Monthly Archive March 2013

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Sustainability Next Year…No Really, This Year!

Apr 1, 2013Update. Just dug out nine (yes nine) buckets of compost from the heap making a grand total of 15 buckets of compost for this year, three more than was my target. I have about 200 sq feet of vegetable beds in the back garden and by Biointensive standards I needed about twelve to maintain the fertility of the garden. How did I achieve this miracle? There was loads of rotting leaves under hedges, the papery remains of summer vines, and just general vegetative rubbish laying about. I also had a second heap on the go in a municipal bin which had barely started rotting which didn’t give me any hope that I would be able to use it before spring had arrived. A tree on the property line was cut down by my neighbour and I had to take the thousands of twigs as well as the good wood (for my stove). I burnt all the twigs and small branches on a bonfire and added the ashes to my compost heap. There wasn’t a lot of ash produced from such a huge amount of wood, I was quite surprised. After burning it I learnt about this. Read More

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Tyntesfield

Tyntesfield Decorative Kitchen Garden

Tyntesfield Decorative Kitchen Garden

Tyntesfield is a National Trust site and therefore well kept and picturesque. It is also very expensive to enter. It also airbrushes out the lives of real people. For example, this particular site has within living memory been handed over to the NT, and the subjection of a rural working class by its landed masters is still remembered. However judging by the huge illustrated displays you would have thought everything was like a particularly pleasant episode of upstairs downstairs. No I tell a lie, there was one panel that explained why animal bones were found under the floorboards in the toilets – the servants were stealing away with the scraps from the masters table and hiding the evidence. Can you imagine being that hungry? Read More

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“Dwarf” Green Curly Kale

"Dwarf" Green Curled, now entering its third year.

“Dwarf” Green Curled, now entering its third year.

This ugly specimen is my “dwarf” green curled kale which is more normally grown as an annual. It has now reached its third birthday and has started to put on some leaf as we enter spring (allegedly). It had much more bulk to it, but I have been eating it over the last two years. Read More

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Nitrogen Fixing Plants – Check!

It’s too cold to do anything else, even though it is practically April, so I went to seven (yes, seven) garden centres around the Bristol area today. It has been my mission for some time to collect shrubbery that fixes nitrogen, thereby allowing me (a strict believer in gardens as food factories) to have other plants to look at in the garden. It should be mentioned to those who don’t know that N-fixing is a process whereby the plant with the help of bacteria collects nitrogen from the air and when I trim said plant it releases nitrogen into the soil, thus feeding other plants nearby, nitrogen being an important plant food. Read More

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Hanham Court, Hanham, Bristol

This is another site we often bring visitors to. It does, however, cost £6.50 to get in. It has changed hands, apparently, and this has told on both the quality of the planting (which is not quite as Chelsea as it was before) and by the owner (or one of her apparatchiks) following me around making sure I wasn’t stealing anything. This is, of course, the only posh half acre in Hanham so the poor darlings probably have a siege mentality by now. There is a tea room. Read More

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Barley Wood Walled Garden, Wrington, North Somerset

Barley Wood is pretty, close to Bristol and free to get in which means when we get visitors in the summer we take them here. It also has a café and toilets. For those with an interest in British gardening, the walled garden has a mystique, even though we are talking here about vegetables. Very pretty vegetables though. Read More

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Sheepdrove Herb Garden, Lambourn Berkshire

These short videos are tests really, but give you a flavour of a really nice garden we visited last year called Sheepdrove near Lambourn in Berkshire. It was designed by the Herbmeister Jekka McVicar. Read More

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Propagating Leeks Without Seeds

A cool way to propagate leeks is to let them flower in May of their second year. As the pic on the left shows (sorry a bit blurred) very often the flower head produces mini leeks instead of flowers. This was May last year by the way, it’s taken me this long to get round to posting this. The mini-leeks are called Pips or Grass, depending on who you listen to. I’m going to call them pips (cos I like the word) and I ought to mention I learnt how to do this via the interwebfacepage when I first saw the strange things on my leek flower heads. I’ve tested this process by doing it and I’m now eating the leeks. Google leek pips if you want to learn more. I should add on the informationspacesuperhighwaypage the real pros delay the growing of the pips until next year (by keeping in the shade I think) and then growing on quickly from spring onwards to make normal large leeks. Read More

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Lost Onions

Egyptian Walking Onions dividing, clumping and forming bulbils

Egyptian Walking Onions dividing, clumping and forming bulbils

In October of last year I planted my Elephant Garlic, Egyptian Walking Onions, Shallots and Banana Shallots. At home I am used to overwintering alliums, and indeed in the back garden my walking onions grew over winter, retaining and even tillering, their green leaves. Tough old plants you would think. All the other alliums in my back garden lose their tops and shrink into their bulbs over winter but not the walking onion and it wasn’t just this year either, the same thing happened last winter. I ate all the old walking onions last summer, these are the bulbils from the top of the plant that I planted straight away and which grew on. Read More

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A Sustainable Gardening Manifesto

We’re on the cusp of spring, Monty Don is back on the telly, my peas are warm in their cold frame and after long months of a British winter I reckon I’ve got it sorted for this coming year in the garden and allotment. And yes, I say that every year.

I have a plan that I reckon will work and though I thought I was a permaculturist it involves annual vegetables, digging and composting. On the face of it, those things aren’t what you would normally associate with permaculture, but for an urban gardener growing organically, without outside fertilizers (closed loop) and with very limited space to grow Read More

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