Canal Boat - - This Month - with Julie Clark

Gar­den­ing, the Big Sky and our clever acros­tic crossword

It is around this time of year I am ad­vis­ing how to pro­long the grow­ing sea­son, par­tic­u­larly of flow­ers. Fruit and veg­eta­bles will be ripen­ing and a few quick crops can still be planted.

This is also the time that seeds can be gath­ered for next year. Al­low a few beans and peas to ma­ture on the plant be­ing care­ful not to leave too many on each plant as they may stop pro­duc­ing any more. This can also be done very suc­cess­fully with chill­ies, chives, toma­toes and per­haps a cour­gette. They may not grow true to va­ri­ety but it is al­ways fun ex­per­i­ment­ing! Flower seeds are also worth har­vest­ing; sweet peas, any an­nual flow­ers, es­pe­cially pan­sies, nigella, neme­sia, pop­pies, even gera­ni­ums, will all grow eas­ily from home grown seeds and don’t for­get to gather some herbs for dry­ing to use in the win­ter be­fore they fin­ish.

Feed­ing is es­sen­tial now since any com­mer­cial com­post will be be­com­ing ex­hausted. On the boat I try to be es­pe­cially en­vi­ron­men­tally aware and so I have started to make my own plant feed. There are a num­ber of plants that grow wild in the hedgerow which can be used to make a great nat­u­ral or­ganic feed in­clud­ing com­frey and net­tles. Both of these make an ex­cel­lent (and free) feed suit­able for both flow­ers and veg­eta­bles. Com­frey wa­ter is a great all round and bal­anced feed whilst net­tles have a higher ni­tro­gen con­tent which would be es­pe­cially good for toma­toes.

To make your own plant food, def­i­nitely us­ing gloves, pick the ma­ture leaves from either com­frey or net­tle plants, chop them up and put them in a bucket with a lid, cover with rain or river wa­ter, put some­thing heavy such as a stone or brick on top to keep them sub­merged, pop on the lid and leave to rot down for two – three weeks. You will be left with a rather ‘fra­grant’ brown liq­uid which can be bot­tled for easy stor­age. Di­lute this 1 – 10 with wa­ter and voila! Free or­ganic plant food.

To squeeze a few more flow­ers from your plants dead­head­ing is es­sen­tial and a bit of gen­tle prun­ing should en­cour­age a bit of re growth. Watch out for dead and de­cay­ing leaves close to the soil as this will be­come a breed­ing ground for grey mould and rot your plants at their base.

But sum­mer is not quite over and plenty of boats are still en­joy­ing a cruise here and there so it is still well worth keep­ing ev­ery­thing grow­ing for as long as pos­si­ble. The evenings might be draw­ing in a lit­tle but plea­sure of see­ing all the brightly coloured boat gardens makes the lit­tle bit of ef­fort re­quired all the more worth­while.

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