Monday, November 20, 2006

Roll on 2007

Well, the winter was with us this weekend. With turnips now appearing in our weekly veg box, it can only be a matter of time before sprouts spring up (heaven forbid!) And with the dark nights eating up the day, my plans are already afoot for next year's garden.

This year was spent sorting out my book, and as much as next Spring will be spent writing the next, the plot isn't going to suffer (the veg not the story... I hope!). But I'm going to return to basics. None of this 'trying to grow six types of chilli unsuccessfully' malarkey - instead I'm going to focus on the basics, which made last year so succesful to me. I really missed my courgettes and the countless runner beans that prospered on the slopes of Crystal Palace. I might even rope in a friend to help - a plot halved is a plot solved eh?

Well, maybe not, but I can live in hope. And Anything but Sprouts can be truly up and running again!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I was just looking at this post on the Pumpkin Soup blog and it reminded me of when we lived in a flat near Tooting. I used to wake up to find slug trails across the corridor floor. Horrible things to see - especially when you don't have your slippers on. And then one morning I went to fill the kettle and found a very boiled slug floating in the small amount of water that was left in there from the last time we made a cup of tea. I gagged, in no small part due to the fact that the last cupper had been brewed only an hour earlier.

Thankfully, we're in a raised ground floor flat now!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Autumn delights

Autumn's arrived.

As if the weekend was summer's last gasp, Monday morning brought with it steamed-up windows and a chilly wait at the station. I must admit that I love this time of year - or moreover, the weather. I love hearing the torrential train pelt down outside, and I love seeing breath flee my mouth when I exhale. I also love the fact that it's now much more preferable to drink red, rather than white wine, and I can't wait for the first drop of Port to be officially poured.

And it's true, I can't wait to put on a jumper.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Some minor achievements

Anything but sprouts has been a bit quiet of late. The garden hasn't seen much loving, and even the birds have been complaining about lack of food. But even with my lack of time and effort on the plot this year, there have been a few minor successes.

The Broad Beans came out beautifully before they got savaged by blackfly. I did love them, and I'll definitely try more next year. My Blueberry bush has given me loads of fruit - quite unexpectedly – and I am determined to get a few more plants for next year. Another success has been my tomato hanging basket at the front of my flat. They've ripened beautifully, and the taste is just amazing. Sod flowers, hanging baskets will always have tomatoes in them from now on! And finally, my chillis. While not having quite as much fruit on them as previous years, I have at least 6 chillis to dry and see me through the next month or so.

I just wish I had more to show, or rather eat, for the past 6 months of Anything but Sprouts. Next year, maybe...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My upwards broad beans

It's been another weekend of hard slog (if that's what you can call writing) indoors for me. I did get out a couple of times to hang the washing and even to water the broad beans though. I've actually got a few pods growing now, and they're a most impressive sight. Seeing them grow upwards was a bit of a shock. I guess as they're broad, they have a bit of attitude that allows them to defy gravity.

My courgette plants are coming along nicely on the window sill, and so are my chillis, despite them being very much in need of repotting. I'll get there soon...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Aquilegias

With all the rain recently, Crystal Palace has turned into the jungle. It's so green round here that if Orville finally learnt to fly you wouldn't see him for all the trees.

And in a brief respite from the rain and writing, I managed to get out at the weekend and photograph our aquilegias. They didn't flower last year, but here they are as lovely as anything.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What a month!!

Despite a rushed effort to bolster my broad beans last Thursday night, I'm sorry to say that my garden is looking in much the same state as my blog recently - a bit worse for wear. I've been so busy on the second draft of my book that I've just had no time to think of anything else.

And it's not just my garden that looks like a jungle - my bedroom window sill is threatening to turn my flat into the Amazon Rainforest. The seeds have all gone crazy. Everything needs repotting - particularly my tomatoes - but where's the time!

Thanks to everyone who's visited recently, and I promise I will get back into the blogging habit, but I've had to let it take a backseat for the moment. Come July though, most of the hard work should be done, and life will return to normal...


Monday, April 24, 2006

Runner bean killer

I was away again this weekend, enjoying the sun in the wilds of Kent. And unfortunately, just like last weekend I arrived home to find something had eaten my runner and french bean seedlings.

Who was it? My flaming cat that's who! I'd put them inside to protect them from the slugs, only to find on my return that milo had been enjoying fresh greens as a complement to his very full catfood bowl.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A weekend of no gardening

For all the free time at the weekend (much of it spent in Wolverhampton), I did very little in the garden. This feeling of achieving nothing out on the plot was exacerbated by the fact that I broke our ageing garden bench (by merely sitting on it), and also a number of slugs and snails demolished my runner beans that were hardening up on the front steps. one step forward, three steps back.

Not to get too downhearted though, I did do lots of thinking (something I'm getting terribly good at), and even a bit of work on my book. (As an update to the book situation, the contract is now finalised and is currently being drawn up for me to sign. And I'm even more excited than ever...)

Making the most of the garden though, I did go out to enjoy a glass of wine in the sun yesterday. It's looking lovely out there, with a nice sense of order starting to appear. Kind of organised squares. And the rhubarb is doing brilliantly, and sitting very comfortably in the middle of the lawn. I knew there could be no better spot for it!

Now I just need to grow some more runner beans. At least there's plenty of time in hand.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Smilax Glyciphylla

I've been reading a book called, The life and times of John Nicol, mariner. A great little historical autobiography from the early 19th century about a Scotsman who travels the world many times because he's a sailor.

When he gets to the new colonies in Australia he talks of a sweet tea he drinks, like china tea. There's a wonderful moment when he mentions an old lady with a shrivelled face and white hair who everyone goes to see because she is suckling a child after just giving birth. Her 'fecundity' is because of the tea made from the Smilax Glyciphilla, or Sarsparilla as it's more commonly known.

I don't want to have kids when I'm ninety, or suckle them, but I think I'm going to buy some and grow it in my garden.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Food snobbery? Moi?

I was intrigued by this comment piece in the paper about food prejudice and snobbery between the classes. Unfortunately, I don't see the problem with eating healthily - and I also don't see how it's possible to bundle eating healthily, having enough money to buy posh produce and the questions of recycling into one argument.

I don't think I'm a food snob, or simply some left-wing liberal hippy (alright maybe a little), but i feel a lot of this argument is about education. I don't solely mean schooling here, although it's a good place to start. People should know from an early age about the benefits of decent food, particularly meat. And particularly how it's beneficial to the countryside and general landscape of modern life. Once more people want better quality produce, then it will become more widely available, and be cheaper too. Everyone will be a winner.

On another note, I also don't see why people who don't have space to keep recycled rubbish, such as people in tower blocks, should complain - they've got to keep their rubbish somewhere anyway don't they? Whether it's in a bin bag or an orange recycling bag? That's a nonsense argument if ever I heard one.

So I don't believe it's about being class-ist, or a snob. It's about being ignorant. And I thoroughly believe that if you don't have much money, you can still eat healthily. Things will just be that much harder for you. You just have to know the benefits of going that extra yard.

Monday, April 10, 2006


It was a funny old weekend for weather. We had glorious sunshine, then stormy skies, then rain. And I heard tales from my gran of snow storms, hail and frosts.

I couldn't keep up. And that also meant I actually did very little outside. However, I did put some canes in the soil just to get my brain thinking about planting runner beans. I also spent ten minutes sorting out my seedlings - which gave me great joy as my chilis are sprouting.

For some reason the sight of chilli plants breaking out of the soil fills me with more joy than any other veg plant growing. I suppose it muct be the exotic air they carry with them, and the fact that they're ultimately very cool. Or hot.

But I also failed to plant my tea seeds. I'm desperate to get my chinese tea plant on the go - so much so that I keep forgetting to do it. It's been almost a month now since I bought them. I'm not going to think about how many cups of tea I've missed out on because of this though.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Seedlings on the brink of death!

I came home last night to find my little baby seedlings desperate for water. I can't believe I forgot about them while letting them get hardy for life outdoors! I was mortified at their deadly poses, all limp and ready to enter the early stages of rigormortis. It's amazing how quickly the weather has turned and now things are needing watering again. Luckily they were happy and alive again after half an hour in water, but it was definitely a close call.

I promise I won't let it happen again. However, that thought of having to run back and forth to my garden with a watering can is already starting to make me uneasy.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bird Flu

Bird flu has reached Britain - it was always going to, so now at least, the waiting game is over. I'll be interested to see people's reactions. I know that our downstairs neighbour was particularly worried about the pigeons defecating all over her path a few months ago - and she made it very clear, over and over, that we had to do something about it (to the point where we did, actually, but my ears were bleeding by the end of it).

And I'm sure now I'll probably get an earful about feeding the birds in the garden. As I love having birds there, and we do live near a lake with ducks etc, I thought I should look into it. We're nowhere near Scotland, but it's worth being sure about things. Being realistic here: bird flu is transmitted by poo (at least the nasty H5N1 virus has been). And despite bird poo landing occasionally on my shoulders or head, like a gift from the gods, in day-to-day life only a few people in the community really come near it in any quantity. So, thankfully, the RSPB is sensible and tells you to wash your hands after feeding birds or handling feeders. It also offers advice about dead birds, and situations that might arise from your cat bringing home a bird for your delectation. (Now at this point I could have a rant about my belief that cats should not be free to roam outside, adding another unnatural predator etc, and be all smug about having a house cat, but I won't.)

Be careful, and cautious over cleanliness, and the risk is going to be minimal. Just like going to the hospital and washing your hands with the alcohol mix, it's a safety precaution. It's a case of remembering to be sensible - don't be crazy and think we're all going to die, because we're not.

Hopefully, DEFRA will be sensible about this too - at least it might take their eyes off the insane badger cull situation for a while . And hopefully we won't get crazy news reports in the tabloids, scaring all the dimwits left, right and centre, and hopefully the government won't do another Foot and Mouth disease fiasco and close off the countryside.

Only time will tell. But don't be scared, eat lots of fruit and veg, and keep well. It will be ok.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Raspberry canes

Sunday morning took me outside, photographing this little plant and sticking out my raspberry canes. (How I wish it were Sunday tomorrow again!) But there were far too many of them - a lot more than 10 at any rate, leaving me with little space to plant them all. Hopefully Asha will find a space for them. Share and share alike eh?

I also managed to dig a bit of a trench and fill it with paper bits and compost to get it ready for my runner beans. I didn't do that last year, and had a great crop, so it'll be good to see what happens in the summer. They're actually coming along nicely now too - once you get these things on the go there's no stopping them, and I'm finding it hard to keep up. I'm going to have to start off a load more seeds soon to fill up the space. There's so much to keep on top of it can really seem like a neverending task sometimes. Just got to look forward to eating it all.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Crystal Palace in Steamboy!

Slightly un-gardening related, but very related to my garden, this. Last night I watched Steamboy, the latest film from Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo, and there in all it's glory was the Crystal Palace. It wasn't in the right place - I think I'd be telling you a big lie if I said I lived opposite the Houses of Parliament - but they'd done a terrific job of recreating it's look, both inside and out.

Setting the film at the 1866 London Exhibition also actually makes sense, and even realistically allows for most of the Palace to get blown up, as in 1866 there really was a big fire at the Palace (not as bad as the 1936 one that ultimately destroyed it all though).

SO if you want to see what it used to look like 5 minutes walk from my house, watch Steamboy!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Very broad beans

Can't argue with this amount of growth can I? Even the second lot of seeds that I started last week are growing in the windowsill too.

ooh, just an un-garden related question here: I've put up these images with blogger's upload option, and it often seems to get upset and shift things around while pushing all my links to the bottom of the page. If anybody sees it looking daft, will you tell me? I can never understand the magical way it works.

Fruity growth

It's a beautiful day in Crystal Palace, aptly sprinkled with April showers. The garden looks great with the sun on it (despite it actually being a bit of a tip), and things are growing brilliantly. The rhubarb is looking just dandy, and so are my broad beans. Even my blackcurrant and blueberry bushes are showing green leaves! Tomorrow morning will hopefully be nice too, as I'll finally get around to sticking the raspberries in the ground. Then the fruit bushes will all be sorted.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Organic food

I've just been looking at the guardian feature about organic veg in today's paper. Titled 'Is organic veg really better for you', Leo Hickman once again looks at the green vegetable way of life, and ultimately concludes that it will be the consumers who decide whether pesticide residues do us harm or not.

I love this sort of thing. Consumer pressure can and will achieve anything and everything. It's no use expecting the government to take a line on it in order to make a real difference - simply because it's not in their best interests. However, the more organic food we buy, the easier it is to find it in the shops and the cheaper it becomes. It becomes beneficial for the stores to change the market place to suit us.

However, I still don't understand why pesticides are allowed to be used so much. We've seen a real effect on fish with all the pollutants flushed into the water supply - apparently many fish stocks are now so high in certain toxins that there's only a few varieties that are safe to eat. And it doesn't only affect us - it's affecting the animals that feed off them as well.

And as for pesticides sprayed willy nilly over crops - they've got to go somewhere. Of course, they affect the birds and wildlife that live in the countryside as well as creeping into the water supply. There's not going to be an answer to this is there? Maybe one day Organic food will just be the norm, whether pesticides damage us or not. If that's the case then at least we won't be damaging things other than ourselves.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Getting things hardy

Many of my seeds have really taken off this last week, so I've now started letting the early risers out for the day. It's a strange process getting these little plants used to the gales and chilly weather - compared to last week it might as well be sub tropical here - but you know what i mean. A little bit here, a little bit there, and soon they'll be hardy enough to bear the full brunt of a Crystal Palace Spring.

Our daffs have really started showing themselves as the pint-sized beauties they aspired to be, and there's even quite a lot of growth done by the aliums. It's amazing how you can just put something in the ground then forget about it, and each year it'll come back without fail.

And it's Friday tomorrow. Hooray. It's been a week of trying to forget about all the exciting things in life and getting down to some proper work in my day job, so I'm really looking forward to Saturday. It can't come to soon!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We've gone good

I've just changed our energy supplier. Faced with the price rises and unbelievable fat cat bonuses of British Gas it seemed the right thing to do. I've been planning to move to an ethical, non-fossil fuel burning supplier for a while, and weighing up the pros and cons of moving to Good Energy against the newly inflated British Gas there didn't seem to be much of a difference at all. It's made easier by the fact that we only have electricity.

With Good Energy it is just over 4p a kWh in the night (we have economy 7) compared to British Gas's 3p (admittedly a whole penny more), but when you see that the daytime cost of Good Energy is only nearing 11p per kWh compared to the 22p of British Gas, it became clear that it was a no-brainer. There's a slightly higher standing charge I think, but considering Katie works at home all day on multiple computers, charging IT goods, and using the cooker etc, the day rate usage should counter any extra cost.

Anyway, it seems to make sense for us. When I can get solar panels on my roof or a water wheel that utilises the stream that might one day run at the bottom of my garden I will. But for now using other people's wind turbines will do.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Peat-free compost

In the Guardian on saturday, I read a small piece about peat-free compost and where to buy it from. For the writer to start off by saying ' My conscience nags me at this time of year over the multipurpose compost I buy for raising vegetables from seed', just says it all really about the sorry state of affairs in the gardening world.

Can somebody tell me why we are still allowed to buy compost with peat in it? can somebody tell me why a gardening writer who admits to having a guilty conscience, still buys the stuff? We all might as well keep buying ivory because it looks pretty. I don't care if peat makes my carrots grow slightly thicker. I'll just plant a few more seeds and grow more thinner carrots to make up the difference. At least I haven't destroyed anything in the process.

I can see it's going to take the total destruction of peat bogs before people stop using peat, and I doubt the government will ever do anything about it. Come on gardeners, just don't buy it. I appreciate peat-free compost is a bit more expensive, but honestly, is it really that much worse? Any argument for the use of peat is similar (in a kind of theoretical 'Anything but Sprouts' way) to Chinese medicines claiming that they need rhino horn or a tiger's earwax as a major ingredient. There are alternatives, so use them.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

More pots

I've spent the morning making paper pots and getting the second round of sowing on the way. Tomatoes (including Sub Arctic Plenty from the Heritage Seeds Lucky Dip -just like Jane over at Horticultural), more peas, some flowers, and my second round of broad beans. I'm determined to get some this year, if only so that I can eat chorizo with them at least once!

The photo is of my first lot i did two weeks ago. The runner beans are going crazy, and at least one pea too. Why is it that there's always one that wants to grow much better than the others?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

And the rhubarb is up to something!

I don't quite know what, but it looks good...

Barbecue weather!

I can't believe how warm it is! And our tiny daffs are open. I guess it's time for a barbecue!

Friday, March 24, 2006


I had a blackcurrant bush arrive this morning. To correct a previous post about my fruit bushes arriving, they were actually raspberries and blueberries that arrived a few days ago. They came from crocus, the online shop and were brilliantly boxed, in tubs, with growing instructions and looking wonderful.

So it was quite a surprise when i opened a peculiar potato sack delivery bag this morning and found my blackcurrant bush laid bare. There it was with its roots sitting for all to see in a seethru polythene bag. I'd ordered this from the organic catalogue, and to be fair, the bush looks in perfect condition. It was just a shock to find it without dirt. It also didn't have any instructions telling me what to do, and as i left for work, I was wondering if i should be leaving it on the side for fear of milo thinking it was a new stick toy. (He does like his stick toys.)

But anyway, weather permitting I'll be sticking it in the garden at the weekend and giving it some life juice - and soil. I found it really intriguing how different companies send out their goods. ( As an aside, both delivered the plants really quickly though, so that definitely deserves a cheer.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Daffodils doing just dandy

Our first Daffodils are now showing their closed up heads in the garden. I know they'll never be like this in their grandeur, but even if three flower it'll be an improvement on last year.

And spying on my Broad Beans with my binoculars has provided me with the knowledge that they are growing happily outside, even in the arctic wastes of Crystal Palace. The excitement is building!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The cold weather continues

It's still freezing in London, but the first few pea and rocket seedlings have sprouted on my windowsill. It shows what the warmth of a good home and hearth can do for vegetables. I keep gazing longingly at my broad beans out in the ground from my window, hoping that the cold is kind to them, but what can you do? You raise these little babies, throw them out to pasture and hope they survive in the big bad world (after some good advice from mum about the feeding habits of pigeons, I now have them secure under a shield of chicken wire!). I guess at least you don't have to go through a nine-month pregnancy if you need to grow some more.

And I've also received some of my fruit bushes ordered over the internet. When you don't have a car, the web really is a wonderful shopping centre. I look forward to blackcurrant and raspberry home-made squash this year - well that's the plan at any rate.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The new-look plot

All dressed up to the nines - apart from the broad beans. They've come on tremendously in the last week:

The plot in black

It's exceptionally cold here, but this morning I got dressed up like a seasoned arctic explorer and did some plot work. My broad beans got put out (in both senses of the phrase in all likelihood, although they still have their paper sleeping bags on to keep them warm).

And i finally got round to covering the majority of the earth in black cloth. Like Mr Cash himself, there's a reason for it wearing black, and that's to get it nice and toasty for for all my seeds in the coming weeks. But you all know that already and this paragraph was just a shameless attempt by me to integrate some coolness into Anything but sprouts. Sorry.

Friday, March 17, 2006

No mold on me!

So it's completely true. Chamomile tea has totally eradicated any mold on my paper pots. Fluffy Muppet was totally right. I've tried to find out why this has happened - a few sites has mentioned that it contains disinfectent properties, which i guess would do the trick.

My belief, however, is it's really just calmed my seedlings down. They're too relaxed to be bothered with fungus any more.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Comfortable planting

I got round to planting some seeds yesterday. I'd taken the example of a few other bloggers, and enjoyed the comfort of my living room in the process. I found it was a much more civilised approach, especially as I had to make the paper pots first. French beans, runner beans, two lots of peas, basil, rocket and some cayenne chillis are now in the mix and sat happily on our bedroom window sill. It will be nice and sunny for them there, and they'll thank me for it at some point.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


We've been getting a lot of these oranges in our veg box recently, and I can't help but be amazed by them every time I peel them open.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Good Hooking

And while I'm here, I ought to put a post about my lovely girlfriend Katie's new crochet blog. If you've ever fancied crocheting a mobile phone cover, with only a slight hint of irony, then Good Hooking's the place to go!

She'll love me forever now...

Milo wanting fame

And in the process of taking that photo, Milo wanted to get involved, so I thought he ought to get a post to himself. It's been a while hasn't it?

Life as a broad bean

Here's my broad beans geting used to life in the big outdoors. I'm holding off putting them in the ground just until this weekend's apparent cold spell hits. They seem quite happy though.

Friday, March 10, 2006

An unwitting fashionista

It seems like i've unwittingly caught the zeitgeist with my recent planting of Rhubarb. This morning in the Guardian was a short article about it rising from the lower ranks of obscurity and entering the public eye once more.

And Clare commented on it on my last post too. A sure sign that I'm lagging in the wake of the trendsetters and dawdling behind the times. I didn't realise gardening was as hard to keep up with as fashion.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bread and rhubarb

The world of bread-making opened up before my eyes today, as i used my bread maker for the first time. Talk about easy. A wholemeal loaf popped out in three hours, perfectly formed and with a crispy crust. What more could you ever ask for? I can put as much salt as i like in, and rest easy with my arteries. Roll on summer, and bring on the tomato and onion bread.

And the rhubarb is in the ground, with a few sticks to remind me that it's there. I can't wait to look longingly at the sub-tropical leafage and wish that I liked the stuff.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My plot 2006

It's been a while since I put a picture up, so here's one of my new look, super-enhanced vegetable plot. Also noticeable is the squirrel-proof bird feeder. This really is impossible for them to get into, although the other day the string broke and I had to put it back up again. I have a strong feeling that they chewed it through, but they did it when it was empty, so they still failed to get any seeds. HA!

Compare it to last year, here:

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here comes the rain

Well it's now that time of year when it starts to be rainy and horrible. As opposed to that time of year when it's freezing and beautiful, which was yesterday. There's nothing quite like Britain's seasons for clear delineation.

I've been hardening off my Broad bean sproutings (they're growing so fast!) leaving them out on the doorstep during the day. I've even watered them in their paper pots with camomile tea, which I hope is more to their liking than mine. All this is to get them ready for hopeful outdoor planting in the next day or two.

I've got a couple of days off work, and the parents are coming over (mum has assured me her wellies are coming too) so there should finally be some gardening on the cards... if the rain abates, that is.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Finches in the know...

Now that I've fixed the squirrel-sabotaged bird feeder, the Greenfinches have returned to my garden. I don't know where they vanish to when there's no food,but they certainly have a good neighbourhood watch scheme and know immediately when it's back again. They're usually there in the mornings as i make a cup of tea before heading to work and are great to watch - they certainly cheer me up prior to the dreary commute into London (although they continually think it's a good idea to throw seeds into my plot - the cads).

But this morning, the finches could only offer me slight refrain from the detached boredom of 45mins travel. I was fidgety all the way to work, mainly because I had an inkling that I'd find out about the progress of my book. And peculiarly enough, I did. I've been offered a book deal with Faber & Faber. I still haven't floated down from the ceiling, and I still can't shake the horrible feeling that it's all going to be a dream when I wake up tomorrow.

The book's nothing to do with veg I'm afraid, not like Jane Perrone's, but it is about mice...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Broad beans are GO!

I finally planted my broad beans this weekend. I'd made a number of paper pots to sow them in and they're now on the bedroom window (I don't know how wise this is, as everywhere says to plant them straight out - but i thought it might give them an extra kick up the bum to get going). I guess time will tell.

I also did a bit of light digging again. (Can't over do it!) It's amazing how much better the soil is this year compared to last, when I was routinely pulling up rocks and bed springs. One small annoyance though - the extra space I've added to the plot has proved a little problematic as there is so much clay there. Realistically, it might not be that good for growing things, but I'm determined to grow extra veg in pots this year, so I should still be able to grow more produce.

If only I had a bit more time to spend outside. Roll on the clocks going forward!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Muck some rake!

Once again, things have conspired against me working too much my plot. I managed to 'muck some rake' (I have a real problem with organising those three words into the correct order when i speak), and I also gave it a good dig over. I must admit, that felt wonderful - only a few aches afterwards. That bit of work took place in the weekend that fell between the freezing conditions and the torrential downpour.

But any other free time has been sorely missing of late. This is mainly because, most unbelievably, a publisher has shown a keen interest in my children's book. It seems like such a bizarre thing to happen, and I can't quite believe it. Nothing's definite yet, but it's spurred me into action on different fronts - planning and plotting the sequels, being one.

However, back to vegetable fighting talk. My broad beans will be planted very soon, I'm determined to get that done. Time's slipping by for them, and I'm not going to miss out on their lovely sleeping bag pods this year.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Paper Potter

It was my birthday at the end of last week, and that meant too much eating and partying, and yet another weekend without digging and readying my plot. However, it also meant that I now have a brand new rake and hoe (coming in the post), and a wonderful thing called a Paper Potter for making your own plant pots.

If someone knows of more fun to be had with an old newspaper than this, then let me know. (Oh, and it's super environmentally friendly too, unless you read and use the new all-colour Guardian, like me. Bah!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jerusalem Artichoke

Another of our veg box offerings, the peculiar Jerusalem Artichoke - or nobbly, plasticky lump - didn't go down well at first. We boiled it first time round, and it went all sloppy and horrible. So I, on pain of stuffing parsnips up my nose, swore I'd never have it again.

But then the lovely Asha, well-known for growing the stuff, persuaded us to try it again. I must admit that I've noticed so many bloggers growing it in their plots and having time for the vegetable, but I didn't hold out much hope.

So, when a batch arrived once more in our box, we lightly fried it - thinly sliced like thick crisps - and now I'm absolutely smitten. Maybe I'm missing the point. I mean, all veg - even beetroot (and, can I say it... yes... no... yes... bru****s sp****s) - tastes wonderful this way. But if I can now add another vegetable to my list of dinner party 'yes please's, then it's got to be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

That shady figure in the background

As I very rarely mention the great work achieved by Katie in the garden, particularly in the realms of flowers, shrubs, and heavy maintenance, it seems fitting to dedicate a post to her. Her handiwork is not confined to the rough boundary of the garden either. Highlights include crocheted hats (I, of course provide my head as a dummy), and granny squares. Oh, and the odd bit of writing.

So when I say in future (fingers crossed) that the flowers at Anything but Sprouts have been successful, what I'm really saying is that Katie has done exceptionally well.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dig, dug, dugged

This saturday was spent digging the lawn. Or rather the newly expanded plot that's now almost twice the size. It felt good to get active in the garden again, but I'd forgotten the aches and pains that come hand in hand with digging. Occasional badminton just doesn't prepare you for hard slog. It does give you a keen eye for incoming missiles and birds though, and, just like last year, the robins were out helping me.

It was actually a day for a double dose of excitement as some seeds arrived in the post - dahlias, echinacea and assorted veg. I've decided to make a bit of an effort with flowers as well as the veg this year. I think looking at the Great Vegetable Plot by Sarah Raven, which seems to have been a popular xmas present for many bloggers (particularly at MTP), has made me realise how lovely my little bit of garden could be. I try growing flowers most years with little success - with the exception of sweet peas - but I'll give it yet another go.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Classification of fruit

Despite having a fruit and veg box from abel & cole, you don't always get all you need. And I seem to need a lot of oranges at the minute, so I bought some organic beauties. It was only then that i saw they were Class II quality. I've never paid much attention to this before (my dad moaning about the quality of the veg in his supermarket aside), but i thought I'd have a look as to what this meant.

On the Defra website, here it states that all citrus fruit must meet minimum requirements (too many to mention here). For a Class I citrus fruit it has to meet other standards as well:

Citrus fruit in this class must be of good quality. They must be characteristic of the variety and/or commercial type.
The following slight defects, however, may be allowed provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package:
- slight defect in shape
- slight defect in colouring
- slight skin defects occurring during the formation of the fruit, such as silver scurfs, russets, etc

Now for the point of this post. The oranges I bought look lovely, proper oranges, but for these to be Class II, they must have been considered more defective than 'slight'. Is this a problem that all organic produce has to face? And if so, will it ever change? Does Class II mean the produce is worth less to the grower, as I imagine a lott of it doesn't come out looking perfect? If so, is it inhibiting farmers growing organic produce due to reduced profit? Anyone know?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

And so it begins again...

It's amazing that a year has passed since I started up this blog. Great to be heading back into the year with a small amount of knowledge gained and i'll hopefully be able to put it to some use.

It's interesting seeing the cycle start up again. I've bought seeds and manure once more, (funny how there was no stigma attached to it this year - just a whiffy smell) and I've even decided to go crazy and expand my plot to twice the size and make two beds (they still won't be much compared to a normal allotment plot though). I have the space, however, and now all i need is the strength to dig it - I'm dreading pulling up the second half of the iron bed I found last year. Once again I'll be hoping to uncover a Roman fort.

Maintaining the Time Team theme, I've even come to the conclusion that, like my early forefathers, I shall be building some minor earthworks by raising the beds slightly. No Beaker pots or stone monuments, just little bumps. I'm also quite excited about laying some weed repelling sheet down and creating a little path between the beds. (Why do I find this so much more exciting than the prospect of tiling my bathroom?)

So it's all go once more. I'm swearing under oath that I won't grow sprouts again, but who can say what will happen.

Roll on Spring!