Wednesday, 30 July 2008

shredded woad

Helen, who is growing most of my woad for me, emailed a bit despairedly on Monday. Slugs being the main cause, and her concern that I wouldn't have any leaves left come harvest time. I popped over that afternoon, the following photos are from that visit. These first four show various stages of shreddedness... but most plants were doing just fine.

And so... slug control: Helen has access to sawdust, I have access to coffee grounds so we are trying both. The coffee was applied just before this photo around up-till-then unprotected plants. Most successful seems to be a copper ring (top and bottom right), but only a few plants have these, and only one has broken eggshells (white). Research suggests that coffee grounds release nitrogen into the soil, an element apparently loved by woad - or rather its uptake increases eventual pigment quantity. I've also read that coffee grounds have an anaerobic effect if applied too thickly, and that it's either acidic (which can't be too good when your soil is already acidic) or breaks down to neutrality (which shouldn't matter). There is more to consider though than woadish preference - nitrogen broken down by bacteria forms nitrous oxide (N2O), a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Not being a chemist I'm really not sure of the pros and cons of using it as slug repellent and soil fertiliser, or even of growing nitrogen-loving woad itself... but I will find out! At least the coffee grounds (like the sawdust) are already waste products that would eventually decompose anyway.

Helen has created three plots for the woad. The first is in a spare part of her raised walled veggie garden - I think she said courgettes were growing there until the slugs got 'em. The next is a raised bed that last grew potatoes; and the third is part of the bank that had been covered by carpet to kill couch grass (roots were dug out before planting). All sites get loads of lovely sun... and rain, it being the Cornish summer holidays now.

And finally, four of my five potted plants. Three are teenagers now and allowed out all night but the fourth (back left, in ceramic pot) is still a kid and comes in around midnight. A few days ago I came home feeling so unwell I didn't have the energy to bring it in... and yes, the slugs took advantage. But it's still growing. The fifth plant is elsewhere with the tomatoes and aubergines, a different mini-climate, so I can see how location changes growing patterns. All of mine have had coffee grounds protection from their first venture outdoors.


Helen said...

Sorry you are having such a bad time with your woad. What a shame Helen but a different one from your woad grower!.

Robin Paris said...

Hi Helen (not my woad-growing Helen), some of the woad is growing great, luckily. I think if we'd planted the seeds earlier than May then they'd all be bigger and with less slug problems now. Or maybe not... Anyway I look forward to harvesting leaves next month.

Helen said...

Yup that might be the problem as most of our woad self seeds and appears araund about March/April time.