Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Things are not good on my allotment. We have had so much rain here in the UK that the river Thames is in flood. My plot is under 64cm of water. What I am worried about is my fruit tress and fruit bushes. I do no know how long they can survive with their roots under water. The cabbages and roots will be allright. When the floods gone down I will hang my cabbages upside down in my shed. They should last for weeks like that.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Voting For Mr Obama

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been warned about Hurricane Sandy. It seems to me that the BBC went to inordinate length to make sure that I was safe. As I live in Oxford UK, I did not feel the need to do any of the suggest actives; like leave home or climb onto the roof. The storm came and went and much the same thing happen with the American election, which in my opionn was an open and shut case and nowhere near the cliff-hanger that it was billed to be. (I am very please that Mr Obama was re-elected) However, what does concern me is the trouble that we are facing here in the UK with Ash Trees. It appears that we are going to lose all our eight million Ash trees in the next few years. Does this matter? Of course it does. Everything hangs together; if one thing falls who knows what the outcome will be. The UK is an surrounded by water, at least it was the last time I looked. So why are we getting loads of 'nastiest' arriving on our shores? What can we do about it? Not much you might think but you are wrong. Voting for our leaders is the main thing that we can do. I am very shocked when I hear people say on the TV " I am not voting, it’s not worth it ". People have died for the right to vote (and still are). My father fought a war for five years for the right to vote. What is the matter with people, do we not realise that that the next 50 years are more then likely the most important fifty years of humankind’s history. Just look at us! We need leaders to stop the mess we are getting into. Thank God for Mr Obama and people like Malala Yousafzai, (schoolgirl shot by Taliban). Go out today and do something to change the world for the better. Grow your own veg. or do not buy strawberries imported from far afield. It is nearly mid-winter for heavens sake. We do not need strawberries now.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

How to take care of your border plants

Nice sunny November day and wondering what to do in the garden? Just take a pair of secateurs to your perennials that have now gone past there best. Numerous plants with structural seed heads will by now, 0f started to fade or collapse due to rain and wind. Many of the taller shrubs may well be rocked by strong winds, which will damage the roots by allowing excessive moisture and frost to get down there. You can prevent this problem now by firming the soil around the base of the plant and reducing the height of deciduous shrubs. This is also a good time to look to your secateurs: get them sharpen and oil up. Secateurs and shears do no last forever…if you need new ones why not put them on your Christmas list; got to be better then another hand knitted woolly jumper from Auntie!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Another Reason to Eat Organic

The other day, I was watching a programme on TV about growing peppers. I know, I should get out more but it was raining at the time. The peppers were being grown in a glasshouse the size of 22 football picthes. Everything was automated and there was not a bit of soil in site. There were two guys pouring chemicals into a vast vat of water, stirring it up and piping the mixture to the plants which were being ‘grown on rockwool-type material' No wonder the peppers that I grow on well-composted soil taste better!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

I like Raspberries because they are an excellent crop for the organic grower to grow. They are very easy to establish and will crop very heavily producing up to 1.5kg of fruit per cane for upwards of 10 years. Make sure you choose a good sunny spot and feed well. I only go for late fruiting verities because the birds do not seem to go for them. My favourite is Autumn Bless and right now they are fruiting very well on my plot.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Grow your own lettuce

There is one crop that most of us can grow what ever our circumstance as well as grow it nearly all year round. That crop is lettuce, which can be grown in a big garden or in a bucket as well as everything in-between If you are really organized and you have a greenhouse or polly tunnel, you can grow your own lettuce pretty much all year round. Lettuce is are quite a bit hardier than you might think and you can get special winter varieties to see you through the colder months. In the winter time they slow right down (they can take up to ten weeks) though so you have to be patient and sow well in advance of when you hope to harvest. What you need is to be patient and organised – then you can be sure of having your own lettuce on the table and what a treat it is. Unfortunately the lettuce is prone to all sorts of pest and diseases which means the lettuce that you buy in the local store can be sprayed as much as eight times in its short life. The growers want a fast turnaround and high yields so the plants are grown very close together with lots of extra nitrogen and often under plastic, which makes them prone to fungal diseases. In addition, because it is grown fast commercial lettuce is often rather tasteless. Many of these pests can be over come if you leave space round each plant so that there is plenty of air. In addition, there are many ways to keep slugs away from you crop You might want to try different varieties for taste and seasonal growth. Even an everyday variety like Little Gem has more taste and texture when it is grown slowly. Lettuce seeds will keep for a year or two. One of the secrets to growing lettuce successfully is to sow the seed little and often. It is far better to sow a few plants once a week than a big batch once a month. You are much more likely to get a steady supply of tasty salad rather than a boom or bust glut. It also pays to grow several different varieties. It makes your salads more interesting and because different varieties grow at different speeds, your harvest will be more spread out. You can get packets of lettuce mixed seed now, which are handy, if you have limited space. I have found these to be very handy and use them all the time. What you get is an interesting and well-balanced blend.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Book Review For: Make Your Garden Feed You

Book review for “ Make your garden feed you: This is a very small book, having only just over 100 pages. There are no photos however the book does contain a few helpful drawings. “Make your own garden feed you” was written in 1940 when the world was at war; however, we are still at war only this time it is an economic world war with most counties struggling money wise. So it really is true to say that this little gem of a book is a book for our difficult times when once again people are up against the wall it terms of trying to feed themselves and their families on low budgets. The main message of this book is how to slash your shopping budget by growing your own food. This includes three short chapters on keeping rabbits/hens and bees. Although the advice given is short if you follow it to the letter, you would have enough meat/eggs and honey to sustain your table without spending too much money. I know this because I have in the past keep all three stock and the advise in the book is very sound and good practice. As to the main thrust of the book: it is all about growing vegetables in an organic and practical way using the resources that you have at hand (remember it was written during war time for people who only had what they had to hand). The book contains all the usual stuff like such as digging/preparing soil/composting/seeds/what to grow/how to grow/pest/month by month jobs. In addition, the “ Make your Garden Feed you” also continues sections on flowers as well as fruit. If you have no idea how to grow anything but want to/ or need too then this book is for you. From big gardens to contain growing, you really do not need any thing else to get your going. The book does a very good job if you know what you are doing and just would like to get” back to nature and do it simply”. There is no “fluff” or page filling in the “Make Your Garden Feed You” It says what it does on the tin. One thing that the book does not have: there is nothing or very little about crop storage or how to use you crop. However, unlike the people of 1940 we have the Internet and fridge/freezers, that they did not. I cannot recommend this book too highly, go grab yourself a copy and get growing!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

How Long do Seeds Last

You have in your drawer since Candlemas Day,
All the seed packets you dare not throw away,
Seed Catalogue cometh as year it doth end,
However, looking ye drawer before money you spend.

Throw out ye parsnip, it is no good next year,
And Scorzonera if there is any there,
For these have a life that is gone with ye wind
Unlike all ye seeds of ye cabbagy kind

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Sprouts, Cabbage and Kale,
Live long like a farmer who knoweth good ale:
Three years for certain, maybe four, or five,
To sow in their seasons they stay in ye drawer.

Kohl-Rabi last with them and so does Pei-Tsai,
The winter ‘cos-lettuce’ to sow in July,
However, short is the life of ye turnips and Swedes
Sow thinly and often they will never be too strong.

Last years left lettuce sows three summers more,
And Beetroot and Spinach-beet easily four, But ordinary Spinach, both prickly and round,
Hath one summer left before gaps waste your ground.

Leeks sow three Aprils and one has gone,
In addition, this is as long as your carrot will last,
Onion seed keeps till four years have flown by,
However, sets are so easy and dodge onion-fly

Store Marrows and cucumbers, are best when they are old,
Full seven summers sowings a packet can hold.
Six hath ye celery that needs frost to taste,
So hath celeriac before it goes to waste.

Broad beans, French ones, runners, sown in May,
Each hath a sowing left before you throw them away,
In addition, short peas tall peas, fast ones and slow,
Parsley and Salsify have one more spring to sow,

Then fillen ye form that your seeds men has sent,
For novelties plenty, there is money to spend,
Good seed and good horses are worth the expense,
So, pay them your poundies as I paid my pence.

Lawrence D Hills,

Friday, 9 March 2012

Rats and Compost


There are many myths about rats. Just to set the record straight: There are no rats as big as cats or such things as super rates and rats do not bite the faces of sleeping children for the fun of it!

Rats are mans enemy: in the 1300s, rats wiped out nearly one third of the European population. However, in many ways it is not the fault of the rat but of humankind. . Rats are tempted by traces of food that is all and we leave food lying about in the form of litter and dirt in our streets, houses and anywhere else that we are. Dropping a crisp bag on the street or leaving rubbish outside will bring rats to you door and into your house.

Just to put the record straight: Rats are a very serious health risk and can carry the following diseases;
0. Weil’s disease
0. Salmonella
0. Tuberculosis
0. Cryptosporidiosis
0. Ecolab
0. Foot and mouth disease
0. Leptospirosis
0. Virus things
0. Parasitic things
0. Rats are a vector for plague.

We are all to blame for the rats that roam our streets and live in our houses. The only way to get rid of them is too go back to bases and up our basic hygiene. Do not leave litter around. Dispose of food waste in a proper manner and do not use it on the compost heap because you are shore to get rats.

I do not put food waste on my compost heap and yet last year 2010 I caught 58 grown rats on my plot. This year to date; I have caught four.

I do not use poison because it is a cruel way to kill any thing and you are never quite sure what you are killing.

I believe and use the good old fashion rattrap. Now many people cannot catch rats with a trap but the secret, if there is one, is to use peanut butter on the trap so that the rat has to lick it off and in so doing will set the trap off and kill it in one clean snap.

Make sure that birds cannot get at the trap. I put mine under things like a paving slap leaning on a wall or in a large piece of pipe.

The increase of the rat population is a very worrying thing and it is about time that we all did something about it!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jerusalem Articokes

We are now well into March and today it is pouring down with rain. Last Sunday it snowed nearly all day. However, one thing is for sure about this time of year and that is that spring is coming.

Yesterday I managed to get down to my plot and plant my Jerusalem artichokes. I only put in 20 tubers and that gives me enough to make some wonderful soups to get through the winter.

I plant them in my raised bed a foot apart and two-foot in-between the row. Of course, I dig in a good supply of wonderful compost. Jerusalem artichokes are a bit of a growers dream really.
1. You can plant them in the same bed for five years
2. Grow you own seed. I just selected the lest knobbly ones that are about the size of a hens egg and pop them in the ground.
3. There are really no pest or disease to speak of
4. The plant can grow to a height of eight feet and so can make a wonderful wind break.
5. Once they have taken off, there is very little work. I find that a good weed after three weeks of planting is all they need and then they will smother any new weed growth.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Look to your soft fruit this week:

Has spring sprung?
Here in the UK the weather has certainly take a turn for the better in so far as the temperature has gone up but we have not seen the sun for nearly ten days. Just dull clouds

There is nothing moving on my allotment right now but that does not mean that I should not be moving.

If you have not done it yet; Cordon Gooseberries need to be pruned now. This is done by cutting back the side-growths to within two or three buds of their bases, and slightly shortening the leading shoots. On the other hand, bush Gooseberries are better dealt with by cutting out wood crowding the centres of the bushes and retaining promising young growth at full length.

Red and White currants are pruned by cutting back side-shoots to within two or three buds, and then reduce leading shoots so that they remain at one-half their present length. As Black currants on the young wood, the method of pruning is different, merely consisting of cutting out old branches and keep young wood at full length.

If you want to re-arrange the perennial border, no time should be lost now. When you divide the old plants and selecting portions of roots for replanting, do not forget that young outside portions of roots will bear better flowers than the old and exhausted centres. Always replant in well dug and manure land.

If you are going to grow potatoes you should place them in single layers in shallow boxes and put in a cool light, airy but frost proof place, so that they may grow sturdy sprouts in readiness for planting. Sprouted sets start into growth much quicker than supported tuber and they will yield a better croup.

If you have cover like a Polly tunnel or glasshouse now is a good time to get the seeds of the vegetables that you are going to grow going.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Raised Beds Winter Managemaent

The weather here in the UK is a bit strange. We have gone from -17 c to +10 c all in the space of 38 hours. If I were a plant, I would be feeling a bit dizzi, I think.

So the snow of last week has gone and we are now into half term. When I was at school in the late forties, half term was a time to clear everybody out of the school; turn off the heating and open all of the windows for five days.

The idea behind that was to clear out all of the bugs that gather were people and heat get together in the deep mid winter. It was a good idea and worked very well and as far as I remember not many people came down with colds and the like.

This practice can be used in your garden to a certain extent. On my allotment (240 plots) there are many people who cover their beds with old carpets or plastic sheeting to keep the soil warm and the weeds at bay. To me, this looks very untidy particular when it is windy because you can never keep the plastic down no matter how many weights are used. There is also the cost of the plastic to take into consideration, which can be quite high. The only time I have used this method is if I am not using a bit of ground of some months.

I just leave my raised beds bare during the winter months (those without crops that is) This lets the weather get at the land and clear it out of “bugs”.

Take the last week; my raised beds have had deep snow on them, which contains nitrogen, and hard frost, which will kill many a lurking bug. If I had covered them I would of lost out on the free nitrogen from the snow and the bugs would have been very snug under the plastic where the birds’ by the way cannot get at them.

As for the idea that the soil is kept warm under plastic. It might well be true but at some point you have to take the plastic away to plant or sow and after a very hours the soil, I am sure is the same temperature as an uncovered raised bed.

I do not have any scientific proof of this; but if you get up in the morning and throw back the covers of you bed, within a few hours the bed is the same temberture as the surrounding air; would this not be true of a raised bed!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Seed Sowing Season or Not?

Here in the UK we have another load of snow on top of frozen ground so there is not a lot that can be done until the frost leaves the ground.

As the seed sowing season is rapidly approaching, and it is necessary to select and prepare your beds for onions, parsnips, peas and broad beans; if you have not already done so that is.

The pruning from bush fruits, such as gooseberries and currants may be used as cuttings, provided well ripened healthy young growths about one foot in length are selected. In the case of black currant leave all the basal buds, but remove them from red and white currants and gooseberries.

If you can get at it now is a good time to sort out your strawberry bed. Weed them and lightly fork between the rows and give them a top dressing of compost. Now is a good time to make a new strawberry bed, if that is in your plans for this year.

Another job for this week would be to remove mosses and lichens from the bark of your fruit trees. These growths do not harm the tree; in fact, they are a sign of good air. It is just that they can look unsightly and in my view, the tree is better of with out them. You can buy a moss killer form your local store if you wish. It will not harm the tree. I use a power washer with a good brome to clean the tree up; works a treat.

0. If you have a heated frame or green house now is a good time to sow celery. You can also sow the following crops: Brussels sprouts, spring cabbage, cauliflower, onions, leeks, lettuce and salad leaves

Among half-hardy annual flowers that may be sown now, there are the charming verbenas and petunias. For all your sowing a shallow box or pan is the best, this should be filled with finely sifted compost. Sow thinly and cover the seed very lightly with more fine compost. With out heat not a lot will happen for some time. Therefore, if you do not have a cold frame or green house just wait until the weather turns. There is no hurry.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Keep on top of garden jobs.

and greenhouse jobs with the help of our weekly checklists.

As I look out of my window this morning; I see 3 inches of snow and it is -5 degrees C.

Not much going on in the garden today you might think. Too true as well.
However, as soon as the weather clears they will be things to do.

If you have old fruit trees out there now is the time to go and look at them. Cut out the dead wood and prune the remainder so that the main branches all radiate in an even manner from a central trunk

May be you are thinking of growing Tiger Lily. Well now is the time to purchase and plant the bulbs. In light soil plant them in groups of six, on heavy soil plant them in groups of three. Remember that they will last for many years so make sure that you choose the right spot in the garden.

The raising of Border Chrysanthemums from seed provides a fascinating and instructive study. The resultant plants show a wide range in color, apart from which single, semi-double and double blossoms are all secured. Sowing in gentle heat now and growing the plants on under cool conditions ensure a display of bloom ensured from august until Christmas.

If you want to embellish your garden, with a real display of colour then dahlias are indispensable and it is surprising that the practice of raising a batch of seedlings is not more popular. It is quite an easy matter to sow now in the greenhouse or heated frame, and to secure an attractive display from July onwards until the winter frost.

Shallots are especially valuable in cases where it is difficult to grow onions from seed. They are very easy to grow on most soils but it is important to give them a long growing season. On the first occasion in February when the soil is dry enough, planting may be done in rows ten-fifteen inches square.

That great enemy of the broad bean- black fly- is not so much in evidence if the plants have been accorded a long growing season of growth. As soon as the soil is in fit state, the first outdoor sowing should be made. Sow the seeds in rows two feet apart, placing them two inches below the surface.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Febuary Seed sowing: Time Or Not Yet?

As cold weather approaches Europe with a high pressure system hanging over Scandinavia and western Russia is pushing raw temperatures as lows as -23c, we're reminded of course that we are in full winter and that the really quite mild and dry weather of recent is very unseasonal.

What we have to do with our plants is to go with the flow. The unquestioned acceptance of nature. In fact, proper seasons are really important and cold in the winter will help you later on in your plot by controlling pests and disease especially.

There are the cold loving vegetables, which really do like a bit of a chill. I have certainly good crops this year, as well as red cabbage, sorrel, celeriac, leeks and my garlic.

There are so many variables to growing veg and that is what can make so interesting. What is true for me may not be the same for you. Go round and see what other people are doing in their gardens. Take a note as to what they have cropping right now; maybe you can do the same next year.

I am using this time to build up my raised beds with homemade compost. It is a good idea to clean equipment and get organized for the coming months.

It is never too early to buy compost, pots, seeds etc as you might find yourself at home on the perfect sowing day without the few things you need to get on! 

Depending on your geographic position, Feb can be the start of your sowing season with tomatoes, peppers, aborigines, melons, cucumbers, and other Mediterranean veg varieties being sown protected on a sunny windowsill, heated greenhouse or propagator to give them a head start for the summer.

However, it is still early and not essential to sow during Feb - March and April are the key months. Garlic can be sown now and will like the extra cold, I have sown my first broad beans in pots in my polly tunnel, ready to put out as soon as nature takes a turn for the better.

You should never be in too much of a hurry this time of year. Let nature takes its time. I always look at the grass; when that needs a trim and has stared growing then is the time to sow your seeds.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Why Add Organic Matter to Your Soil

Why do we think that we know better then “mother Nature”? We seem to spend all our time trying to do better and look for ways to improve the soil when all the time we are spoiling the very ground that is supposed to give us substance.

Nature does not plough or dig; she employs the earthworm and soil bacteria, together with deeply penetrating roots, to do her work.

Nature does not supply water-soluble minerals to the soil; she ensures an automatic and ample application of organic matter, which, in the process of decay, produces organic acids to act upon the soil minerals and so make them capable of absorption by plant roots.

In many cases, we find that the soil in our care has become incapable of providing sufficient good food to sustain the population in health.

Why has this happen it is because the soil has now become what the chemists call ‘deficient’ that is unequal for the task of growing food…so what do they tell us to do add more chemicals.

In doing this, we burdened ourselves with the colossal cost of chemical fertilizers and continue down the road of bad husbandry.

Sick soil can be saved with pectince and care. Stop using chemicals and feed it with organic matter that is a natural sustenance which must be returned to the earth and the problems of so-called soild deficiencies will cease.