Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Vibrant crocosmia

Desert island veg

If I were stranded on a desert island, a pocketful of runner beans would be my veg of choice. They would be so easy to grow, providing there were plenty of showers to water them. They look beautiful and are a wonderful source of nutrition.

I love potatoes, but I feel I'd be much more likely to survive a long swim to the island with a few beans in my pocket. I suppose a small packet of tomato seeds would be even more portable, but they don't appeal to my eye or my tastebuds as much as a plateful of runners.

You can see I'm peering through runner beans in my photo at the top of the blog. And here's a picture of Stephen, who took the photos on my allotment during an INSET day last week.

Of all the veggies on my allotment, the runner beans give the best value for my eyes and my plate. What would you choose?

Slugs love marigolds...

As I discovered last week when I cleared a bed of love in a mist (which were sadly looking more like love lost in a brown cloud) and planted out some bright little red/gold marigolds. Well I hoped they would be, they were just in bud when they went in, but by the following morning they had gone. So I'm back with the slug pellets again this morning as I planted out the last tray from my greenhouse, in hope they will look good by the time I get back from holiday next week.

I've also discovered that foxes love plastic pots. Last week I spent a couple of hours clearing half the strawberry bed and potting up the runners for new plants next year. I returned a couple of days later to find all the pots ( which I'd sunk into the ground) dug up, compost and plants scattered all over the place. So this morning I've nearly completed weeding the bed and replanted some of them. Fingers crossed...

The foxes are part of the reason I no longer label the seeds I plant on the allotment. They pull out all the little white labels, so it's a complete waste of time. They also leave frequent gifts in the form of chewed shoes and gloves stolen from local residents gardens and back door steps.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

My piano update

I'm so glad Stevie took the photos last week! After the heavy rain yesterday the pelargoniums looked really sad and bedraggled this morning so I've had to prune them. Hopefully they'll be back to their former glory later this month...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Coffee grounds and eggshells? I don't think so...

Raining as I write which (naturally) brings out the slugs and snails again. There do seem to be more of them about after the very wet summer last year.

A couple of recent pieces referring to the coffee grounds technique of keeping them down prompts me to ask, how? As this is another respect in which I've failed to maintain organic standards this year.

I started the season well, my garden has in any case quite a residue of eggshells from the compost heap but my family get through a dozen a week, so supplies were not difficult. I upped my consumption of fresh coffee to three jugs a week (normally just one on a Sunday morning) and diligently sprinkled the grounds around the newly planted salad leaves and cosmos as I planted them out. I also spent a couple of evenings clearing out the little buggers, throwing snails over the fence onto the concrete drive or into the wood along the railway cutting behind the house. I dropped the slugs into salt water.

I felt really smug as I'd given the birds a free run on this juicy food source and for about a week afterwards, I didn't lose a thing. And then I realised by the end of the second week, that my salads weren't growing and by the week after that, the few leaves that emerged were somewhat ragged, a quarter of the cosmos had disappeared, and lo the snails and slugs were back.

I cannot bear to lose so many plants to them. So I've succumbed to the dreaded pellets. But I still don't win the battle. I can cope with the empty snail shells all over the flower beds. I feel guilty, but I can cope. What I cannot bear is the slime trails and dead bodies scattered all around.

I used beer traps over a number of years, but in the end I found disposing of the contents too disgusting. I don't mind bugs, worms, spiders, insects. But I feel squeamish around slugs. I can't bear to touch them.

I suspect that the compost heap also contributes to the problem, as it's absolutely full of 'em. I don't believe they're just eating, I'm sure there's breeding and egg laying going on too in the warm and damp interior. But I can't bear to look.

So, I'm looking for slug and snail contraceptives ( prevention being better than cure). I'd like to have a clean and effective, simple and cheap method of keeping them off my plants. (Copper bands are quite expensive). And I suppose, advice on whether and how coffee grounds work in other people's gardens. Is my technique at fault? Am I supposed to dry them out before use perhaps?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Rampant artichokes

A free gift of a bag of Jerusalem artichokes with my Riverford vegbox earlier this year prompted me to plant several of them in early spring.

I can't believe how tall and spreading they are! I had a vague memory of Carol Klein enthusing about them as plants on her growing veg strand of Gardener's World last year, and seeing them in flower, but don't remember them so big.

When they were planted out, I alternated them with a row of carrot, now completely overwhelmed, and parsnip, which are peeping out from underneath the artichoke leaves (see above).
I wonder how many tubers each plant will produce? And whether the parsnips or the artichokes will flourish best in such close quarters?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Trying and failing to garden organic

My usual methods of gardening organically have been sadly lacking this season. this morning I succumbed to the blue non-organic plant food to perk up the sweetcorn, which is looking a bit pale, and help the squashes and courgettes.

It began with a shortage of manure for composting on the allotment last summer. I don't know whether the local stable which brings a load regularly for the site, gave up or came less regularly, or whether a couple of new tenants enthusiastically carted it all off, but I only managed about three barrow loads, and wasn't even able to mulch round the strawberries as I did the previous year.

As a result my supply of home made compost was even thinner on the ground than usual. Does anyone else have a problem with generating enough? Most of the kitchen waste from our family of four goes in, I usually add the smaller weeds and other vegetable matter after harvesting, and bits and pieces of cardboard, newspaper. There's usually enough for my garden at home but pathetic amounts for the allotment.

I've been collecting some from a local smallholding, where it used to be piled up in front of a couple of barns next to the road and sold at £1 a bag, but since he's moved it to a massive field at the back I've got doubts about the stuff going in to it, last time I visited there were huge piles of garden fences and all sorts of chemically treated stuff scattered around.

Anyway, any suggestions for local sources of good stuff in NE Surrey/S London borders gratefully received.