More letters to the Organic Postbag

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Of Cabbages and Corn Husks – We Dip Into the Mail Bag

Question for your blog: It looks as if I have been infested with cabbage rootfly maggots. The only good thing is that this is contained to three large planters. Can I use that soil again for next year, or should I bin it?

Timothy, Devon, UK

Yes and no – yes, you can use the composted soil again, but not for cabbage. The cabbage rootfly will only attack the roots of plants of the cabbage family. They lay their eggs in the soil and the pupae overwinter in the soil and will be hungry for next spring’s plants. Try a new container, and try to protect those with a cabbage root fly mat, and introduce French or broad beans to help protect the roots. Other pests this time of year: Onion fliesslugscutworms, wireworms and carrot flies will also try to spend the winter with you. Dig the soil up once or twice in winter to expose some of them to the weather and birds.


Hi Arabella, what do I do with all of my leftover corn husks?

Andrea, a Brit living in Normandy

I’m a bit lazy and I try burying mine – out of sight, out of mind. Well, almost. They need to be six inches under, and in smaller pieces, so it’s not as easy as letting them lie and rot. Get the mower and run them over a few times – as long as they are dry! A mower or a woodchipper will not respond well to wet chewy stalks. You can also compost them, but corn stalks take a very long time to breakdown. If you have a large pile or can start a new, exclusive pile, go ahead, but you will have those stalks composting for years!

Best solution – call a local school and see if they would like the use of the stalks for crafts. My great-niece made a doll from some of my corn stalks and some ribbons, well at least I think that’s what it is supposed to be.

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