Welcome to the November issue of growing tips.
One of the benefits of this time of year is the abundant supply of fallen leaves. Once composted these will make excellent leaf mould.
Leaf mould is the end result after leaves have been allowed to decompose. It is an excellent soil conditioner which can be used to mulch around fruit trees, improve soil structure and can be added to homemade compost mixes.
The only drawback is that it can take over a year for the leaves to decay. But as they say, ‘all good things come to those that wait’ and the end product is certainly worth waiting for.
As the cold nights start to draw in, one of the gardener’s allies, the humble hedgehog, starts to think about hibernating. Numbers have declined by 30 per cent over the past 10 years so they need as much help as possible.
Hedgehogs are wonderful pest controllers and will eat slugs and snails as part of their diet. Therefore, it’s in the grower’s interest to provide them with hibernating facilities.
There are many hedgehog houses on the market to choose from. However, access to a log pile, compost heap or an area under your shed will suffice.
Should the weather turn wet then there are always those jobs you turn a blind eye too. Plastic plant labels will require cleaning for use again next year. Warm soapy water and a sheet of ‘wet and dry’ sandpaper leaves them looking good as new.
Parsnips will be ready for lifting from now on. If you can wait until they have been frosted this should intensify the flavours. Given a deep, loose soil certain varieties will produce nice long tapered tap roots. The variety below is ‘White gem’.
Tools will benefit from some TLC. Remove loose soil, rub the metal work over with a wire brush and then rub down with an oily cloth. Wooden handles can be cleaned and wiped down with linseed oil.
Everyone at some stage has inadvertently grabbed a slug and ended up with slime on their fingers. Trying to wash it off just makes the situation worst. Simply take a pinch of dry soil and rub it around the slime which should take the stickiness away. Once home, hot soapy water tends to remove any residue.
If you have a greenhouse remove any fallen leaves from under the staging. If you don’t these will decay and become host to grey mould also known as botrytis. Botrytis can affect a wide range of plants and especially seedlings. Good hygiene and air circulation are key to preventing it.
One last note on moulds. We have Botrytis to thank for the decomposition process of all the leaves which fall in autumn, the process which ultimately provides us with leaf mould.