IF YOU have searched in vain lately for hop manure to use as a soil conditioner and mulch, and were despairing of ever coming across it again, you will be thrilled to know that there is some available this autumn.

Spent hops, from which the manure is made, are a by-product of beer-making and used to be popular with gardeners. As breweries have turned more and more to using hop pellets or hop extract, rather than traditional hops for making their beer, spent hops have become harder to find. But Dr Derek Owen of Cutting Composts has found a source, courtesy of Boddingtons in Manchester, and he has oodles of the stuff to sell this autumn. Unfortunately, Boddingtons, too, are turning to using hop extract in September, so this will be a one-off.

I have never used it, but Dr Owen assures me of the efficacy of his Cutting's Old-Fashioned Acid Hop Manure, especially for ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris and summer-flowering heathers. It has a pH of 5.5 because it is mixed with peat from the Baltic. It also contains a balanced organic fertiliser, so it should be acceptable to organic gardeners.

One 25 kg bag will cost you pounds 12.95,including VAT and delivery, but there is a discount for larger orders; 10 sacks cost pounds 95.

Write to Cutting Composts, George Street, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 1HW, or telephone 01948 665 089.