Seed head (c) Rianne Mason

September garden journal

We all felt the change in season this month. It’s time to bring in the crops and prepare the garden for sleeping.

Capturing 1 minute at the community garden

Digging and storing potatoes

I have to say this was quite fun, if not a little bit back breaking. It really does feel like you’ve discovered hidden treasure when you un-earth a bounty of potatoes with your fork. Sometimes you get a rotten one though! At home our white potatoes did a lot better than the purple ones – which were full of holes. They must be tasty.

Taking down french beans and corn fence

It seems that September is the start of ‘closing down’ for the year. A lot of the work this month has been dismantling structures ready for the winter.

I think we might have kept the French beans to help fix nitrogen in the soil if we were going to have the plot next year, but as we’re having to move it’s more important to get things tidy.

Sowing green manure

Mustard seed (c) Rianne Mason

At both the community garden and in my bed at the eco centre (where I’m now studying my practical RHS course) I’ve been sowing green manures. The one pictured is mustard seed and it only took a week or so to start sprouting!

Planting these seeds over winter helps the soil because the crops will simply be dug back into it next year – hence ‘green manure’. It will provide nitrogen and organic matter to improve the fertility of the soil.

Learning about herbaceous, aquatic, alpine and woody plants

I’ve now started my RHS practical course at the Derbyshire eco centre and every week I’m tested on identifying and correctly naming 10 plants. It was a bit daunting at first as I’m not very good at remembering detail, so all of the latin names really require focus.

I’ve learnt that creating some kind of narrative around the names helps me a lot. This was easy for the trees as I could walk around my local park and picture where each one was. But for the aquatic plants I had to get a bit more creative. For example, Juncus effusus f. spiralis is a rusty spring sticking out of a junk yard.

Learning how to take semi-ripe cuttings

One of my practical exams this week was taking semi-ripe cuttings. Here’s what I learnt:

1. Choose a section of the plant roughly in the middle of the shoot – not too woody and not too juvenile. Cut a section long enough to be 4 inches in the pot and put it head first into a bag to keep its moisture.

2. Use a mixture of 50/50 perlite and compost in your pot. Overfill it, strike it off with a ruler and then firm it down with the base of an identical pot.

3. Sterilise your Stanley knife and cutting tile before cutting your stem below a node (this is where are all the growth cells are so it will help the cutting produce roots).

4. Make sure there isn’t a bud or flower at the end of the shoot and trim off any excessive leaf material e.g cut large leaves in half. Too much leaf will cause the shoot to transpire and dry out.

5. Sterilise your dibber and push it into your 50/50 mix to create a home for your cutting – use the corner of the pot so it has further support.

6. Dip your cutting into growth hormone, making sure it’s only at the end and not the sides, then put it in the hole you just made!

7. Firm in gently and label it with the date and species.

A lot of learning this month, but I guess it is the start of school!

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