Alan Titchmarsh on gardening knowledge: ‘I confess to rising tagetes with my tomatoes’


There is typically a lot more than a grain of truth in gardening knowledge that arrives from folklore.

Do you feel in ‘Old Wives’ Lore’? I hesitate to give offence to individuals senior associates of the distaff aspect, but I am unaware of any neater, more concise way of summing up people snippets of gardening wisdom that are encompassed by the term: the aphorisms and saws that have been handed down by way of the generations as rural knowledge and which, in spite of our obsession with modern technological innovation, nevertheless possess fairly additional than a grain of real truth.

I would never ever dream of describing my late mother as an ‘old wife’, not minimum due to the fact, all through the period in which I was at the mercy of her proverbs and prejudices, she was in her thirties. What’s a lot more, I have purpose to be grateful for lots of of them. Growing up in Yorkshire, some 200 miles distant from the ‘soft’ South, my mom would remind me to incorporate at the very least a month on to the advised sowing day to be discovered on the backs of the packets of Cuthbert’s and Bees’ seeds I would acquire on a Saturday morning in Woolworths.

‘Spring will come later on up below,’ she would say, and there was no denying that. Had I dedicated my parsnip seeds to the earth in February, as the packet instructed, that would most unquestionably be the final I would have witnessed of them. Nowadays, I doubt that parsnips would germinate in any British isles backyard in February, no matter of latitude, thanks to our wetter winters.

When I was a boy, the seeds of parsley were being regarded as getting the most intricate specifications. ‘They have to,’ insisted my mom, ‘be sown on Very good Friday. That is the only working day in the yr when the seeds do not go nine situations to the devil prior to they arrive up.’

In other terms, germination would be more rapidly. Superior Friday, in most many years, would slide in April, when the soil had warmed up sufficiently — even in Wharfedale — to persuade far more fast germination, so the guidance was tough to refute.

Other gardeners prompt that I operate along the parsley seed drill with a kettle of boiling water just prior to sowing. Aged Harry, who worked at the nearby nursery, articulated the alternative belief about parsley seeds: ‘They only improve for households wherever the woman wears the trousers.’ (Our parsley seeds grew effectively every 12 months and I was under no circumstances brave enough to share Harry’s feeling with my mother.)

We discuss these days about ‘companion planting’, which has its roots, ahem, in folklore. I confess to planting compact-flowered tagetes along with my tomato plants in the perception that whitefly are discouraged by the pungent root exudate of the marigold. The impact is not virtually so marked if the marigolds are simply close by — they need to have their roots in the same earth as the tomatoes.

Carrots grown future to onions and garlic are considerably less most likely to drop prey to carrot fly. The powerful aroma of the onion household will mask the scent of the carrots and prevent assault. That considerably makes perception.

But why should gladioli adversely affect the progress of peas, beans and even strawberries, which, it is stated, will not increase nicely in just 50ft of a row of gladioli? (Of this, I have no expertise, but am content to prevent losing a year’s value of my ‘Cambridge Favourite’s by planting my the very least favorite flower.)

Neither have I experienced to resort to burying a stick of rhubarb at intervals among my cabbages to ward off clubroot I garden on chalky soil and, so significantly, the geology does the job for me — clubroot becoming at its most rampant on acid floor.

Slugs and snails are, of course, the most hated pests of all. Previous Wives’ cures for these? The ancients would wind horsehair rope as a barrier all around inclined crops, which the molluscs hesitated to cross. Horsehair rope is in shorter source these days and many people use espresso grounds as an alternative. This presupposes that you do not thoughts an herbaceous border that is redolent of the community department of Starbucks.

Then there is the moon. Usually sow and plant with a waxing, not a waning moon. The moon influences not only the tides, but also the pull of water across the world — and that consists of the sap in vegetation. They mature greater when the moon is waxing somewhat than waning.

Maybe this is what I should be concentrating on this yr — sowing according to the phases of the moon. ‘There are far more issues in heaven and earth Horatio’… than manure and garden compost by yourself can ever hope to affect.


Alan Titchmarsh admits that it can be not just gardening’s most difficult jobs, but also its the mundane chores that ‘give me



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