Sunday, 25 March 2012

Rooting around

I'm sure there's an obvious answer to this question. In fact, if I were to pose this at Gardener's question time I would be hounded out of the studio faster than you can say Titchmarsh. For all the worthy intention of expert answers for troubled gardeners, I can't help but feel you need a minimum of 5 garden GCSE's (with at least a C in latin names and composting) to be allowed to participate.

Being the class dunce, I'll post it on here instead.

Can you reuse compost?

Right, lift your jaw, or self off the floor now and consider it for a moment. I'm talking containers with compost from last year. Thinking about it logically as possible, compost contains the right balance of nutrients for things to grow. Plants grew, and took the nutrients, how are they replaced?

With your average bed of soil, there's so much of it and a bit of compost is added each year, and I guess there's a balance. And besides, you have worms to look after it all for you. Grow a few peas, fix a bit of nitrogen, rotate a few crops and away you go.

But is compost like a battery, with only a certain amount of juice. And how can I tell when the juice runs out? 

And what if the compost has been contaminated? Oh yes, I left a few containers out with their compost from last year, and the weeds took hold. This morning I took the weeds out, and their roots had run riot, right to the bottom of the container? 

In the picture above, you may be able to spot roots all tangled up like headphones left in a coat pocket for a week, miraculously inter-twined. If I leave them in there, will the weeds re-grow? And how do I make sure I don't pick and eat them instead of my planned salad leaves? Death by leaf...

So I have just spent an hour of my life picking through all my weed-riddled containers, patiently picking out the noodles, shaking them free of dirt and bringing the compost, hopefully, back to life. I've refreshed the containers with extra new material and with any luck I'll be happy as rabbit very soon. Come salad leaves come:

Last year's emerging crop


motormouth said...

Quite ambitious, eh? How many blogs? Dont fizzle out with spring! Good luck! I saw your curry plant on the other site...(no comment available)....I finally whacked mine as it got so large...we shall see! If you want some exotic herbs..let me now..I have some "salad burnet" seeds I am trying to give away! (and german chamomile and chives!)

Claire Benson said...

I think yes and I wrote about it recently back in February

The question also came up on Gardeners Question Time a few weeks ago and most of the experts said No - but I disagree. I think as long as you put more nutrients in the soil and you practice a little bit of crop rotation I can't see why you should buy new every year.

Especially as if you don't recycle compost - growing in containers would be extremely expensive and for some of us its the only option to growing our own.

Hapless gardener said...

Motormouth, yes I think I may be taking on far too much but this gardening lark is rather addictive! Very kind of you to offer the seeds, v interested - email me

Claire, enjoyed your blog post, thank you. Loving your defiance in the face of the experts too!

Tom Gurney said...

Hey Hapless Gardener,

Hope all is well down there in Bristol. I am officially climbing aboard your bandwagon for green fingery, but with a considerably limited plot to experiment with!

Glad you're enjoying your time down there.

Hapless gardener said...

Good to hear from you Mr G, and great to hear you're on this particular bandwagon! What are you growing? I need to get you writing for the guest bed too!

Tom Gurney said...

Hey Tom,

I decided to start a Flickr diary of my plants as i add more and give them time to grow (or die!).

I can see how you have got into this, as it is quite addictive and i always want another plant, though have run out of room now.

Hope you are well down there. All good here in Greenwich.

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.