Gardening

Does an orange peel a day keep cats away?

There’s an increasing conflict in my garden between trying to start the vegetable growing season and cats upending earth to bury their business. Or, indeed, just leaving it lying on the surface.

It could be foxes, but I think I have seen the worst feline offenders. I might have even caught them in the act of digging, before shooing them away. There was a nice big hole left in my main pot of carrots, which are only in their embryonic stages. Some of the seedlings were destroyed. I think I managed to rescue some others.

There is, apparently, a solution: orange peel. The cats can’t stand the smell.

Does that sound like an old wives’ tale? Advice that somehow has been passed down generations as fact but has a dubious success rate?

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Non-toxic pet waste

Ask election hopefuls to sort pet waste discrepancy

What are you going to ask your candidates when they come knocking on your door ahead of the May 6 local elections?

A reduction in taxes to help UK residents get back on their feet after Covid? That’s national level politics. There must be an abundance of issues that Reigate and Banstead borough, or Surrey County, councillors could affect, from elderly and social care to education and rubbish.

It might seem well down the list for many people. But I was glad to see someone else, via Twitter, have a moan that Reigate and Banstead Borough Council do not collect organic pet waste.

On the “no thank you” list for the brown garden waste bin, Reigate and Banstead lists “animal or pet bedding”. The reason is that they do not want cat or dog waste, because it is toxic. Witness when you have to remove stray feline excrement from the vegetable patch!

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Leaves and guinea pig waste

Plucked parsnips prompt plan to improve soil

I’ve never really bothered about the leaves flailing around my garden in winter. I leave them to settle and lie on the grass and flowerbeds. They disappear by mid-spring. Or summer at the latest.

This year, however, I decided to take advantage of a bright day and put them to good use. The prompt was parsnips.

Last weekend, after the snow had melted, I dug up some of the parsnips I had planted last May. We had tried a couple before Christmas – after a ‘first frost’, as advised by many people – but they tasted very floral. Which was weird. It was also pretty small, and had bunched itself into a sphere, rather than a cone shape.

The most recent crop were also large and bulbous at the top, but retained oddities in shape. They had several long tentacles, like Hollywood might imagine an alien, but not one, uniform cone-shaped tail.

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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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