Published: 05 February 2014
Sue's Views: Week 14
The week has seen Sue carrying out hands-on practical tasks involving a wide range of plant material.
I want to start this week’s column with thanks to those who have written to me/tweeted etc. It makes such a difference knowing who I am writing to and what you enjoy. Please keep the comments coming! (Also thanks to Mo for my tree nursery brochure. I want to buy a plum and apple to espalier. I think I’ll bite the bullet this week and splash out.)
I managed to hurt my neck on Wednesday; I’m not sure if it was all the pruning or maybe slouching at the computer. I got completely side-tracked again this week ‘googling’ peak oil. I hadn’t realised quite how imminent it was, even the pessimists seem to be looking at 40 years’ time for major effects. Governments and business seem to be exploring this issue to some extent but I think the rest of us seem to be just hoping it will all get solved without us having to change anything. I don’t think that’s possible. We’ve got to start consuming less, growing more and focus more on community. In this respect Totnes is leading the way. 
So feeling a bit fragile on Wednesday I was actually quite relieved that Darren had to cancel our machinery practical due to bad weather. I love getting my hands on hedge trimmers normally so will have much more fun another day. We tackled our assignments instead and I came up with a great design for my macro and micro nutrients poster. The only slight problem was trying to get my computer to understand what my brain had in mind!
I had a chat with Jane in the afternoon about mycorhizal funghi. I’d seen a TED talk extolling the wonders of its phosphorus absorption properties. We’re meant to run out of mined phosphorus by the end of the century and this fungus could really help us. Apparently it’s quite expensive though and not always needed in the organic system where natural fertilisers are used.

We did lots of pruning again this week (I tried to go up the ladder a lot to avoid looking up) and I’m still finding it a bit complicated. The rules in the book look ok but it all seems to depend on how often your tree has been pruned and how old it is. I still need to look up summer v winter pruning. There really is no substitute for getting out there and doing it. Preferably with someone on hand to advise. Books can’t tell you everything!
We took cuttings from mint and primroses. We’ve done a bit of an experiment where in some pots we lay the mint root sections horizontally and the others vertically. I’ll let you know which come up first. The primroses were interesting. We took root cuttings and also leaf cuttings. Some we left the stem on the leaf, others we cut the leaves in half, and planted in vermiculite. I’ve never seen this done before. I’ll be fascinated to see how it goes.

We also looked at extending the growing season. I’ve included a picture of the propagation bench (above) which is heated and has extra light. I remember seeing something on TV about the Chelsea Flower Show. The growers were bringing on their plants fast after the late spring with lights and heat. They found them useful but said the plants knew it wasn’t sunlight. Nothing’s quite as good as the real thing! An issue I’ve been pondering is about out of season food. If you’re going to eat some, is it better to eat British, even if it’s grown in a heated glasshouse, or import it. I’m tending to think British is best, especially to establish our agriculture for the post oil economy. What do you think?
Vegetables have been a big part of this week. How and where they are grown, stored and sold. The plant families they belong to. Whether they are hardy or tender. Charles Dowding’s name has come up a lot. I’m considering buying his new gardening course book, but all the others look good too. Has anyone found a particular one helpful?
Reported by Sustainable Suzi  

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