Thursday, 5 March 2015

Something toxic below

The no dig gardener gets his comeuppance


 
My rhododendron in happier days
It would not happen to Anthony Cuthbert. Double digger. He would have found it! Something nasty buried below.
I did not dig my new acre garden fourteen years ago. I merely sprayed-off the unwanted vegetation, burnt the brambles and cleared any rubble. I worked very hard moving several tons of an ancient concrete rock garden which I buried under an access path alongside the then twelve foot overgrown privet!
Ironic that another material interment, probably done before I was born, was the cause of my problem. 

I quickly dismissed the stupid notion that my dwarf rhododendron might revive!

The unfortunate death of my plant was in my ‘acid border’ where I grow azaleas, rhododendrons, heathers, pernettyas, camellias, magnolias, witch hazels, blueberries, itea and gentians. Not to mention a thriving variegated tulip tree, a Picea breweriana and ferns!


It had happened before! Several years ago when two five year old very healthy camellias suddenly went brown. When I investigated three foot down I found a cache of old plastic fertiliser sacks. The devil knows what they had contained. Problem solved and I replanted.

My dead camellia had been like this one
It happened again last month on an adjacent patch. A dwarf evergreen rhododendron within weeks turned  brown and died. Slow growing, it had taken ten years to achieve two foot high. As with the earlier camellias it was only when the roots really got down did they find sufficient poison to kill them. Last year there was a long spell of dry conditions and we had failed to water. The roots must have penetrated deeply seeking water.



Look what I found - buried ‘treasure’
I dug another deep hole and you can see what I found. Not only were there various rusted metal objects and a bicycle wheel, there were two encrusted tins of paint! Plants are sensitive to certain ‘heavy metal’ ions and perhaps the old paint might have contained lead. 

I had a new planting opportunity!


Gardener’s often fret and wonder at mysterious plant deaths. There are many causes. Rarely are buried objects suspected!






20 comments:

  1. It's amazing just what people will bury, On one of our plots along with various objects including a supermarket trolley were enough TV aerials to equip a small village,

    In the garden we dug up a bag if solid cement which your acid lovers wouldn't have liked,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we moved in on the rubbish dump at the bottom of the garden was an old mattress and a bedstead.
      PS I met two of your old colleagues at my lecture last night at Wrenthorpe. Your name was mentioned! And your good work publicising manure contamination.

      Delete
    2. Who were they? You came to Wrenthorpe and never popped in for a coffee? How on earth did my name come up- should I be worried?

      Delete
    3. Sorry I did not realise it was near you. I could have come for tea! Everything was good about you. I did say you were quite a card!
      They taught with you apparently.
      I could see they were about your age... err young!
      Your name came up because I was talking about manure in that part of my talk.

      Delete
    4. I know who you met now and they are 10 years older than me so I am seriously worried/

      Delete
    5. Now how do I get out of this one?

      Delete
    6. For a no dig gardener you have dug yourself a very large hole.

      Delete
  2. It is amazing what lies below ground in old inhabited places. It is not always all bad though. In our previous garden, the soil was beautiful. Part of it might perhaps have been explained by the fact that between 1850 and 1870 the municipal sewage was emptied there! Fortunately it was before a lot of chemicals were used. One part of that garden though (a small one fortunately) had been used to bury coal ash. In that spot, if you dug more than 1 foot deep, you got to an other foot of ancient ash.
    In the present garden, no humans had dug there before we did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I seem to remember your soil is an alkaline one. Perhaps the sulphur in old weathered coal ash might make it suitable for acid lovers.

      Delete
  3. The "soil" in my garden when I moved in was a very thin layer sprinkled on top of builders' rubble - bricks, wood, plastic bags, bit of metal etc. This is why I have installed raised beds.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A good reason to raise your soil level especially if it is difficult to dig out all that buried junk- which I think you have. You have always managed to grow fantastic vegetables Mark.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I found a large cylindrical metal object, and nearly called the bomb squad. Luckily I didn't as it turned out to be an unexploded lawn roller.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The very best fate for a roller, blow the darned thing up! (Unless you play cricket)

      Delete
  6. It was chip board wardrobes in my garden. Luckily they were only a few inches down!
    Such a pity it was not buried treasure that was seeing your plants off Roger.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It was chip board wardrobes in my garden. Luckily they were only a few inches down!
    Such a pity it was not buried treasure that was seeing your plants off Roger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two for the price of one Angie! I won't delete one in case they both go.
      The composting facility up the road are only too happy to take chipboard! It's a bit far to come and it's not cheap!

      Delete
  8. All good stuff Roger, you never know what you will find although in your case I presume it is agricultural debris. I feel sorry for people with new houses who unearth all manner of building materials or years ago when buried air raid shelters were a feature.
    Came across this podcast which you might find of interest : Speaking with no-dig author Charles Dowding, you can copy and paste the link into your navigation bar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw8cK-Eibk0&feature=em-subs_digest

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the link Rick, I will watch it tonight when it's quieter.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Roger, amazed at what you have found. In all my excavations, I have not found this amount of potentially destructive detritus.
    However, when sieve digging my daughter's new garden there was a lot of builders rubble left. I thought that I would not be able to plant camellias and magnolia due to the high pH from the cement and concrete but I got most of it out and lowered the pH using peat based ericaceous compost mulches.

    ReplyDelete
  11. When I moved into my house one of the few plants in the garden was a rather sick camellia.
    Although my soil is acid the previous owners had found the only alkaline place in the garden - in concrete rubble at the base of a brick wall!
    I wonder if your daughter has your green gene. My son's don't have mine!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...