Tag Archive organic

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Chop ‘n’ Drop

My quest to reduce – or stop entirely – inputs into my vegetable plots continues. As usual I look down at my compost heaps with dissapointment as the huge piles of organic matter I had accumalated vanish into thin air. Or leave thin layers of “black gold” topped with woody matter. I’m tugged both ways in the compost / sheet mulching debate. What I have learnt over the last year is that slugs and snails dissapear if they have nowhere to hide. So you would think that would mean mulches would be out then in my gardens. Indeed, on the allotment, nary a mollusc could be found – and that was down to a religious determination to tidy the place up. Grass paths trimmed, weeds weeded and rubbish put on the compost heap. I’m not one to follow advice (stubborn I’m told) but I wish I had, because the same story is always told – if you want to keep the gastropods away tidy up!. Read More

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Stroking Bees and Counting Pumpkins

Pyramid of skulls...uh...pumpkinsMy current pile of squashes (not counting courgettes – which are scoffed straight away) are sat on the table in our living room where I can admire them and remind myself just why I am growing vegetables. They have hard skins and some sound hollow. I’m hoping they will last well into winter – here’s hoping.

IMAG0801And there’s more to come. Some frenzied feeding, watering and cosseting that I’ve been doing (because I can feel the onset of autumn and I’m panicking) seem to have had an effect and all the squash plants have started growing more fruit. That is except for one. I have read him the riot act and he knows his days are numbered unless he bucks his ideas up.

I can’t say I’ve had a glut but veggies are definitely trickling into the house and it has made everything worth it. My knowledge is increasing as I do it, so I know it should be even better year after year.I’ve dug up my potato onions which a kind man who specialises in breeding these veggies (you know who you are) sent to me. I have 12, losing 5 to slugs and English weather but the photo to the left shows the results. Some of them are small but I got the seed late in the year and I am very pleased. They show a high variety of characteristics: flask shaped, torpedo shaped, round, white and yellow, even with a touch of red.

If you have never heard of potato onions, you may have heard of multiplier onions, they are just like shallots in that they reproduce by dividing and not by seed. That is they don’t normally set seed: very, very rarely they do and my potato onions are the product of this. The onions shown will be my seed onions for next year, which I will cosset under glass until I am sure of the security of my stock.

Potato onions from seedI have now stroked the backs of two bumble bees in the garden, a summer hobby taught to me by the missus who has been doing such bonkers things for some time. Are these potentially painful friends actually drunk on nectar as she suggests. Does anyone know?

Bumble bee drunk on nectar, unable to escape my strokingTalking of ecosystems, as you know I have been controlling slugs and snails not by chemicals but by the force of my size 12 boots. Well the smeared corpses of my gastropodic enemies led to an explosion of blue bottle flies which for three weeks were everywhere and very annoying. We’re talking scores of them.

Well, yesterday I noticed a reduction in the number of bluebottles as well as an explosion in spider webs and spiders. Over the next few hours I watched the spiders eat the bluebottles with a growing sense of horror until today the bluebottles have gone and the spiders have packed up their webs and gone elsewhere.

Not only is this the sort of pest control that organic gardeners have been pointing out works in nature, it is also the sort of existential horror story that I have heard about but never experienced first hand. Not just that I created the feeding frenzy by providing the food for the bluebottle breeding frenzy in the first place. This ghastly story played out thanks to my actions.

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Annuals vs Perennials

Perennial vegetable growing is a bit of a buzzword for permaculture types and very often the question is asked – why are annual veggies grown when perennial ones are just so much easier and sustainable?. Take rhubarb and asparagus, frinstance, very traditional perennial veg that everyone knows about – big yields and very popular on allotments everywhere. Why have we not replaced all our annuals with such fine perennial equivalents? Read More

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