RHS Show, Coffee Grounds & Stop Spawn Swaps!

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 8th April 2017

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Good Show

Good luck to all the exhibitors and Show Gardens at the RHS Show today. I have very fond memories of many frantic builds for our own show gardens, the banter with the awesome Council workers, fabulous interactive talks in the Talk Theatre and so many reader’s coming along and introducing themselves during the Show weekend. I won’t be able to make it myself this year, as I am learning that it is impossible to fit everything in, but will be thinking about you all and hoping the sun shines.

It is the first RHS Show of the year and has one of the most idyllic settings, with the resident flowerbeds and trees, many of which will be showing off in full blossom. I have heard it said that Cardiff is lucky to have ‘kept’ this Show, but you know what, I have always replied that the RHS are lucky to have Cardiff, and the fab’luss Welsh gardeners, to launch their show season.

No fools.

Thank you to all the lovely readers who contacted me last week and who had rumbled that my recommendation for a new Gin and Tonic Tree from Thompson & Morgan was an April Fool! You are such a lovely lot.

Also thank you for all the good wishes for my bad back – it is indeed on the mend and as Peter from Abergavenny wrote, “All of us gardener’s need a cast iron back with a hinge in it!”

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Rydw i’n hoffi coffi

Last week was Coffee Week. I listened to numerous references to it on the radio whilst in work, but no one mentioned the benefits in the garden. Used coffee grounds (or grinds) can be used as a fertilizer, a mulch and even a deterrent .

As a fertilizer, coffee grinds will add organic material to the soil, which improves drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil. The used coffee grounds will also help microorganisms beneficial to plant growth thrive as well as attract earthworms. Many people feel that coffee grounds lower the pH (or raise the acid level) of soil, which is good for acid loving plants. But this is only true for unwashed coffee grounds. Fresh coffee grounds are acidic. Used coffee grounds are neutral. If you rinse your used coffee grounds, they will have a near neutral pH of 6.5 and will not affect the acid levels of the soil. To use coffee grounds as fertilizer, work the coffee grounds into the soil around your plants.

Used coffee grounds can be used as a mulch and also to keep slugs and snails away from vulnerable plants. The theory is that the caffeine in the coffee grounds negatively affects these pests and so they avoid them and go elsewhere. Some people also claim that coffee grounds on the soil works as a cat repellent and will keep cats from using your flower and veggie beds as a litter box. A friend said she tried this and found that fresh coffee grounds are far more effective for this and for deterring slugs, but that obviously makes it a more expensive repellent. Another much respected gardener said that he always uses his left over coffee (liquid, not grinds) for his roses. He swears that it acts as a stimulant for them and improves the health and disease resistance. I think it’s worth a go and the next time a client questions ‘another coffee break’, I can say I am preparing a rose feed.

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Stop Spawn Swaps!

My nan was responsible for creating great childhood memories and always had us kids out and about doing something. At this time of year it would be collecting frogspawn and watching it develop into tadpoles. When their back legs developed we had to release our temporary pets back into the pond that they had come from. She was always adamant that it had to be the same pond, even if it meant a long walk!

As a result of my happy tadpole days, I grew up into a serial ‘frog-spawn swapper’. If my ponds were full of the jelly-like substance and friends and neighbours wanted some then I would cheerfully pop some in a large glass jar and deliver it, thinking it was a good thing to do! But when I mentioned this at a recent talk I gave I was severely (and publically) reprimanded by a Wildlife Warden in the audience.

He explained that conservationists are urging people not to carry out “frogspawn-swapping” because of the problems it can create in the pond environment. Froglife, a Charity representing all creatures amphibious, warn that swapping frog spawn can lead to the spread of invasive plants and harmful diseases.

However, I am still a great believer in being able to show kids how a lump of jelly with a full stop in the middle turns into a frog.   So, the Warden advised the following: the best way is to find a friend/relative with a pond, just take a little frogspawn, and some of the water of course, and pop into a small fish tank or huge jam jar. Enjoy the evolution and always, always return them to the pond from which you got the frogspawn.

But then Nan obviously knew that!

More details at www.froglife.org

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