Archive for October, 2011

Our New Favourite Listener!

OMG!!  Excited or what??  I have mentioned my favourite eco-podcast before, More Hip Than Hippie.  Well in their latest episode (no. 292) they have named me their New Favourite Listener because I sent them some chocolate to review.  And they put in a link to my blog on their show notes!  They are very funny, Val attempted to do an English accent (they are from California, USA) but was swiftly stopped by Dori!  You can find the podcast on iTunes or follow the link above to the show notes which has various ways to listen at the top of their page.

Book review: View from a Shed

View from a Shed: Four Seasons as an Urban FarmerView from a Shed: Four Seasons as an Urban Farmer by Michael Wale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As has been said about this book, it is not about gardening as such, but a kind of biography about the characters on the author’s allotment site and how they all interact with each other. You do pick up the odd tidbit of knowledge but blink and you would miss it! However the people who populate this West London allotment site are all individuals and there is an interesting mix. Being London there are 17 different nationalities with plots at the site, but don’t worry you don’t meet them all so it is not too confusing.

The book was easy to read and I got through it in a couple of days. However, it could have been laid out better. The book is basically divided into four chapters – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. And that is it! There are no other breaks in the text except for paragraphs. So you’ll be reading about one incident that happened and when you go onto the next paragraph the subject has completely changed abruptly. The use of line breaks would be useful at these points.

But an enjoyable read if you are looking for characters rather than a how-to veg gardening book.

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A short local walk, first turnips & last tomatoes

Chester has a cycle path that runs between Connah’s Quay in Deeside to Mickle Trafford a few miles east of Chester.  It is along the route of an old railway track so is very flat and ideal for strolling along.  I have walked a couple of miles of it from the nearest access point to our house before but had never been to the Mickle Trafford end, so yesterday morning we packed the dog into the car and parked at the far end.  There is no official parking area but the owner of a nearby industrial unit allowed us to park on his forecourt as long as we didn’t break an ankle and sue him as a previous person had done!!

We walked for about half an hour along the track to where it goes under the A55, and then the skies were darkening a bit so we headed back.  Along the route were some interesting pieces of art…

This morning I had a mooch about the garden and found that the last of the tomatoes are ripening up finally, possibly because I gave them a good drenching after not watering for a good 10 days.

I picked the ripest and I think I’ll give the rest another week.

In the patio bag I noticed a couple of the turnips pushing back up through the compost I had earthed them up with a couple of weeks ago, so I investigated and pulled out these two

I don’t remember ever having eaten a turnip so this will be a new experience for me.  I’ll probably just roast them in some olive oil this evening.

My onions are coming up quite well now, there are about 20 little green shoots, but no sign of the garlic yet.  The peas are doing ok and the cabbages now have collars.

I picked some of the French bean pods that have been drying in the shed and shelled them.  I’ve got plenty of seed to attempt to grow in the spring now.

Finally I sowed a few more sweet peas in the growhouse, Tall Mixed this time, and that’s about it.

State of Mind

I’m a little concerned about my state of mind – I think they call it “obsession”!!  I am thinking about growing veg all the time, I’m reading about it – I’m even dreaming about it at night!!  I’m buying little bits and pieces all the time and am now convinced my little garden veg bed is nowhere near big enough and that it’s time to think about an allotment!  And I’ve not even really grown anything yet.

Yes I grew potatoes in a patio bag, tomatoes and French beans in containers and quite a few herbs this summer.  But now I have  a veg bed I have onions – white and red, two types of garlic, peas, broad beans and cabbages all in for overwintering.  My turnips are starting to swell nicely in their patio bag.  I’ve decided on my French and runner beans for the spring and am deciding on how many potato tubers to get.  I want carrots, leeks, tomatoes, salads, squash, and kale next year but the bed is already half full.

When I was at uni I studied zoology, animals all the way, plants didn’t do anything!  Now I’ve completely switched.  At least plants stay where you put them, they don’t wander all over the place (unless dragged there by an animal).  And they grow a lot.  How does a tiny seed have enough stuff in it to become a radish let alone a whopping great big cabbage or a massive handful of green beans??  If you stopped to think about it too long you’d go doolally.

I’m excited and concerned all at the same time.  Excited when things start to pop up through the soil, concerned when I discover something has nibbled them – like my tiny pea plants today.  I don’t know if what I’m doing is right – basically I’m winging it to be honest.

I bought a rhubarb crown today.  I have no idea where I’m going to plant it, or even if it is alive – it just looks like a dead stump at the moment.  I put my cabbage collars on and made some kind of cover for the nibbled peas.

I need to go out and walk the dog, but I’ll be listening to the Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast while I’m doing it!!

Book review: Allotted Time

Allotted Time: Two Blokes, One Shed, No IdeaAllotted Time: Two Blokes, One Shed, No Idea by Robin Shelton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book.
An unemployed, divorced dad of two, newly moved into a neighbourhood, needs to borrow a vacuum cleaner. He wanders down the road and finds a likely looking house and upon knocking the door meets a guy who becomes a really good mate. One alcohol fuelled evening they decide they’ll get an allotment, despite the fact that neither of them knows one end of a spade from the other and has never gardened before.
Over the course of twelve months we follow the exploits of these two (well mainly one of them as the other pops in and out as his job allows) as they learn as they go, on a very small budget.
It is a bit blokey at times with stories of “Man Making Shelter” by building their own shed out of various scrap wood such as old bunk beds and a dismantled cricket pavilion. And also sniggering about erections (of the shed and a dilapidated greenhouse) and how they would like their carrots to be just like Dick’s (a nearby plot neighbour who grows fantastic carrots).
But overall a heartwarming story where the author discovers the plot is more than just digging and growing stuff and is good for his mental health (he is a manic depressive) and his relationship with his two boys.
There are successes and failures along the way but it is written in an easy to read friendly style which I whizzed through in a couple of days. I think any gardener (and especially allotment plot holder) would enjoy this and recognise situations and characters from their own experiences.

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No liposuction required………

……….but I have a lovely new butt!!

This one is to go on the patio.  We have a drainpipe that collects all the water from the new extension roofs and existing rear house roof so it shouldn’t take too long to fill once it is connected.  It is a narrow “space saver” water butt, 100 litre capacity.  I ordered it from in their clearance sale for £19.99 plus a stand for £7.99.  I have got a connector kit separately from this seller on ebay, so that’s a job for the weekend when we find a suitable tool for making the hole for the connecting water pipe to fit.

You get free delivery if you order over £29, so because I was a little short I ordered this (rather substantial when it arrived) dibber and a pair of very fetching knee pads!!

On Sunday morning I planted out my 7 cabbage seedlings and covered them with fleece until the cabbage collars arrive.  And I think that is now it for the sowing and planting until the spring.  I currently have onions, garlic, cabbage, peas and broad beans in the veg bed, turnips in the patio bag and the last of the tomatoes desperately fighting to ripen on the patio.  It is quite sunny (but cold) today so fingers crossed for a few more before I have to bring them in.  I cut down and hung my French beans in the shed to dry for seeds.  But I have no idea what the original plants were, (which I bought as small plants unlabelled at the local hardware store,) let alone if they are F1s so I will have to get some other seeds as well, I was thinking of Blue Lake as they look the most like the ones I had this year.

I did have a slightly amusing tomato, a siamese twin…..

I am currently reading a book called Allotted Time, an amusing account of two guys who decided on a slightly tipsy night out to get an allotment when neither of them had ever gardened before.  I’m about two thirds through so will review it when I’m done.  And I have been adventurous in my cooking with two recipes from River Cottage Veg Every Day last week and another planned for tonight.  The River Cottage TV series to accompany the book just started on Channel 4 on Sunday evening and I am very pleased to say it doesn’t clash with the Strictly results show!!

Quick round-up and a yummy dinner

I’ve not done a lot in the garden since the last post.  Tomorrow I will be planting the peas and cabbage that are in the jiffys and coir pots into the ground as they are doing well.

Pea Meteor (front), Cabbage Advantage F1 (back)

None of the ones in the ground are showing through yet but I did buy a cheap plastic cloche on ebay.  1.2m long with three wire hoops – £3.49. It probably won’t hold up for years and years but at that price it was worth a punt. Although now I think about it, it probably wasn’t a good decision eco-friendly-wise!

Next to the peas in the growhouse above are the sweet peas with 3 to a pot, all of which are starting to show

I think I’ll sow some more sweet peas as I had another free packet on Grow Your Own magazine this month, Tall Mixed, and I could put them along the boundary fence in the veg patch to encourage the bees.

Remember I repotted the blueberry?  It has decided to produce flower buds!! (apologies for blurry photo!!)

A friend of ours is complaining that her spring bulbs are coming up and she only planted them two weeks ago.  A couple of my onions have started to make an appearance

And finally I have been reading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new book River Cottage Veg Every Day, and during the week I made Chachouka.  Here is my effort and very tasty it was too served with warmed crusty French stick!!

What I did last weekend – totally non-gardening

A slight digression, here is a link to my other blog and what I did last Friday



More planting

Yesterday was another planting day. I got 40 onion sets planted.  I have gone with Radar and Electric (a red onion) and have planted them in 2 blocks of 20 each.  However I have 30 of each left and have been advised by members of the UKVegGardeners Forum that they cannot be kept and planted in spring.  As I don’t want to plant any more of these, some of them are up for grabs if anyone would like them.  I’ll offer some to my neighbour too.

Also to go in were peas.  I have the 7 that I put into the pots and Jiffys but as they are starting to grow now I thought I would just get on and put some straight into the ground.  I dug over a patch and then made 4cm deep holes with a pencil and dropped one pea into each hole.  I have no idea of the spacing but I put in a total of 46 seeds in a large block.  They are Pea Meteor.

The turnips I sowed in the patio grow bag are doing well, however the roots were starting to swell above the surface.

Once more I took advice from UKVegGardeners and Flighty said they should be covered.  So a combination of thinning out, pushing down and earthing up now has them covered and on their way.  There are only about 5 or 6 in there but I don’t think I have ever eaten a turnip so I’m not sure if I will like them.  It is all experimenting at this stage!

And look…….the anemone must have been listening yesterday and has opened one of its flowers…….

A proper gardener

I got quite a few things done yesterday.  I’m afraid Morrisons’ plant section managed to ensnare me once again but I only spent a fiver and got 2 perennials and 2 different types of bulbs.  The bulbs were £1 a packet for 6 snowdrops or 10 fritillaries.  There were various others there too but I just chose these.  The perennials I got were 2 for £3, a Heuchera Ruby Bells and a Penstemon Picotee Red. They also had good size Cordylines but I left those for now.

So the bulbs are now in the lavender bed.  It doesn’t look much yet, the lavenders are very small and the bulbs are obviously underground but you can see the Japanese anemone!  I’m hoping the 3 buds on it will open before it gets too cold.

I then checked on my cabbage and pea seeds in the growhouse.  All 7 cabbages have germinated and 3 of 7 peas so far.  There doesn’t appear to be any difference between the Jiffy 7s and the multipurpose compost in terms of germination.

I have put my three strawberry runners in there and the four large pots in the middle contain 3 sweet pea seeds each, also sown yesterday.  I’ve planted 2 pots with Spencer Waved Mixed and 2 with Butterfly Kisses.

And then I did some real planting!!  I put in my garlic!  I planted one block of Vallelado from the Organic Catalogue.  I had 3 bulbs which gave me 20 decent sized cloves.  And I had 1 bulb of Solent Wight from SimplySeeds from which I got a block of 16 cloves but some of them were quite small and may not be viable.  Here’s a picture but it is just of a bed of soil and a few lolly sticks!!

I’m not sure if I have planted them too deep but I guess all will be revealed in due course!  The skies were darkening for a rainstorm at this point so my intentions of planting the onion sets were scuppered but that is a job for today.

In other news… seems my rescue efforts on the blueberry worked, it has produced the first new growth since I’ve had it!!

And my yellow dahlia has finally produced a flower……(sorry about the blur!)

I’m starting to feel like a proper gardener now!!

(All photos can be clicked to enlarge.)