New Crops and Talk Talk being the worst phone company I have been with.


New Crops and Talk Talk being the worst phone company I have been with.

Sorry for not posting for some time, I have been a busy (and this year, successful) gardener, I just have been locked out of my broadband by my phone company: Talk Talk. Talk Talk are a dreadful company. My phone line went down and two months later they still haven’t sent an engineer to fix it. The customer service people that I talked to were all lovely but not one managed to achieve the objective of sending someone round and some didn’t achieve objectives such as ‘definitely, definitely’ calling me back. They often tried phoning me on a line that doesn’t work and texted me on my mobile to let me know that. When I phoned them back I was stuck with a computerised switch board that wouldn’t let me talk to anyone. I was continually told that there was nothing wrong with my line and I was getting 20m a second, but then I’d explain that I’ve got no dial tone and the wrong lights on my router. They’d then say that there was something wrong and they’d send someone. But they wouldn’t.

Absolutely appalling company.

Anyway, gardening. This Spring and Summer I have been doing a sort of polycultural, close, mixed planted vegetable garden, mostly annuals this year, but still trying to keep a sustainable style by reducing outside fertilisers and composts to as near as nothing as I can. Vegetables are very greedy and after a few years of doing this I have realised I am not easily going to achieve satisfactory results. So I have added two important inputs and hope to reduce these in the future. These inputs are peelings and waste paper (and cardboard) from the house and two trees worth of autumn leaves that I composted with my regular compost material. This made a really good addition to the compost, helping to make it really crumbly and brown and breaking down really quite quickly. I gathered it in autumn and was using the final product in June. It works well but you have to use quite a lot of it. So, under my runner beans I have a 3 inch mulch of it over the soil.

Why two trees worth of autumn leaves, I hear you ask? Well there are about 400,000 people in Bristol and about 200,000 trees on public land. If we ever get to the point (as Cuba did in the 90’s and as our country did during the last war) of requiring as a matter of public policy that urban areas grow food without fertilisers then I couldn’t conceive of more than 1 in 4 people needing to resort to this free organic matter. Therefore my fair share is two trees worth of autumn leaves. Being a greedy bastard I chose the two biggest I could find. It’s obviously dodgy reasoning but I reckon it probably wouldn’t be far off should the cataclysm/revolution/third world war/ice caps melt/oil runs out/zombie outbreak take place. It worked really well, so well that it overcame my guilt at breaking a long standing attempt to be closed loop.

I have grown and harvested, so far: spring onions, garlic, peas(!), spuds, oriental salads, lettuces (very productive and when they go bitter are good cooked in soups I discovered), broad beans, kailaan and some tomatoes are being picked in the greenhouse. Because I covered my late winter/ early spring sowings with plastic hoops (and a second cloche beneath such) I was able to mature most of it and eat it before starting the summer crops of squashes, runner beans and tomatoes. Apart from the tomatoes in the greenhouse (which I use bought fertiliser on, being new to greenhouse gardening) I have used no bought fertilisers, manures or composts (apart from a bag of seed compost for seedlings).

I, as always, spend a fortune on seeds each year, like a kid in a sweetshop. This year I have tried some duds and some *really* excellent new crops. First the duds:

  • Latvian Soup Pea. It has pretty purple flowers and does keep setting new pods you only get an average of 4 seeds per pod and they don’t taste wonderful the way a pea should. None of the purple flowering peas taste good apart from Golden Sweet and I find that difficult to grow and not all that productive.
  • ‘Winter Marvel’ Lettuce. It bolted quicker than other lettuces sown earlier.
  • ‘Crimson Crush’ Tomatoes. Nearly a dud – it has time to redeem itself. The blight resistant tom is variable, some are dwarf, some have San Marzano like fruit. None are cherries. We’ll see.

But the cool ones outshine the bad ones:

  • Celtuce. Chinese stem lettuce. This is a really good vegetable. The stem gets really fat and when the skin is sliced off it can be diced and put into soups. The texture is great and it soaks up flavours really well. I love this one and I’m saving seeds now.
  • Lord Leicester Pea. It doesn’t last until until the end of the season, mine lasted until early July – not the same thing. A handsome plant though and produces tasty peas with plenty in the pods. Grows tall.
  • Vegetable Mallow. Good looking plants with tasty leaves that are slimy in the same way that okra is slimy.

Anyway, that’s enough for today. I promise not to wait so long next time.


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