AshTag: New App Could Save Our Ash Trees

Ash dieback has been fast spreading across East Anglia and in response to this deadly disease that threatens 80 million Ash trees, developers and academics have worked together to create an app that locates sightings efficiently and effectively. The new app AshTag allows the general public to send pictures of infected trees to researchers and authorities along with their precise location.

This new app for IOS and Android phones has been developed in hope that it will prevent the disease from spreading and stop the possible repetition of the Dutch elm disease that wiped out 25 million elms in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Toby Hammond of the Adapt Group at the University of East Anglia, said: “One of the biggest problems faced by forest conservationists is how to track the spread of the disease and act swiftly to reduce the impact of outbreaks. There isn’t the manpower to do it.

“But this app means we can harness the mass power of the general public to tell us where outbreaks are happening.

“We realised that time really is of the essence if we are to safeguard our forests. The spread is very fast moving so our team has worked around the clock to get the app up and running.

“We hope that thousands of people, from school groups and nature lovers to dog walkers and farmers, will use the app help to spot and report any sightings of the ash dieback so the disease can be contained.”

The disease is caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes “lesions on the Ash’s bark, dieback of leaves at the tree’s crown and leaves turning brown” (The Guardian). With autumn making its presence known it can be difficult to distinguish between the leaves browning naturally or due to the fungus. However, the app aims to help users indentify the signs they need to look out for to minimise false reports.

Mr Hammond continued: “One of the technical challenges is to minimise false reports through the system. We don’t want the already over-stretched agencies like the Forestry Commission being overwhelmed with reports of ‘brown leaves’, but we believe technology can help here, and have some great plant experts helping with diagnosis.” Action against Ash dieback has already been put in place with the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson announcing a ban on Ash tree imports. "This is a very serious disease that demands action to stop its spread. I have ordered both an import ban and movement restrictions on trees from infected areas. This comes into force immediately," said Mr Paterson.

If you don’t have a smartphone you can manually upload images and location details on the website.

This news piece was contributed by Notcutts, a long-established garden centre chain specialising in a range of garden supplies including plants, barbecues, tools and garden sheds.

Tree ferns on the Move?

In the Temperate House at Kew Gardens a number of unusual looking brown circles have appeared round the base of a number of tree ferns..

The Temperate House is due for renovation and to avoid damaging the plants many need to be removed. These tree ferns root easily into soil placed round them so Kew have placed plastic round the bases and filled with compost for them to root into. The plastic has been wrapped in the hessian above.Eventually the pots can be severed at the ground and a safely re-rooted plant can be removed for safe storage during renovation for replanting again at the end of the project.

Spectacular Autumn Ahead?

Its seems that the poor weather this year may give us the perfect combination for a spectacular autumn. According to the BBC we should see a riot of colour.

See this link from the BBC with an interview with Raef Johnson from the National Arboretum in Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, who explains how different species of tree put on their seasonal show.

RHS Shades of Autumn Show

Currently being held at the Lawrence Hall is the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show. A large display from several great nurseries and growers packed with autumn planting inspiration to extend the gardening season. Open today until 7pm and tomorrow from 10am to 5pm

Artistic Wood piles

These were sent to me by a friend in the States, making something that ordinarily would be fairly simple into something beautiful.  Have you seen anything similar elsewhere?

RHS London Harvest Festival Show

I popped along to the RHS London Harvest Festival Show, in central London yesterday evening.
Stuart Paton's giant pumpkin won the top prize of £1,000.
The show is a celebration of the season's harvest in the heart of London, the highlight was a giant pumpkin show which was won by a pumpkin weighing in at 1,054lbs (478kg).

As well as the pumpkin show there are various displays of autumn produce, apples, leaks etc. Plus serval stands cooking and selling the food.

The Show is on until this evening at the RHS Halls in Westminster, for more information see here.

Creating a herb garden with limited space

If space is tight then there are many combinations of herbs that will thrive and do well in containers. Many of these can be easily grown from seed or purchased as fully grown herb plants from garden centres or specialist nurseries.

To begin with you need to decide on how many plants you want to grow and then select a pot or container that's wide and deep enough to accommodate them comfortably. If the herbs are going to be near the kitchen door then choose something that will look good such as a stone through. Depending on the varieties you select then you could be fit in up to six plants into just a 30cm pot.

As with other pots broken pot shards or gravel at the bottom of the pot and then fill up with compost. Choose the arrangement for your your plants in the container, placing smaller growing plants at the edges.
Fill up the container between the plants with a good quality multi-purpose compost leaving a 2 to 3 cm lip at the top, this will mak watering easier, water the plants in well and let the compost settle, top up the compost a little if necessary.

Once you have finished cover the top of the pot in a layer of grit, this will keep weeds down and help retain moisture. Place your pot into position. You must remember to keep the containers well watered, as they tend to dry out a lot quicker than if they are planted in the ground.

A wooden barrel makes a good container,  planted with parsley, chives, trailing thyme, sage, basil, coriander, tarragon, and with French lavender planted in the center looks very effective and is a nice mix of herbs to try. If you keep it on a balcony or the patio outside your back door it is handy for access to your herbs even on rainy days! You can even put a selection of herbs in a hanging basket. Parsley, chives, thyme, coriander, with creeping rosemary, and basil are all good examples. Some herbs, however can be quite invasive,as they can take over. Mint is very invasive, and is best kept out of the garden, and put in a container of it's own or it will come up everywhere.

4 Good Container plants

Sage is a great plant that is easy to grow and will reward you for a long time. It does well if regularly picked and the tips pinched out to prevent it becoming too woody. Generally you need to replant Sage after about 3 years or so as it will become leggy and woody almost regardless of what you do. Its a very easy plant to take cuttings from so well worth having some new plants ready before you need to replace it. Sage is a good herb to dry and if you pick regularly though the growing season you can have plenty of sage available for over the winter.

Rosemary is a wonderful herb. It dries perfectly, holds its strong taste all winter, comes indoors and keeps growing in a sunny window and is rarely bothered by insects. It is a Mediterranean plant so hates to become waterlogged, so pot growing is ideal.

Basil is another perfect container herb.It does well with other veggies and adds a lovely flavour, it complements tomatoes very well. It likes more water than some of the other herbs otherwise it starts to dry out. Water regularly but watch out for mildew which will form if it doesn't have sufficient airflow.

Thyme is one of my favourite herbs. Plus it will do well in a container environment, needing only minimal watering. Some varieties of Thyme grow into small shrub-like plants that enhance an entrance, and it will also reward you with small purple flowers. Its low maintenance so ideal here.

Ash Trees Under Threat

A recent article in the Guardian warns of a very real threat to Britains ash trees after a fungus has killed the majority of ash trees in Denmark, and has destroyed a significant number ash in Germany, Poland, Norway, Sweden and Austria as well.Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, an anamorph of Chalara fraxinea or more commonly known ash die-back.

The Danes have been urging Britain to ban imports of ash saplings to keep our forests quarantined from this threat, and last week the UK government launched a consultation that may lead to a ban on imports by November, lets hope this action is not too late.

For more detail see the Guardian link above.

Competition: How To Grow Vegetables DVD

We have kindly been given a copy of Thompson and Morgan's DVD "How to grow Vegetables" to give away to one lucky reader. Normally selling for £14.99 on the T&M website it could be yours.

With step by step instructions on how to prepare, sow and tend to your vegetables this DVD will assist new grow-your-own fans as well as old hands.

To be in with a chance to win simply answer the following question:

Which of the following is not a type of Carrot?

a) Chantenay Red-Cored
b) Green Arrow
c) King Chantenay

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

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Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 09 October 2012. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.
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