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Gardening with Gael - Get those worms working


thumbnail Leaves-474“For your generation Granny,” said my granddaughter Crimson as I searched for fact based evidence about the application of Epsom salts and coffee grounds in the garden, “navigating the internet is much harder than for those of us who have grown up with it. We have classes at school that teach us how to recognise reputable sites.” Maybe, I thought, it’s time I attended some sessions at SeniorNet.

At this time of the year I am often asked how to deal with yellowing leaves on camellias and citrus trees and my response – based on hearsay, my mother, grandfather and sundry gardening friends – is to sprinkle some Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) around the drip line. For camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and gardenias, which are acid loving plants, I also recommend mulch and a generous application of pine needles. I have written in the past about coercing grandchildren armed with bags to help me collect them.

For citrus a dusting of lime also helps. Generally, except for plants that enjoy an acid soil, a dusting of lime helps balance the soil.

My search supplied me with contradictory evidence. A heavy application of Epsom salts can prove to be toxic. The best advice appeared to recommend a small amount dissolved in water and then watered around the plant. Epsom salts provide magnesium sulphate which helps increase chlorophyll production which in turn makes a healthier more lush plant.

Coffee grounds also need to be treated with caution. Certainly they help to condition the soil and they too have an acidifying effect. I have used them in my garden and common sense dictated that they would need to be mixed with organic matter which was also recommended.

The best advice is regular applications of organic matter. Everything I have ever read reinforces this. Worms are our best friends. As they take their food down from the surface of the soil they burrow and tunnel allowing moisture and air into the soil. Their castings contain magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium – all important nutrients available to plants. Therefore the very best thing you can do is get those worms working and they will fertilise your garden for you. Worm farms are great. They provide the castings and the worm wee but,

as I’ve always thought, nothing beats worms in the garden. I think that is why I keep well clear of weed mat. I believe there are some that allow the transmission of food but a layer of food for the worms directly on the soil feels like the healthy option to me.

Now is a great time to feed that soil and those worms. Deciduous trees are shedding their leaves, a gift to the garden.

At the Block brilliantly coloured leaves carpet the paths. Like snowflakes, every one is different. Young friends Saiorse and Mosese collected mountains of them, marvelling at the array of patterns and colours. Armed with rakes they helped clear the paths and pile the leaves into the gardens, mulching everything. Soil health is vitally important especially with the hotter drier summers that we are experiencing. The more shelter and mulch, the more prepared the garden is for extreme elements. Aerated soil more readily uptakes water, especially clay soils. Sand provides its own challenges and once again a heavy application of organic matter makes gardening in the sand a possibility.

§ TIP OF THE WEEK: Time to get tools cleaned and sharpened ready for pruning.

A blanket of leaves will be raked, collected, and mulched.

Soil health is vitally important, especially with the hotter drier summers…

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