Gardening

Green tomato chutney

Harvest time: 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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Seed swap idea grows from localism

Localism. I’ve always lauded local. I love local: farm shops on holiday; the local delicacies. Yet this is the very word that was trained out of me when starting out in local journalism. “We don’t use it,” was the editor’s mantra “because if it wasn’t local we wouldn’t be talking about it.”

But “being local” is how we flourish as human beings. Even if we work a commute away, or an overnight stay away, home and its surroundings will be where we love being. It’s a big part of our social life, if we want to retain our sanity and not have to travel miles every time we want to visit friends. Its called a community.

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Old chimney pots are earmarked as future planters

Old chimney pots to be recycled as planters

They have languished in a dark corner of the garden, next to a fence where not even weeds – sorry, unwanted vegetation – have the temerity to grow.

There has never been a temptation to take these two feet tall pieces of masonry to the recycling centre. It would seem such a waste.

Maybe the recent purchase of sweet potatoes offers the opportunity of an answer to this long-pondered mystery of how to re-purposing them as something useful.

The rim of one of them has long since broken off, but that shouldn’t matter for what I have in mind.

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Should you line food caddies with magazine envelopes?

An ever growing number of organisations are sending us their magazines in eco-friendly packaging: namely 100 per cent compostable bags.

They look like plastic, but they are not. One I have just received says it is made from potatoes.

While the much-trumpeted packaging offers advice on the limits of what you should do with it, such as put it in your waste food caddy but not in the plastic recycling or general bin, it doesn’t detail how long it will take to degrade in your garden compost facility.Read More »Should you line food caddies with magazine envelopes?