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Your Questions October 17, 2016

Ferny Problem

Question: I cut the old leaves in the spring and set them on the compost heap. About a year after, when I’m digging out the compost, I discover that little progress has been made by the fern leaves. What is the basis for their decomposition that is astonishingly slow, and what method would you recommend?

Answer:  In terms that are composting, brownish fern fronds are what we had classify as carbon-rich, compared to nitrogen-rich substance. Tougher plant material comprises more carbon and is slower to break down. It is possible that the fronds are slow to die back and decay so they can help fuel the burst of new growth in spring. Having layers of carbon-rich material like your fern fronds might be irritating when you come to use the broken-down compost but they help keep the heap aerated and save it from turning into a squishy mess. Most people choose for the composting process that is slow, as it is more easy and more in-tune with how substance is yielded by a garden. To rot carbon-rich material more efficiently, you’d have to lock into hot composting. The substance must be damp, shredded into a little site or nicely layered and checked with a compost thermometer, so it reaches 55-65*C (131 – 149F). After four days, it is turned to take in the air and turned again every other day until ready within three weeks. Particle size will be smaller, weed seed and pathogens killed but most good microorganisms will not stay dead.

Fruitless Gooseberries

Question: Last winter my two gooseberry bushes transferred to a fresh place where they were as they were in the manner. They seemed to progress very well. Unfortunately, they didn’t produce any fruit. Is this because I moved them, and do you believe this forthcoming year they will fruit?

Reply: I think the bushes might have flowered without you noticing but the fruit failed to set and swell because the root system was not developed enough to support them. Ideally, you would have given them a thorough pruning before moving them, to reduce the quantity of leaves losing moisture during summer while new roots were growing. Watering through dry spells would have helped too. Hopefully, the plants will have settled now but do identify leading shoots and reduce these by half, then snip sideshoots back to 5cm (2in). This allows access for weeding and now is the time to apply a fertiliser suitable for fruit and mulch over the roots with well-rotted compost or manure.

More about those question at this post.

Bitter Cucumbers

Question: This year I grew ‘Marketmore’ cucumbers outside and they were very productive. Most of them were fine but a few were fairly bitter. They did have some powdery mildew on but they seemed to recover from this.

Reply: With under cover varieties bitter cucumbers result from pollination which they don’t demand whereas pollination is required by outdoor varieties and do not typically become bitter. ‘Marketmore’ is an improved ‘King of the Ridge’, a backyard form and is resistant to powdery and downy mildew but might suffer somewhat, though this would not make the fruits bitter. Another chance is pollination by another cucurbit including a marrow or squash which might cause flesh that is bitter. A hint would be distinct-looking seeds.

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