :-)

Here's a link to Amazon who sell the book I've talked about, it's good and it works.

Thanks for reading.

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