A South American invader on my allotment

5 July 2014

It is always good to recognise your weeds. In my garden the worst are dog violet, Viola riviniana, and annual dog’s mercury, Mercurialis annua. These are not much of a problem and easily uprooted. At the allotment, much worse are morning glory Calystegia sepium and couch grass Agropyron repens. Both need to be dug out.

But today I managed to identify another weed on my allotment which apparently got here from South America – Galinsoga parviflora. Its English name is ‘gallant soldier’, being a small hairless herb which is readily uprooted.

I had spotted this plant growing around my runner beans last summer and it had troubled me that it looked nothing like anything I was familiar with. I also found it near in my office car park at the other side of London, so it is apparently widespread.

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The flower of Galinsoga shows it is in the Compositae

Looking closely at the flower it is clearly a composite like a daisy, and knowing that it is not too difficult to find in a wild flower book. How it got here from South America would be an interesting story!

Putting the straw back into strawberries

Thu 29 May

There’s glorious weather down on the allotment and the strawberries are beginning to ripen. They also need some weeding and I have a bale of straw that came from a pet shop whichI have kept for trying out on the strawberries in the traditional way.

I’ve been round my strawberry patch, weeding out the rogue plants such as raspberries shooting up from the next bed, speedwell, annual dog’s mercury, dandelions and little euphorbias. Then carefully with my left hand I lift up the swelling green fruit off the ground, then with my right I grab a bunch of straw from the bag and lay it as a collar around the plant roots. The developing fruit can then be just laid back onto the straw. The fruit then sit protected from the sometimes wet soil and hopefully are a bit more difficult for slugs and snails to munch on.

Let’s see whether it works! I also pick my first crop of strawberries and realise I must clean out the freezer by making jam with the strawberrries left from last year.

Making the most of organic matter

Tue 10 June

I went down to the allotment on my bike today taking with me a bag full of kitchen and garden waste for my big compost heap. The one in the garden is small and pretty full most of the time, and I want to avoid giving the council too much of my compostable waste.

On the way I was also able to collect a large bag of wood chippings from the woodland surrounding Hackney marshes. There are piles of chipped wood where they have been thinning the shelter belts. They often use the chips to make path surfaces or quite often just leave them to rot. I was particularly looking for some older stuff which was moist and part rotted to act as a mulch. I put this on my dahlias, iris cuttings and courgette plants because the soil is looking pretty dry on these warm summer days. I also use it to make paths on my allotment, underlain by old carpet, but the newer stuff is best for this.

I had not much time for watering today but picked some broad beans and strawberries. I need to do some feeding and watering in the near future, as well as make repairs to the raised beds.