Latest posts by steephill

What to do with soil that's got coal in it

Posted: 31/08/2012 at 12:19

It may seem odd that coal made from trees and other organic matter can contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury and (radioactive) uranium and other pollutants but it does. The contaminants come from the normal geological erosion of rocks and are washed into the swamps where coal is formed. These are mainly concentrated in the boundary seams of coal but you have no way of telling where in the seam the coal came from. The heavy metals can leach out of the coal to pollute water courses. This largely a problem for power stations where they store millions of tons of the stuff.

If the layer isn't too thick I would dig it out first especially if planting fruit and veg.

The pinky bits might be brick debris from the previous demolition of the coal shed.


Help - Massive Bramble problem

Posted: 31/08/2012 at 11:59



If you can borrow a couple of pigs for a few days or so they will eat the roots and rotovate and manure the ground at the same time. Take off top growth first.

One more thing - infection. Unless you are very lucky you will get lacerated by brambles when removing top growth. I was tackling a similarly overgrown garden and picked up a nasty bacterial blood infection through cuts. Nothing exotic just common bacteria found in any garden but it took 9 weeks and three different antibiotics to clear it up. So wrap up well with industrial strength welders gauntlets and a strong face guard.


Runner beans.

Posted: 25/08/2012 at 01:16

Leave some pods to mature and with luck you will get a nice crop of beans to use in stews etc. They freeze well too.


Posted: 22/08/2012 at 23:35

Looks like aphid damage and scab. Some useful info here on renovation pruning and a search on Youtube should find you a few videos of how to do this. If all of the fruit is affected by scab like your examples then make sure you dispose of them all. Don't leave them on the ground to rot out.

Fruit trees

Posted: 14/08/2012 at 18:06

Pollination has been poor this year because of the weather - too cold and wet for the bees. I had a similar problem on well established trees, lots of blossom and little fruit. Nothing you can do about it other than try to pollinate by hand next year but I would just let nature sort it out. It would definitely help your chances if there were suitable  trees for cross-pollination in your neighbours gardens though.

Bean confession

Posted: 14/08/2012 at 17:54

I have been lamenting the lack of growth of my runner beans, stopped at a foot tall and I put it down to the bad season everyone is having. That is until I looked more closely and realised I had mixed them up when planting out. I was looking at dwarf French beans! The Borlotti turned out to be the runners and the French beans magically turned into Borlotti. Must try labelling next year.

My excuse is that I hadn't planted French or Borlotti beans before so didn't know what they looked like. The seed packets were a bit short on detail like eventual height etc., so the epic construction of poles and nets is a bit wasted on the dwarf beans! Anyone else ever done this?

how best to reclaim poor land

Posted: 25/07/2012 at 23:36

Get the roots out, nettles have a root network like yellow spaghetti and brambles have roots like a mandrake. This will take hard work and there are no real shortcuts beyond chemical warfare. Remove the turf first and if you need to clear a big area get the right machinery in to help. How big an area do you want to clear?

Huge Pieris japonica

Posted: 23/07/2012 at 22:58

Use that hammer! But not on the pot - turn the pot on its side and put a stake or broom handle into the drainage hole in the bottom. Use the hammer on the stake to help drive out the plant, after releasing its grip on the sides by cutting as Geoff suggests. Hopefully you hav a decent pive of old pot for drainage over the hole which will help spread the load.

With the pot on its side you could also try tapping on the rim of the pot with the hammer using some pieces of wood between the hammer and the rim to soften the blows and spread the load as far as possible across the rim. Maybe a combination of these techniques will do the job.


Disappointed with strawberries...

Posted: 21/07/2012 at 01:10

I have lots of wild strawberries which seem very similar to the alpine variety but do reproduce through runners. The berries can be a little tart but are little explosions of flavour.


Posted: 12/07/2012 at 10:39

You can make "quince" jelly and cheese from the Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica). I have a slightly different variety (Chaenomeles cathayensis) which produces similar fruit to the Japanese variety but has a very different habit - 3 to 4 metre tall trunk which is extremely spiny. I have also made jelly and cheese from this variety.


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