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Even seasoned gardeners would rather turn out a prizewinning peony or a mammoth marrow than attempt the humble mushroom: it’s time to rediscover the joy of growing one of the UK’s forgotten native crops.
From morels to lion’s mane, the world of mushrooms is a dazzling array of variety, with exotic and delicious species easily cultivated in even very restricted spaces. The UK has arguably the greatest variety of native mushrooms, yet in stark comparison sit the figures for our consumption: we have one of the least developed diets for fungus in the world- rarely venturing beyond a shitake in our takeaway, or a portabella in a gastropub burger. Unlike our European cousins, we tend to view the ‘fruits of the forest floor’ with suspicion. This is probably due in part to the many poisonous wild varieties that prosper in the UK, which along with a decline in free-growing forests, lack of accessible woodland, and unwelcoming, industrialised rural landscapes, all of which have contributed to the almost complete decline of the foraging that is a staple family activity in Scandinavia, Eastern & Southern Europe. Yet while we’ve fallen out of love with the edible wild mushroom, there remains a world of home-grown fine dining easily within reach of the least experienced gardener.
Because they favour dark & damp environments, mushrooms make a great crop to plant out in otherwise underused parts of the garden, or can be cultivated succesfully indoors.
Two of the strange and surprising ways you can cultivate mushrooms at home:
The ‘under the sink’ method
It might sound hard to believe, but that old copy of the yellow pages can be the perfect growing medium for your mushrooms! A wet book in a carrier bag, exposed to spores, begins to develop a good covering of ‘fur’- which can then be activated by exposure to cold- say a few hours in the fridge.
You will need:
Method: Soak (but don’t saturate) your book throughout with hot water. Allow it to cool, then sprinkle with spores (available in packets) to thoroughly cover the inside. Place the book in a medium temperature (about 20 degrees) dark space, such as under the sink, and leave for a few weeks. In a month or so the book will be covered in fuzz- ready to produce mushrooms. Next you need to activate the mycelium, which means altering the temperature: a weekend in the fridge will be enough to ‘shock’ them into production. Allow plenty of air to get into the bag, and water regularly. You should start to see mushrooms growing within a few days.
Tip: a book is a great, compact way to get started, however if you want to increase your yield, straw can provide an ideal growing medium for larger mushrooms.
The dowel ‘outdoor’ method
You will need:
Some fungi favour wood for their nutrients, and wood chips or logs can be perfect mushroom growers. Drill a dowel into a log, inoculate with spores, then water and cover with plastic. Alternatively create or buy hollow pegs cut with dowels and inseert them into wood chip mulch. Remember to keep damp, dark and covered. Logs containing dowels should be kept out of the sun, off the ground and as shaded as possible- many growers prefer to stack their logs to ensure plenty of dark spaces for mushrooms to grow. It will take up to 18 months for mushroom spores to fully colonise a log, after which it can be moved to an area with slightly more (ideally spotted rather than consistent) sunlight.
Whatever gardening project you’re undertaking, check out our range of top quality composts, soil improvers and other fertility-boosting garden helpers to make sure your plants get off to the best start in 2018. Our shop has everything you need, from mushroom compost & manure for sale, to John Innes compost delivered, so why not check it out today!
If you’re looking for compost for your acid-lovers, remember to check out our shop for great deals on bulk ericaceous compost as well as a range of other specialist compost, topsoils, supplies and more!
We love to see ericaceous plants- nothing stands out like the famously fashionable ericaceous acer or lights up a garden like an azalea. While we here at The Compost Shop have conditioning the soil for your ericaceous plants covered, there’s still a lot to know about these plants. So if you yearn for a striking Japanese maple, a rustic heather or a delicate rhododendron in your garden, read on and discover a whole new dimension to your gardening.
A (non-exhaustive!) list of ericaceous compost questions
The name comes from Ericaceae, the name for heathers. These are classic acid-loving plants, and can create striking boundaries in your borders. Among this huge & diverse family are some surprising heathers, including some you definitely don’t picture on the typical rolling ‘heathland’- cranberry, blueberry, rhododendrons and azaleas.
It’s possible, if you mix your compost in with other compost or even lime (to neutralise the pH) and avoid using it for very chalk-loving plants. However the effort would be extensive and the results possibly unreliable. Ultimately compost stores well if kept correctly, so it would be advisable to use the correct compost as far as possible, and keep your erinaceous supply for the plants that benefit from it the most.
This is an important question. Using a map such as this one, from Cranfield University, can help, as can surveying the types and health of the plants that grow in your garden already. However the best way to be certain is through a reliable soil pH testing kit bought from a reputable supplier. This should give you a definite picture of your soil condition and if you conduct all three of these steps you’ll be in a good position to judge your soil condition accurately.
This would not happen naturally, however there are ways in which humans can adjust the profile of patches of soil to grow particular plants- at the simplest, most localised end of the scale is using something like ericaceous compost to plant a small shrub in a pot or pocket in the ground. On the other end of the scale is perhaps widespread liming of the soil by farms, or adding minerals or chemicals to adjust pH in favour of certain crops. Indeed, over 50 years the government of the Cerrado region of Brazil transformed their agriculture thanks to up to 25 million tonnes of lime per year being spread on fields, boosting soybean production to feed cattle and export.
Many plants show symptoms of poor growth when planted in the wrong soil: the minerals in the soil obstruct healthy uptake of nutrients. Unhealthy, yellow-colour leaves, weak growth and poor root development will make it clear your plants aren’t doing as well as they could. Many people misinterpret these as symptoms of disease, which can unfortunately lead to the same mistakes being made over and over again.
If you have any more questions about ericaceous compost, or the ways in which it can benefit your garden, speak to our team or check out our ericaceous compost information page.
With 50L ericaceous compost from just £3.48, our bulk compost deliveries are perfect for any big gardening project. Here’s how we can provide you with the top quality compost you need, for less.
Our bulk compost offers provide as much of our rich, friable compost as you need, even if you’re undertaking a particularly large project or stocking up. Since transport is always a concern with any big order, we take care of it! Our drivers deliver to almost anywhere in the UK- one less thing to worry about when planning your big project. We support gardeners & gardens of all shapes and sizes, from backyard borders and allotments to farms, parks and public gardens, by providing real value, closely-screened quality and support every step of the way- from order to delivery. We always try to ensure the logistics of your order are handled as flexibly, efficiently and as closely centred around your needs as possible. Wherever possible we can offer next day delivery for your order.
Why choose between affordability and quality: per 50L, Ericaceous compost from us saves you money for the highest standard soil improvers
If you have a large project underway in your garden, you need both quality and volume to achieve your green-fingered goals. You need to be sure you’re getting consistent quality even when adapting your plans to the needs of specific plants, soil types, and light or drainage levels. After all, big projects equals big expectations, and only ambitious projects achieve great results, so why compromise? That’s why we offer specialist composts, perfect for those tricky soil conditions, such as our ericaceous compost. 50L of this from The Compost Shop, calculated from our 75L bulk bag orders, works out as just £3.48- a phenomenal saving! Because we deliver bulk orders we can offer you great savings per bag, helping keep costs down. So whether you have a large project requiring top quality bulk compost, or plan on stocking up and saving, visit our shop or speak to a member of our team for more information.
Do you revel in the fiery glow of a Japanese acer? How about the tingle of excitement that comes with plucking the first blueberry of the summer? Does the burst of colour of a healthy azalea light up your garden?
If your spring has only sprung when the delicate beauty of rhododendrons brightens your borders, we salute you! You’re a gardener with high ideals and goals, because these plants aren’t your ordinary run-of-the-mills planting project- at least not in most parts of the country. These are acid lovers- or lime haters- plants that need a lower soil pH- up to about 7.
Buy bags or bulk ericaceous compost here: we cater to gardens of all sizes
Also known as ericaceous plants, these aren’t the only plants that thrive in low-pH soil- lots of plants need the acid soil to prosper. Plants that have evolved growing wild on forest floors especially tend to prefer acid soil- as dead leaf matter tends to increase acidity, this is their normal growing environment. Many types of heather, and some types of berry-bearing shrub such as winterberry, cranberry, and bilberry (as well as the aforementioned blueberry) benefit from slightly acid soil. There are plenty of other plants too: makes sure to check the preferred soil conditions of plants you hope to buy. If they’re acid lovers, don’t panic: this just means you have to take an extra step in your planning: because with the exception of some areas, most of the UK isn’t naturally acidic. You should use a reliable, quality pH testing kit to determine your soil condition before you invest in ericaceous plants. There’s a good chance that your garden won’t be accommodating to these types, and you will need to acidify the soil using ericaceous compost.
At The Compost Shop, we cater to everyone and every size of project, from small back garden borders to parks and public spaces- so whatever your needs, if you’re looking to buy bulk ericaceous compost, we can help! Check out our shop or contact our team on 0871 9710 988 to learn more about the services we offer.
Ericaceous compost pH test facts: how can compost change your garden’s chemistry?
Soil is wonderful, complex and fascinating. The properties of turf and topsoil are phenomenal- however those of the compost we add to improve it are no less amazing. The importance of understanding the exact qualities of what’s under your garden can be lost of many new gardeners- yet this can often be the difference between a successful garden, full of bright blossoms & huge yields, and disappointment.
Ericaceous compost, pH and the secrets of how gardens grow
While all compost contains the millions of micro-organisms that give it such great fertilising qualities, ericaceous compost goes a step further- using a blend of ingredients designed to change the balance of your soil chemistry. This special mix helps release vital nutrients to your plant that, depending on the soil conditions in your part of the country, they might not get otherwise.
What is soil pH?
Soil pH is the acidity, or lime content, of your soil. Lime is highly alkaline and creates soil conditions that contain certain minerals, rather than releasing them to your plants. Manganese, boron and iron are examples of nutrients trapped by alkaline soil- therefore plants that require more will struggle in these. These ‘acid loving’ plants will produce poor growth and off-colour leaves if grown in alkaline soil. Similarly, plants like asparagus, ferns and cauliflowers can struggle with the lack of molybdenum in acid soil. You can test your own soil’s pH yourself- we recommend using a home testing kit for the most accurate results. Knowing your garden’s pH is an important step when planning your planting for the year.
Ericaceous compost: pH- altering
So how does Ericaceous compost alter your soil pH? It all comes down to the blend of ingredients used in its production. Unlike traditional compost which uses a blend of loam, limey topsoil, peat and broken-down organic matter, ericaceous compost is specially prepared to add acidity to the earth. This slowly builds up a more favourable soil profile over months, to establish an environment that supports acid-loving plants like tomatoes, raspberries and acers.
To learn more about ericaceous compost, pH in the soil and the types of plants that love an acidic soil profile- see our page on ericaceous compost.
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