Every week I email a gardening question to the panel of experts at BBC Radio Norfolk’s The Garden Party and then eagerly listen to the programme the following day, scribbling down the gems of information they kindly offer. Sometimes Laila sends a question or two as well. This is a transcript of the advice that The Garden Party experts gave us on this week’s gardening challenge!
We are in the process of building a staircase out of reclaimed untreated Scott’s Pine for our new extension.
As a result, we are accumulating lots of wood shavings which we would like to make use of as a mulch on the garden. Would this work?
If so, are there any plants that would particularly like or dislike it? As it’s pine, I am thinking it might be acidic like pine needles…
Would it need composting before use or could it be used fresh?
Any advice from the experts WOOD be gratefully received!
Thank you in advance
(BBC Radio Norfolk’s The Garden Party is presented by Thordis Fridriksson aka @thunderfairy and Alan Gray from East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, with this week’s guest Ian Roofe from the Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society)
ALAN: I would say you’ve got to rot it down, otherwise you’ll have all these curly tendrils blowing around the garden! It probably will be acidic although I don’t think it’ll be so acidic it’ll hurt the soil at all, but I would definitely compost it first.
IAN: Yes, a great addition to the compost heap. If you’re still cutting your lawns like I am, you’ve got all these nitrogen rich grass cuttings that if you blend them with the carbon rich wood shavings gives you a really good mix. The thing about putting fresh, uncomposted wood shavings straight on your garden is that carbon in the shavings needs nitrogen in order for the fungi to rot it down. So where does that nitrogen come from? Well, the wood shavings absorb nitrogen from the soil and by doing so, deplete it resulting in your plants being less green, less vigorous and less healthy. So by rotting it down beforehand you’re preventing that from happening.
THUNDERFAIRY: Bridget wonders whether there are any plants that will like or dislike being around it once it’s rotted down?
IAN: Anything really, but particularly ericaceous stuff would love it, such as blueberries, camelias, rhodedendrons, azalias…
ALAN: Yes, any plants that love acidic soil.
THUNDERFAIRY: You mentioned blueberries liking the wood shavings compost …well you, Ian, have your own private little blueberry farm growing in a bath, don’t you!
IAN: Yes, in an old tin bath! Blueberries like a really good boggy-type soil and an old tin bath’s perfect. You need to drill some drainage holes about 4 to 6 inches up the side from the base so there’s always a reservoir of water in the bottom but so that the bath doesn’t flood. This way the blueberry plant can take up water when it needs it but isn’t actually sitting in mud. Blueberries love acidic soil and they love moisture and in my opinion you can’t really go wrong with blueberries, as long as you harvest them before the blackbirds!
THUNDERFAIRY: Yes, but are they worth the effort?
IAN: This is what the whole grow your own ethos is all about, in my opinion. Unless you’ve got a huge allotment where you’re growing lots and lots of crops to feed the family throughout the year, for me it’s about growing snippets of things. It’s that whole process of sowing and of cultivating and of picking …and I know it’s often so much cheaper to buy things in a supermarket, but I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing it for the satisfaction of picking my own homegrown stuff …and you can’t beat a handful of homegrown blueberries in your porridge!