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...