The Dicotomy of Botany

I just finished off my third week of horticultural college and I am still loving it. My head is swimming with all the different threads of information. We do jump from one subject to another, one minute we are discussing soil science and the next we are onto plant protection. It is hard not to as everything is interrelated, just focusing on one aspect would not put it all into the context in which it is applied, they are all pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle and anyway the variety appeals to me and who needs all the corners first.

We have covered the structure of the plants from leaf to flower and I have a whole new language from pseudocarp to pseudoplatan, pistil to calyx and ilex to hedera, a dichotomy of botany that just keeps on branching out.

Black Spot of Roses and Tar Spot on Sycamore

We compared the Black Spot on Roses with the Tar Spot on the Acer pseudoplantan (Sycamore) today under a literal microscope and one of the students took a couple of photos. It was great to see the leaf cells in such close detail and I am looking forward to discovering more in that microscopic world.

Mycorrhizal fungi

We also took the opportunity to examine some Mycorrhizae from the Dunemann bed system we are building near the polytunnel and it is amazing to see the spread of these fibres throughout the leaf litter.

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We also set up an experiment looking into lime and its relationship with the control of pH levels in soil. We have separated one of the beds in the polytunnel into 4 sections of 2.7m x 1m. We tested the pH levels of the soil throughout the bed and it was on average pH5 which is a bit too acidic for optimum growth. So in each of the sections we added 67g of lime in the form of Calcium hydroxide, dolomite lime which also contains magnesium, Ground Limestone and a I asked if we could include some powdered egg shell that I use in my garden as an alternative. It will take a few months to actually see the effectiveness other than the hydrated lime which should act quicker. Egg shells contain calcium carbonate, in fact they have a 90% content of calcium in the form of carbonate and citrate  as well as 6% magnesium and 1% phosphorus  I am just uncertain of their solubility and comparative concentration so it should be interesting to see if they are as effective as some of the other options.

I don’t actually use much lime in my garden as I find I can keep the pH of the soil balanced and if I can keep the organic content as high as I can I think it helps retain the minerals the plants require but having the opportunity to experiment and field test I am finding very interesting.

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I am a little frustrated about my own garden partly because by going to college every day I don’t get to spend much time actually applying my new knowledge and today I could if it wasn’t raining so hard! I have been calling in at the polytunnel every day before going to college to water and I am busy transplanting all my winter seedlings. There is good growth and I had my first harvest of Swiss Chard this week which my wife kindly used in a quiche. We still have quite a bit of veg in the outside garden and my wife once again has been experimenting and produced a vegan kale and apple cake using flax seed instead of eggs. It was bright green and didn’t sound that appetising but surprise, surprise it was very tasty.

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With all this rain I am going down to the polytunnels again today as I have to clear up the pumpkins and prepare the ground for my Asian salad mix and winter cabbages, they really need to be moved on from the seed trays but I have to make the space available so it will be a busy day.

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