August, 2nd Week - Moles, Molehills And Weeding
Dirty Nails writes from personal experience, having supplied his family of four over the years with enough fresh produce to eat their fill. His book combines his love of gardening with the natural pleasures of being outdoors and 'in amongst it'. The author seeks to de-mystify the art of kitchen and allotment gardening, making the thrills, spills, triumphs and tribulations accessible to all-comers, whatever their level of gardening experience.
MOLES, MOLEHILLS AND WEEDING
Moles and molehills
The moles which Dirty Nails has living in and around his veg patch are very busy at this time of year. Although their tunnelling can interfere with his root crops, he generally welcomes them. The soil which they push up into little mounds is of the finest quality: fresh, crumbly and virtually weed-free. Dirty Nails collects this molehill soil by shovelling it into old compost bags and storing these in an out-of-the-way, shaded corner. Molehills are very useful for bulking up potting compost and will be used in the spring for this purpose. Mixed with leaf-mould, they make a fine medium for growing on seedlings.
Moles do far more good than bad in the veg patch. They eat a lot of soil pests and their underground tunnels can assist with drainage in heavy soils. Moles can coexist with surface-rooting crops such as beans and greens quite happily. However if moles do move into part of the veg patch where they are not welcome, such as a parsnip or asparagus bed, Dirty Nails moves them on. To do this, he pushes freshly cut elder sticks and twigs into the molehills, and also any tunnels if they are visible close to the surface. This simple method has proved effective time and time again although he cannot explain why.
NATURAL HISTORY IN THE GARDEN
The hoe is being kept busy annihilating weeds during dry spells. A useful tool for delicate hoeing in tight spaces is a dinner knife, with the blade bent at 90 degrees halfway along its length. Dirty Nails uses his to slice the weeds off just below the soil surface with a controlled scraping motion. He uses a hoe to weed between rows, and a bent knife to get in between the individual plants.
When the soil is moist, most weeds will pull out whole with a bit of gentle persuasion. If the root is particularly deep Dirty Nails employs a hand-fork to loosen the soil just enough to tease the root out. He keeps an old dinner-fork in his pocket too, to use for exactly the same purpose, when soil disturbance needs to be kept to a minimum.