Tag Archives: compost

Open Gardens

Julia visited some local Open Gardens on Saturday. If you are interested in others there is a website here which details all the national ones.

One was clearly the result of spending thousands on hard landscaping and plants straight from the garden centre. I don’t know why you would do that on our street as the house prices don’t justify the cost of expensive garden work, and on our side of the street (as this one was) the gardens slope away from the house and face North.

If I’d been a gardener when I moved to Nottingham I wouldn’t have bought this house. Nor would I have slabbed the front garden to save work. However, plants still manage to grow in the front garden, as you can see from the poppies.

The plants were all planted in buckets because the soil, it seems, is so poor. That is strange because our soil, just a few hundred yards away is quite good. It wasn’t bad when we moved in and with compost and hoed weeds, falling leaves and leafmold it has improved over the years.  It could be a lot better, but we are best described as sporadic gardeners. Having worked as a self-employed jobbing gardener for 10 years I have to confess to neglecting my own garden dreadfully.

The plots were built up using sand when they built the houses eighty years ago, and the underlying geology is sandstone, so the soil tend to be a bit light. However, it is well drained and easy to work, and does respond well to feeding. There were allotments here before they built houses so it was hardly a barren desert.

I did, however, bring back a lot of compostable debris from my work as a gardener, so it all worked out well in the end.

That, I think is where many gardeners go wrong. Spend money on hard landscaping and plants and you will get a garden you can show off. Spend time on the soil and you will get a garden where you can grow things.

Next year I suspect this gardener will have to buy more plants from the Garden Centre to fill her garden again. One thing she won’t have to do is mow the lawn (or compost the cuttings) because the “lawn” is astroturf.

We will, once again, be cutting things back in a desperate attempt to keep ours looking vaguely like a garden. We will also return to planting calabrese and kale in the flower beds. It seems to do well and the pigeons don’t spot it like they do when you plant it in a vegetable bed.

In contrast to the posh garden there was another, where kids were playing. The owner kept apologising for this but Julia told them that was what gardens are for.

They were just doing it to help raise funds for local charities and show what an ordinary garden looks like.

It takes all sorts, and they are both valid uses of a garden, depending on your ambitions and lifestyle.

We had Hummingbird Hawk Moths in the garden a few years ago. We also had a nesting Blackcap. This year we had Painted Ladies.  You don’t get that with a tidy garden.

Red Valerian, like poppies, grows vigorously from cracks in the paving. It is a great food plant for moths and butterflies, though it’s a bit of a weed and not seen in the better sort of garden.

Four Days to Go. And Snowdrops.

I have four days to go before the end of my 100 post challenge. Hence the title.

Apart from that, I am short of inspiration.

I had a look round the MENCAP garden this morning. Here are some photographs.

Composting operations are going well, and the woodchip has all been tidied away. There’s even a scarecrow to guard the woodchip piles. This is an important part of the garden as the “soil” is, in places, only a few inches deep over the builder’s rubble that was left after the rebuilding of the school.

There is plenty of bird life about to, though they mainly manage to hide behind branches and prevent my autofocus working. Apart from the normal birds we also have a variety of gulls, terns, ducks, geese and cormorants flying overhead as we’re just the width of a path away from the River Trent. There were gulls and cormorants this morning but nothing stopped to pose for me.

A big project for the coming year is reskinning the smaller polytunnel. That’s what happens when you don’t have a policy of replacing things until they fall apart. Ideally, for you should reskin them after about three years as they become opaque and less light gets to the plants. This one has lasted seven or eight years so it hasn’t done badly. It finally became so brittle that it simply gave up. Julia taped it back together last winter but there’s now nothing to stick the tape on.

Polytunnel in distress

Polytunnel in distress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overwintering broad beans

At least there is a good cropof broad beans coming along…

Memoirs of a Book-Buying Man

I was a bit sluggish this morning, and ended up watching Saturday Kitchen. It featured the most over-the-top recipe I recall seeing. It was presented by John Torode this morning. I’ve no doubt he’s a good chef, but he’s not in my list of top presenters. Looking on the bright side, at least he didn’t have Greg Wallace with him. I still haven’t forgiven Wallace for the vegeburger recipe in this book. The book is a bit of a fraud really – it’s a spin-off from his series and it has his picture on the cover but it’s actually written by someone else.

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man arrived this morning and I made a start. It’s easy reading and fifty pages soon slid by. It’s about 15 years since I last read it and I’m looking forwards to it. Fortunately Julia was out when it arrived.

After that I took a trip to the garden centre with one of the neighbours to help her pick up eight growbags and a bag of farmyard manure. It was a lovely day, and nice to be out in the open air, though it’s frustrating to see the lack of seeds and tools in what is essentially a massive garden-themed gift shop. It seems to be the way of things these days.

Fortunately I didn’t need any seeds or tools today so I just poked about in the plants and looked some Swedish Fire Logs. I’ve never seen them before though they have been around since Swedish troops used them in the Thirty Years War. That’s about 400 years ago. It seems unlikely they just thought of it then, I suspect that they knew about it way before that, but the image of soldiers camping in the snow with cloaks and plumed hats is probably more commercial than the thought of a smelly woodcutter hunched round a burning log.

After that I struggled round Sainsbury’s shopping for the evening. It didn’t quite go according to plan because there’s a group of House Sparrows in the corner of the car park. It’s very restful watching sparrows dust bathing.

The second unplanned aspect was the slipping of my leg bag as I walked round the shop becoming gradually more and more uncomfortable. Finally I had to make a temporary adjustment in the car park. It provided some relief, and restored my capacity to walk, but it could have led to all sorts of unfortunate consequences if I’d been observed.

That’s about it for now.  Time for more George Sherston.

 

 

The Egg and Spoon Race

After moving sheep and collecting eggs we had a talk about compost, aided and abetted by Farmer Ted the agricultural bear. We like compost. Well, to be accurate, we like composting. We’re not too fussed about actually spreading it because it seems like a waste.

If I could incorporate it into a recipe I’d be happy, as well made moist compost always reminds me of a nice, rich Christmas cake, and the drier sort reminds me of Grape Nuts, but I suspect I’m in a minority.

We then went on to the Easter Egg and Spoon Race Championship, where there seemed to be a lot of winners. I suspect political correctness was at work here. Even I was allowed a share of the chocolate (though I only had a modest portion) despite allegations of cheating. As you can see from the photographs, the diet has a long way to go so a few grams of chocolate isn’t going to do much damage.

For the record I took part in three races, being disqualified from each one (obstruction, shirt pulling and use of sellotape). Strikes me that people just don’t take Egg and Spoon racing seriously enough.

Making the most of adversity

Another day, another problem…

I know I ought to be talking in terms of challenges, solutions and lemonade at this point, but it’s difficult to see an upside right now.

I’m looking for my car log book. I don’t know about the rest of the world (Americans, for instance, seem to carry them in the car every time I see a traffic policeman ask for one.) In the UK there are two general reactions to being asked for your log book – smugness from the organised people who know where they are and panic from people like me.

I’ve had the car eight years. I can’t always find things after eight minutes. I need it this afternoon when collecting my new car or things become more complicated. First port of call was the filing cabinet where my wife puts things.

Yes – “puts things”. Her filing makes a pack rat look like an obsessive compulsive

An hour later I’m no closer to finding the log book, but I have hit a rich seam of out-dated bank statements so tonight I will be shredding. And so, as this episode closes I can at least say that when you have paper – make compost.

Monday Miscellany, posted on Tuesday

We had a strange day at the farm yesterday. With nobody in we managed to force our firstborn into action and shifted quite a lot of work. This was despite frequent visits from a variety of people. I wasn’t allowed to talk to them because I’m considered a trifle direct when people stop me working, so I was able to brew mint tea, make the nettle soup for today, restructure the herb bed and plant the new beans after the problematic start to the “Bean Trial”. More of that later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mint Tea

 

Sorry if the tenses seem a little strange in that paragraph, it was originally written yesterday but will be posted today, which was tomorrow when I wrote.

Julia spent half the day explaining what we were doing, what the statues were, what was happening on Open Farm Sunday and how to enter the Scarecrow Competition. She’s very good with people.

I’m good with tools of destruction, a talent which came to the fore when we got home. The laburnum tree, which had been leaning at an increasing angle over the last few months (coinciding with the time erection of next door’s new fence, though I am pointing no fingers here) had finally given up its struggle with gravity.

They don’t look like much but I can assure you there’s a lot of wood in a laburnum, particularly when you’re  using a pair of loppers and a pruning saw. The worst is over now ad I’ll be able to get on with pruning the plum, which is why I’d originally gone into the back garden.

I’ll miss it because laburnums have featured in my life since I was about 6 and we moved to a house with one in the garden, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good and I have plans now that we have a new patch of unshaded patio. Think “heated greenhouse”.

As for the “Bean Trial”,  it hasn’t worked out well. You may recall that we filled half a bed with compostable material and left the other half plain. I then added an “X” shaped frame and planted two Firestorm beans at the base of each cane. The half of the bed that was prepared with organic material definitely showed better germination and growth, but then nearly all the shoots disappeared. On digging holes to plant replacements I found many more beans which had germinated then been eaten.

We’ve also done a Health and Safety trial with the ends of the canes. The Mark I – Coke bottle and gaffer tape is big and clumsy and tends to fall off. The Mark II – plastic protector was too small for the cane so became a Mark III using a slit and gaffer tape. The unmodified protector still works for most canes and at 12 for £1 is a good investment. Better than a poke in the eye, as they say.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mark I

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mark III

 

So, organic material is good, slugs are bad and beans that are two years past the date on the packet will still grow well. Hopefully the new plants will survive and we can start to measure the crop we get from the two sides.

However, nothing is certain in life so we will just have to see.

Seeds, salads and soil

Having been seduced by exotic seeds and tempted by Twitter I’m now getting back to the straight and narrow. I’m going to grow salads and help my fellow man. If these salads can include bamboo shoots and the helping can be done via Twitter I will, of course, be a very happy man but if not, it’s back to basics.

This is why we started Quercus Community. It was meant to be about working in the open air, growing good food and making compost. Well, it wasn’t originally about compost but give a man access to garden waste and animal manure and there can only be one result.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I worked in the antiques trade simply breathing the air of an antique shop was enough to calm me down, in this new life I find that compost works the same magic.

Meanwhile, I have been suffering stress from both Twitter and the computer, one being fixed by the application of a sense of balance, and th eother being fixed by a pen knife. It’s probably best not to ask about that repair.

And yes, I did have to thing long and hard before selecting the three “s” words in the title…