August 2020

Great Hockham Gardening Club Corona Diary


We started the month with a cry of help from Mary Watkins. “Please can anyone tell me what is affecting 6 of my apple trees; is it fire disease as mentioned on Gardeners World; What to do?” Mary supplied pictures and several members were able to help. Basically, the consensus was that it was fire blight and the only remedy was to cut out any affected parts – quickly.

It’s great to know that regardless of the current restrictions we are keeping in touch and our combined broad range of knowledge is still on tap. Incidentally, regardless of lockdown, anyone can still join the club and be part of our community on-line. Visit our website at: greathockhamgardeningclub.org.uk for details.


During this analysis Mary added: If anyone would like free sheep’s fleece to use as mulch, bags are available from Melsop Farm Park near Watton. ASAP before it is burnt. Bean and potato trenches need far less water when lined with fleece. 


The bottom has dropped out of the wool market leaving many small flock owners with the dilemma of how to dispose of the fleece. Sending to the Wool Marketing Board can mean a loss where the cost of transport is more than the price paid for the wool. Many are resorting to dumping heaps in the corners of fields or, HORRORS, burning it. Gardeners, hand spinners, eco builders and the wider crafting community can help by making better use of this brilliant natural resource.


There is quite a lot of information to be found on the wonderful Internet. Just Google uses for sheep's fleece for some ideas. I used some dirty, daggy fleece in one bean trench that very dry summer. Those beans thrived and produced better crops with less watering than the next trench with no fleece. Fleece is also a proven slug deterrent when tasty plants are well tucked in with nice greasy fleece. Again there is a slow release nitrogen fertiliser so less feeding needed. Fleece is excellent for lining hanging baskets. Leave some short lengths on top for the nesting birds.  The blue tits will manage to dig out some choice staples for their nest lining.  African violets like their pots to have fleece in the bottom with a little wick pulled through the hole.


No need to gather small handfuls of fleece from fences when out on your walks; there are several small flocks around Hockham and Watton. Melsop Farm Park near Scoulton has an abundance for free with the added bonus of a small cafe and butchers shop selling rare breed pork. (Yummy meat: slow roast joint then whack up the heat for proper crispy crackling. I still need to try the ham.) I know the park is open, just need to check about the children's play area. (We have tried the bangers: first rate, Ed.)


Their rare breed sheep produce a wonderful variety of fleece in natural colours so even if you are not a hand spinner, there is always the possibility of mulching and weed suppressing, or even felting a bedside rug. The National Trust is selling greasy wool garden string for a price. How about learning to stick spindle some of your fleece and make your own? Just a thought! Mary.


Sue Thomas writes: Hi Ed. Still keeping our head down, and have ventured as far as the petrol station for fuel for the mower and to collect groceries from my daughter. The garden has bloomed and is now on the decline.

We have picked and eaten, stewed and made crumble with one complete plum tree, and have also picked, eaten, stewed, made pies, crumbles and flans of one complete apple tree. Quite sick of apples, but still one to go. Still have two victoria plum trees to deal with, both rammed with fruit, but still as green as grass I am pleased to say. The late strawberries are now in full bloom, and have picked 3 or 4 pounds so far. Now on the 4th row of radishes and the third row of cut and come again salad leaves. Carrots have been particularly good this year and beetroot exceptional. The runner beans planted in the poly tunnel, now having left the doors open, are going mad. The runners and climbing French beans planted outside are now catching up fast and we have eaten a couple of pound of the Cobra beans which are a delight. Foolishly, I thought that the bean department was not going so well, and decided on planting some ground French beans to compensate. About two dozen plants have appeared, so we could be knee deep by the end of the month!! The two pumpkin plants that survived now have about 8 fruits on them and still rushing round the garden, currently about 3 metres long! The gourds insist on climbing up the wire of the fruit cage and have abandoned the bamboo framework I so carefully installed for them!! I have made a point of collecting as much seeds from my plants as possible, in the hope that we can embark on our 'Seed Swop' sometime in the future. Keep Safe everyone. Cheers - Sue


Julie Brown writes: Hi Ed; not much happening in the garden at No 1, still waiting on 'im in-doors. The hi-lite is the lovely self-sown sunflower which came out of the birdseed, a 6ft beauty isn't she?

I have harvested about a dozen cucumbers and my tomatoes are just starting to turn. Have been working at Liz's so will get some pics of what we have been doing there. We are also working on her son's garden, too. Will be as quick as possible, hope you have sorted the plant in the conservatory. (Fat chance, Ed).


I spend a lot of time at Liz Head’s garden with my sister. Liz's garden is being changed from a huge expanse of grass to no grass at all. It has been a long journey but she is almost there. The garden backs onto a farmer’s field and is at the mercy of the weather coming from the east, and then you can just see the trees of the Forestry Commission. Disappointed that we are not meeting as Liz thought she might have scored a few points for her cabbages?

Liz is loving the new flower bed. The blue thistle is a huge clump from 3 plants so will need splitting up, but covered in little blue globes. The bees and hover flies are loving it.

Liz, Michael and I have recently dug a wildlife pond in the garden, but Liz is not ready to show just yet, but I think it looks good already. She wants there to be more growth before showing. Not sure of the name of the butterfly, is anyone?

Hope you have all enjoyed July now August will bathe us all in glorious sunshine. Keep well, Julie.


I hate moles! I am not precious about our grass; in fact I mow around daises, dandelions and other serendipitous germinations. But in a very short space of time a mole can create havoc. If you mow the grass without removing the heaps it ruins the mower blades and fires stones at the windows. Removing the heaps doesn’t help much as the wheels of the mower drop into unseen cavities created by the runs, causing the blade to drop and create those familiar brown rings that look like crop circles. We even had one mole in our gravel drive. The time involved sieving the gravel and making the repairs is disheartening. Other beasts can be deterred with various barriers. In our garden, pigeons are kept at bay by our dog, a staffyjack with a pathological hatred of said birds. But moles move in mysterious ways their devastations to perform. But that is not why I hate moles. The only solution to the problem is to kill them. I have to kill a beautiful, hard-working little creature that is only doing what it has to do to survive in that part of the adaptive landscape it finds itself. When I finally manage to trap one I hate myself, and that’s why I really hate moles.

The moles do not trouble the grass that grows on the tarmac at the side of the road outside our house. It must be a very tough variety as it is surviving under the harshest of conditions: little or no soil, dries out quickly and is constantly driven on by passing vehicles, a prime example of the survival of the fittest. Its grip on terra firma is so slight that it is quite easy to slide a spade underneath and lift it. Passers by are unaware that they are witnessing a crime: I am stealing the council’s grass. When this particular grass is used to fill in any mole damage and finds itself on some half decent soil, and gets watered regularly, it thinks all it’s Christmases have come at once. It quickly takes root, grows at an almost alarming rate and provides a virtually instant solution to the problem of bare patches.


Happy highway maintenance, Ed.


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