March 2009


hazelnut I’m thinking that every part of our garden has to “pay its way” and that a standard privet hedge just doesn’t contribute enough to merit consideration. So I’ve been looking at edible hedges, and the one plant that really stands out for me for this is the Hazelnut (or Cob nut or Filbert) they can be kept down to hedge height and should produce a dense hedge with flowers and – obviously – copious supplies of delicious and nutritious nuts which will store well. They seem to be freely available, with dozens of varieties listed at online nurseries, and they don’t seem to be too hard to grow. There’s a good introductory article from The Times on popular trees for a small garden and here is the guidance from Blackmoor Nurseries:

Cobnut trees are hardy and grow well on a wide range of soils except those that are waterlogged, but like all plants they grow best in soil conditions that suit them.

They prefer a good friable topsoil overlying a free draining substrate. A soil that is too fertile will tend to produce trees with excessive vigour, which will not crop well. However, it is still possible to grow reasonably sized and cropping trees on stony ground as long as there is sufficient soil and good drainage.

Cobnuts are largely self sterile – the pollen from a given variety cannot pollinate the same variety. If you live in the countryside where there are plenty of wild hazels nearby, then these will probably pollinate your trees.

A neutral to alkaline soil is ideal, but cobnuts also grow well in more acid soils.

Trees are sold online bare-rooted when dormant (usually between Nov-March). I’ve missed my chance for this year, but the nurseries start taking orders from April, so once I’ve got my head around the different varieties I’ll get on and order some.

Suppliers

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Carrot Fly is apparently a major source of grief for British carrot growers. I don’t fancy losing my hard-won crop to the little flying pests so I was happy to hear that there is a fool-proof way to avoid them. Set aside plans to wrap them my carrots in fleece or surround them in polythene:  

Carrot Root Fly has a limited altitude – it can’t fly higher than 18-24 inches (depending on which site you believe).

So if you grow your carrots in tubs at least 30in high you will have no problems with Carrot Root Fly. I just saw it on UKTV Gardens so it must be true Very Happy

Mushrooms are one of my little peccadilloes – so it was great to come across a good article over at Food from the Garden on creating mushroom compost and using it to grow your own mushrooms – a much more resilient solution than depending on bought Mushroom-growing kits. So that I have a copy in case the original page goes missing I have also reproduced parts of it below the fold, but go here to read the article while it is still there.

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A quick update to my post yesterday on Woodburning Stoves for Heating & Hot Water in Smokeless zones. I’ve just had it confirmed by Rayburn/Aga that they do no wood-fired boiler models which are suitable for smokeless zones. So that means that I should update my Bin your Aga – buy a Rayburn post to “Bin your Aga and Rayburn – A Dunsley Yorkshire’s the only one for me”, and it means I can kiss my prospects of a Rayburn Solar Thermal System goodbye too. 

Maybe it’s time to move to the country 🙂 or look for alternatives to a wood-fired stove for my back-up water heating.

dunsley-yorkshireWe’re slowly narrowing the field in our wood-fired heating search. Following up on my previous posts on Woodburning Stoves for Heating & Hot Water and Using a Wood-Burning Stove in a Smoke-Control Area, I’ve found an interesting thing:

The Dunsley Yorkshire is the only stove with a back boiler that can be legally used in a smokeless zone

They cost £1922.30 for the wood-only version or £2218.40 for the multi-fuel.

So, if we’re looking at a wood-fired top-up to our solar hot-water that the sort of outlay we’re looking at.

The other consideration is overheating the house – if we succeed in super-insulating the house then having 4.5kw coming out of the Yorkshire into the room might cook us all! I’ll have to do the calculations, and look at how SIP and PassivHaus houses heat their hot water.

We’re looking at windows at the moment, and trying to work out what will fit into our budget while giving us the best possible insulation effect (U-Value). The PassivHaus standards state that our windows should have a U value of <= 0.8 W/m2K, so we’re going to try and get as close to that as possible.

It has been suggested that, rather than going for PassivHaus certified triple-glazed units we should go for double glazing and put up some insulated curtains. I’m not sure that would work for every window we have, but it could deliver real cost  savings if it can deliver a decent U-Value.

Not surprisingly, very few people are prepared to put a U-Value on curtains! But I found this great table over at Action 21. It compares the different U-Values for windows alone, and then the total U-Value if using heavy curtains or insulated  shutters.

Window U-value [W/m2K]
Window only
(daytime / nighttime)
with heavy curtains
(nighttime)
with insulated shutters (nighttime)
Single glazed 4.5 3.3-3.6 2.6-3.1
Double glazed, 12mm cavity 2.8 1.9-2.3 1.3-1.7
Double glazed, 16mm cavity, low-E 2.0 1.2-1.6 0.7-1.1
Triple glazed 2.5 1.7-2.1 1.0-1.4
Triple glazed, 2 low-E, Argon filled 1.7 0.8-1.3 0.4-0.8

So it looks like we could get down to 1.2-1.6  with curtains – it’s not 0.8, but it’s pretty close, and according to this table is lower than standard triple glazing.

So this is well worth consideration – but what type of curtains would we need to get those results? Here’s what the Yellow House have to say:

Ecodesign books sometimes talk of “insulating curtains”. These would have to be home-made curtains of insulation sewn between fabric. In order to avoid downdraughts from the window they must fit snugly into a pelmet at the top and a tuckslot at the bottom. In theory an insulating curtain with 60mm mineral wool reduces the u-value of a double glazed window by 75% to 0.6. However they very hard to clean, and there are potential health issues with sharing a living space with mineral wool. A better option might be to convert old duvets into curtains, or make insulation shutters from timber and insulation sheeting. Our feeling is that all these options represent a major intrusion into the living space and are not appropriate for a normal house – though they would be justified in a solar house where there are very large areas of glazing.

Duvets at Sainsbury’s are now incredibly cheap – so maybe that’s what we’ll go for – I’ll chase up prices against triple-glazing.

Resources

ecocamelJust seen the EcoCamel aerating showerhead – their test results claim a more pleasant shower with almost 50% of the water consumption of a standard shower. At the moment they are £40 for two – not the cheapest option, but a major saving if they work as forecast. Not only do you save water, but also they save the energy required to heat that water – assuming you’re not a devotee of cold showers! Potentially it could also mean that you ned to install less Solar Hot Water panels, which would be a significant saving!

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