Al William

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since Jan 12, 2020
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forest garden books urban
East of England
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Recent posts by Al William

Steve Thorn wrote:Hey Al, awesome to hear that you got 9 peaches!

Do you have any photos of the trees?


Thanks Steve, that's helpful. I don't have any pictures to hand but will take some, although we've eaten all the fruit!

Swelling from water makes sense. I'm glad we got any - being in the unpredictable UK climate, where peaches aren't a usual crop, I was really worried when they flowered so early and it was still very cold outside. The flowers were all gone long before it warmed up and I was worried it was too cold/windy for pollinators, but they must have sneaked in at some point!
10 months ago

Anne Pratt wrote:Al, I have read that it is slow the first year.

Thanks, they have got a littler larger but will make sure they aren't so shaded out by squash leaves next year. Hopefully they will have the head start next year they need to climb above whatever else we put in them with there.
10 months ago
I didn't see this mention, but apologies if I missed it. The UK isn't known for growing peaches but we proudly grew 9 peaches on our tree this year! This was the tree's second year in our garden (we didn't grow it from seed), but last year we lost the only tiny fruit we had to leaf curl. This year we removed any sign of leaf curl we saw every day and that did the trick.

Our 'problem', which didn't end up being too much of a problem, was that where the fruit stalk reached the fruit body, cracks were appearing, which were big enough for ants to get into. One fruit had about 10 ants inside when we opened it up, and on another fruit the stone had some mould on it. Because we only had 9 fruits we were picking them all pretty frequently so nothing had a chance to rot, and the ants weren't a problem, but wondered if this is just a peach thing, or if it's an issue that can be dealt with.
10 months ago
Posting here so I can keep track of the information mostly - don't have a success story of my own to add! We planted some in a bed with some courgette* plants. The plan was that the spinach would shoot up at the same time the courgette plants sprawled, so we could maximise the use of vertical space. The problem was, I must have got the timing wrong, because the spinach didn't grow anywhere near as enthusiastically as the squash plants, so they are now cowering slightly under some massive squash leaves! I'm hoping that they will desperately clamber their way past to get some sun - they have grown a little.

Also, doesn't seem to be mentioned here but I think I heard about it from Geoff Lawton on 'The Survival Podcast' - Malabar spinach (Basella alba) - another climbing 'spinach' that grows effectively as a perennial.

*Sorry, just realised that this might not mean anything to many people! It's what we call zucchini in Britain.
10 months ago
I'm in England, so take this for what it is (experience from the other side of the world!). Here, even when we've had what was for us hot and dry summers (a couple of months of virtually no rain) the nettles were one of the plants that didn't seem to wilt very much, at least in a shady woodland environment. In our garden they are also one of the few things we don't water and they are never fussed by that.

Incidentally, as the great article posted above mentions, you can also eat the seed - this could be something you could do as well as harvesting the stems for fibre? A herbalist once told me that the seeds act as a stimulant and a friend of theirs ate some and was up all night, very much alert!

Most people here are at best indifferent to nettles because they're everywhere and, of course, they sting. People find it funny when I say that they are under-valued and that people in other places actually purposefully plant them. Silly because our ancestors used them a lot! Archaeologists think that, because of how incredibly thin some of the nettle fibres they have found are, that much of that work was probably done by children.
10 months ago
The previous residents of here had a ~20cm thick layer of pebbles on our small, shady front garden. There was also a membrane underneath, and when we removed all of this the soil was so compacted that I more or less had to chip it away with a fork. Safe to say it was relatively lifeless. We had some top soil delivered, plante things out and, whilst it's still a work in progress, worms have now been spotted, despite the nearest visible soil being out the back of the house. So, to repeat what the above user said: if you build it they will come!
1 year ago
I realise that your post is two months old, but I am not too far from your area and have been to Newmarket a number of times.

How's the allotment going?
1 year ago
Thanks, Hamilton - that's a really useful reply. Will most likely remove the bottom layers (well rotted) and use as compost for flower/insectory bed, and follow your advice on mixing the rest with other materials to balance it out.

What is the rough composition of the manure, you mentioned phosphorous; is it high in nitrogen too? (I think I recall this is why balancing out with carbon-heavy paper littler is good).
1 year ago
Hi all. We have a large bin full of cat and dog poo, mixed with recycled paper-based litter. I understand this should be quite a good mix for composting, which has always been our intention. We are now at the stage where the bin is nearly full (some has been rotting for 2 years) and working out where to spread it.

Our problem is that most of what we grow is edible, and since we are aiming to mimic an early forest we are obviously aiming to have a groundcover/herbaceous layer, which raises problems with contamination from the aforementioned compost.

Would a hugel bed be a suitable way to compost this stuff in place? I'm not experienced with hugel beds (hence asking!) but was wondering if wood piled on top of the compost would do a good job of letting it all break down and not contaminating plants?
1 year ago
My favourite resource for foraging has been Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel. There I learnt the valuable lesson that the best way to begin learning plant ID is through families, not species. For example, the mustard family (Brassicaceae) has over 3500 species that are all edible. So, you don't necessarily need to ID right down to the family to know that it's edible. (Obviously the next step is get more specific!)

In terms of location, it's worth thinking about the edge effect. I live in an urban area but we have a decent(ish) amount of woodland, and it's usually the edges of parks, woodlands and small wild areas that have the most diversity in terms of herbs.
1 year ago