Gardening

SweetPotatoes

Sweet potato experiment: results you’ve all awaited

How did the sweet potatoes go this year, I hear you ask? I’ve been flooded with enquiries. You’ll remember I planted them as this year’s experiment in the garden, to expand the range of what I knew how to grow.

Those sweet looking plants arrived with beard-looking roots back in May. I planted them variously. A few in growbags, like the pictures from Marshalls suggested would be an idea. I downloaded and printed off a set of reasonably specific instructions from the RHS website.

They seemed like a great source. They train people in how to garden. And my cousin also uses them as his “go to” for advice. He’d decided to join me in growing these, although I think he started much later and decided to nurture something tangible for next year.

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Banana skins in a bucket

Going bananas in the garden for extra nutrients

Have you ever seen a quirky idea, thought it was a bit mad but worth trying? Or even worth adapting?

A friend told me recently that she had been soaking banana skins through the summer and using the mixture as a plant grower.

Sounds utterly bonkers! But, when you think it through, it is probably what our ancestors did – even if it was perhaps limited to those from countries in which bananas grow, anyway.

Essentially, this seems simply an acceleration of the composting process. To those au fait with the composting process, it is easy enough to throw banana skins into a composter, or pile, along with many vegetable and fruit peelings, pips, stems or cores: The bits, essentially, you don’t cook.

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Masks are now needed in shops

Relish anomalies to survive second lockdown

We’re more set up to cope this time aren’t we? For Covid-19 lockdown two I mean. We’ve done this once. Society can tough it out. We’re thinking positive…except…

This time there are several changes – and many people are still out of work.

The first lockdown was all new and scary. People thought it might be short, sharp shock of no more than a few months. At least, that’s what they hoped.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) was hard to find. For that, the NHS was the priority customer. But if you wanted to wear a mask in the shops – the supermarkets and food outlets – they were initially hard to find. Certainly at a reasonable price.

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Original vegetable plot

Upcycled wood makes perfect new vegetable beds

There’s a reason why a carol at Christmas is entitled In the Bleak Midwinter. It’s Anglicised of course, because Jesus was from the Middle East. But little has changed since Christina Rossetti wrote the poem of that name, published in January 1872. Winter in Britain is mostly bleak.

While it hasn’t been frosty yet – so I haven’t pulled up the sweet potatoes – the skies are often dull, the weather drizzly – uninviting for gardeners for example.

Yet some planning can take place for the growing season next spring, in anticipation of the season of hope, weatherwise. I am always impatient to plant my seeds, in the hope of growing my own edible produce.

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Green tomato chutney

Harvest: depressing but bringing new opportunities

How often to psychologists – pop or serious – tell us: when one door closes, another opens? It’s the same with gardening.

It seems utterly depressing that most of the vegetation that was planted in the spring has now bloomed and died. We can feel proud it fed us and delight in the joy that many things we planted worked this summer, on patches of land. You know the drill: I say tomatoes, you say potatoes! Then there were beetroots, radishes, lettuces, cucumbers, courgettes, purple heritage beans and sweetcorn.

All came in varying degrees of success, depending on the weather, slugs, the consistency of the soil and the quality of the seeds.

I feel lucky that at least some of my peppers prospered – even if they did not grow particularly big.

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Rubbish outside allotment

Litter tossers have no respect – for area or themselves

It is hard to know which is worse: hundreds of discarded piece of litter, scattered over a reasonably wide area, or dumping rubbish in a concentrated spot, otherwise known as fly-tipping.

One, at best, involves a negligent slip of an item out of a hand, pocket or perhaps a vehicle; the other is a completely deliberate act to avoid disposing of items responsibly, perhaps at cost.

Both types of rubbish disposal could be deliberate, cigarettes or crisp packets flicked from cars for example. And both types of littering have been noted in the Earlswood area in recent days.

One hopes that the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s Joint Enforcement Team, whose attention has been brought to the pile of debris outside the entrance to the Earlswood allotments, will find evidence to point to the culprit.

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How lockdown has instilled a sense of localism

A favourite jacket’s zip broke. So did a one on a plastic, but reusable, cover on a small greenhouse. What should I do? What would you do?

One option was to throw them away, to buy afresh – online – and keep major clothing and gardening chains in business. Another option was to mend.

Neither needed fixing urgently. The jacket was for days that are colder than summer. The greenhouse has done its work this year, nurturing seedlings that are now planted out. It would seem shameful to discard not just its plastic but metal structure, just because the zip had failed.

So I waited, through lockdown, for a local mender to reopen. I took both items to them – the greenhouse request being an unusual one – and asked them to fit new zips.

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What are you doing for 30 Days Wild?

What are you doing for 30 Days Wild? Not heard of it? It’s the Wildlife Trusts campaign to encourage people to do 30 days of Random Acts of Wildness during June to help the environment.

Schools, groups and individuals are urged to do something to encourage biodiversity – as wide a variety of nature as possible – to thrive. It is to help tackle the climate emergency and particularly pollinators at this time of year.

One idea behind the campaign is that, whatever you do, it is habit forming. The campaign encourages participants to continue to do something for longer than 30 days. Or to take notice of nature for longer than 30 days at least.

One year, I interpreted the campaign not as doing something daily, but letting the “wild things grow” as it were, in a dedicated area.

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Cooking up a treat with a bunch of beetroot leaves

An “early” harvest from the garden brings a lovely problem: what to do with those large beetroot leaves? It seems such a waste to discard them.

The urban jungle – or maybe just the jungle, given how they have grown in the garden – says they can be cooked. Ever since a neighbour brought his whopping baseball sized beetroots (I exaggerate, but only just) back from his allotment last year, I made a mental note to look up whether the flurry of greenery was edible. Consensus is yes, they can be used like chard – and they taste like spinach when cooked. But how?

For some reason, just a couple of beetroot (which have been big this year because of the month of May without rain) have produced enough greenery to look like flowers in a vase. Another use, in a heatwave, might seem to be as a fan. But they are not that sturdy.

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