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The March Garden.

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Borrowed …

There are many reasons why we take up gardening: pleasure, health, even business. The desire for a more organic lifestyle, the urge to get involved with a growing community. Wanting to learn, wanting to teach, or just wanting to garden. It’s an investment that means a lot to so many people. But how much should […]

via Upcycling Has Never Looked So Good — AGENTS OF FIELD

Storm Doris!


Dateline 23/2/2017

10.00 a.m.

I had a good night’s sleep.

I wake up hearing the wind. The skies are clear so far but high, high clouds are being driven across the heavens. Out of the front bedroom window I look to see what has happened to the house at the end of the cul-de-sac that is having roofing felt replaced: it has stood overnight without the shell of tiles (now as I look stacked on the scaffolding alongside the house).

Within ten minutes the contractors are there, up the ladders, without, I notice in some alarm, hard hats. They sway about like sailors in a tropical storm and, when next I check, are nowhere to be seen. The roof, sans tiles will have to look after itself it seems.

But, made of sterner, if less sensible stuff, I am determined to get up on the plot. There’s digging to be done after all.

In the warmth and shelter of the car cabin – heated seats available, reversing camera, air conditioning, rain sensitive windscreen wipers – the radio is defaulting to BBC WM (local sports news/comments).

The Scouse presenter is talking about the discovery of seven planets discovered by astronomers that seem capable of supporting life and giving out news of the impacts of “Storm Doris”:

“Our road this morning, ‘cos it’s recycling day there’s bins, plastic bags, cans, tins all blowin’ along; people chasing their stuff, tryin’ to get it back …”

“… like a scene from that film … you know the one, they show it every Christmas* … stats off in black and white, then bursts into colour …”

“… guy called Steve has lost his blue bin and his garden shed. Poor Steve, wonder where that shed’s ended up …”

It hasn’t started raining here yet. At least not enough to activate the wipers. I pull in to the approach to the “top gate”. Just getting out of the car is a trial, the wind charging up the hill. I push the heavy gate open, drop in the peg that’ll hold it open, turn to go back and drive the car in … the peg has been torn out, the gate is blowing towards me at a rate of knots … I stand back as it bangs loudly against the post. Hmmm, I might have had the car part-way through that gate … this new car that I’m not allowed to carry dirty stuff in (yet)!

I decide to go in through the bottom gate; noticing as I do that there’s a new container on site. I drive around. This time, at the bottom of the slope there is a) less wind and b) the wind should be blowing the gates open rather than shut. I drive through, inspect the plots. No further depredations/progress with the boundary dispute (he has now cut off the concrete fence pots and removed his gravel boards (meaning that the soil from the allotment will, inevitably cascade onto his side of the established boundary).

But the wind is wreaking some damage.

By the time I have “inspected” the plots for any wind damage/effects my hands are freezing. And it has started raining. Discretion being the better part of valour I scuttle back to the car and leave with a screech of tyres that has Jack wondering if there’s a Hollywood get-away going on. Jack owns the nursery opposite the allotments, is an acquaintance, is oiling the hinges of a metal gate as, quite accidentally, I scream away past the school fences.

The guy on the radio is now talking to new people.

“Who’s to say there is no other life out there?”

“And how can you prove there isn’t?”

Another, more urgent voice comes on.

“Just to let your listeners know there’s a tree down in Westbourne Avenue. By the Botanical Gardens. It’s blocked the entire road. A van driver was involved. His van got crushed, but he’s OK …”

I am pulling into our drive now.

Next door a whole trampoline has blown through a fence panel and into our neighbour’s garden. It’s upside down, hooked on a fence post apparently. The two trees nearby crowned with nests are being buffeted, this way, that way: a true test for the durability of the nests.


Watch this space …

* turns out it’s The Wizard of Oz.

20 Vertical Gardening Ideas for Turning a Small Space into a Big Harvest

A wide range of ideas here, from a prolific blogger, Rachel Falco.

How to Provide

Is acreage still but a dream for you?  Consider Vertical Gardening!

Vertical gardening is nothing more than using vertical space to grow vegetables (or herbs, or flowers, even root crops), often using containers that hang on a sunny wall. Traditional gardeners have done similar things with climbing plants like squashes and beans for centuries by building trellises. Vertical gardening takes it one step further by giving non-climbing plants a space on the wall.


Paul Clarke , November 24, 2015

Vertical gardens take up less space, are easier to harvest, and easier to maintain. However, they do have their own limitations:

  • You need sunny wall space
  • If they are built too high, they can be difficult to maintain. Don’t make them taller than you can reach
  • The support system must be strong enough to handle the weight of everything
  • The supporting wall must be able to withstand a lot…

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One’s Ladybird and One’s List

Partly spontaneous, part needed-to-do mission into Walsall this morning. To get armfuls of packets of seeds ready to begin the year (which, actually of course, never ends) afresh. In preparation for this we sat down last week and talked over what we plan to grow (or try to grow as I prefer to say) and made a list.

What did we do with that list?

We stumble about in the central heated warmth getting incrementally frustrated. It turns up: in the magazine rack. Of course where else would it be but underneath a week’s worth of evening papers and the latest magazine from the National Trust (complete with an article about local stately home now under the auspices of the National Trust, Shugborough)?

We both pretend – of course – we always knew that is where we had left it.

We head to Walsall, find a parking space and stroll down to Wilko, complete with list. Feeling less like traitors than might be expected (we are deserting the bulk buy/discount offers from the site shop this year: they haven’t been well promoted and nobody from the current committee seems to want to take a lead) we are soon flinging packet after packet into the basket-cum-trolley. Vegetable seeds, flower seeds. Seed potatoes? Why not? Shallots, red onions … it’s a real shopping frenzy! A couple of bags of bird feeder refills.

Oh and a solitary, end-of-line silver Christmas decoration heart (reduced to 5p at the till).

We limp to the Costa Coffee housed in the Art Gallery and order refreshment: cappuccino, tea and something sweet.

Great thing about the Costas is the chance to read a free newspaper: I favour the I usually or the Times.

Today it is the Times; full of important stuff like how President-Elect Trump will change the world, how Brexit will mean Brexit (or not) and a couple of items that catch my quirky eye.

Seems there is little or no rain falling on the plains in Spain, so Courgettes grown there and sold here are in short supply – and prices rocketing. I smile at the wonderful folly of being able to eat “out of season” items. (we are currently snacking on “in season oranges” bought from an old-stylee fruiterers on the edge of Cannock: evocatively scented and gorgeously juicy these oranges. I am drawn to consider the normality of the twenty first century in a developed nation, compared to the world in which my grandparents, indeed my parents, inhabited.

There’s also a big page spread about a Ladybird book on Climate Change being co-authored by none other than Prince Charles. I do a double-take: really? Seems he wrote to the publishers with the suggestion and they said yes …

Actually by the seem of it; they said “yes, but …”

The but being that it would need to be vetted by actual scientists to give it a different credibility. The Times article has an element of mockery about it. For those who don’t know, or have forgotten Ladybird books were a ubiquitous set of educational children’s books about all manner of things: Steam Engines, Airports, The Vikings, The Holy Land … and now issues like climate change. Well done Penguin Books!

Prince Charles has written a Ladybird book warning of the threat of global warming

On the way home we pull up on the pavement at the bottom of “our road”. The house on the corner is undergoing massive redevelopment and the builders have been kind enough to leave the timbers from the taken-down roof available for collection. We pile as much of it as we can handle into the boot of the car and, back at home stack it in the garage where it will wait until I am next off work.

In the garden there are the earliest stirrings of territorial disputes: blackbird v. blackbird, a pair of magpies versus a second pair* (both with their eyes set on an established nest atop a silver birch tree in a nearby garden. A tiny blue tit is investigating the front of house nest box … and I have to get a move on to put up the replacement nest boxes I have been building.



* Later in the day both pairs are out matched by a couple of crows who are also showing a definite interest in the very same old nest.



Across memory’s autumn-dug, fragrant soil;

Below wheeling, squealing gulls

A sixty-some summer’s man

Limps up a rising, pot-holed track

With a bent back and a broken barrow,

Rooted to the leaf-fall, sun-bronzed skies

By a skein of light grey bonfire smoke

And the young faerie sparks that dance within it.

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The Marvellous Insanity

Image result for heath Robinson gardening

There are jobs to be done.

That’s the marvellous insanity of the human race, but especially so if you are an allotmenteer.

We are in some desperate haste to get the potato crop in: there is blight on the site (is it not inevitable, given that crops have been grown there – and intensively for over a hundred years?), the weather is getting wetter, and we have insidious keel slugs that, given time damage every tuber without appearing above ground (like Satan’s unterseebooten waging a campaign to deny us Picassos and Arran Pilots).

But, before we can, realistically get the spuds in, we have to have somewhere to store ‘em.

The garage is proving a great storehouse (of anything other than a car, of course) but needs tidying out. Especially since we are expecting a bumper crop. Not all down to our potato-green-fingered skills but to the fact that the site shop seemed to have provided more seed potatoes than we think we had ordered – and we promptly planted the whole lot: a total of twenty one rows with at least eight seed potatoes in each row: you do the computations if you can. For me ‘tis fairly simple;

Twenty one times eight = stacks!

There’s gonna be a lot of space needed. Of course we have been digging and eating the earlies – and every root has been gorgeously loaded: quantity of tubers and size! All from ground that has had home-made compost incorporated over the years, a hand full of chicken-muck pellets and some proprietary potato fertiliser in each hole with a seed spud.

We also need to tidy out said garage in order to move anything through it; our access to the rear garden is via the garage you see. Oh and to find the paper bags (Malvern Wheat Flour, Acme Horse Nuts and Niger Seeds for Birds) to ultimately put the potatoes in.

But I also decide that, to rationalise things, we probably need a two decker assembly to stack up the filled bags: using half of the floor space and allowing air to circulate.

So, after literally dumping masses of no-longer needed text books and papers into the recycling bin, sweeping the concrete floor and sending photos to our daughters* I am out the back, figuring out how to convert pallets into the shelving needed.

It needs bracing, a number of nuts and bolts and is impressive when finished. Though I do have to take it to pieces to get it inside the garage. Note to self:

“Consider working where you are going to need the product in future.”

Meanwhile I am dropping some potato peelings into the wormery when another thought strikes me. The wormery has been a successful digression but, by rights should go back into the garage over winter. Low temperatures slow down the processes and might even kill off the very productive worms. We could do with keeping it outside the back door. So perhaps I could construct a box to insulate it?

Not unusually I begin looking for suitable sizes of wood as I am bolting the pallet decking together.

It takes three half day sessions to get the potatoes dug up and transported back home. I have a new car and am discouraged from carrying “dirty stuff” – though I am not sure how long this can be kept up. Sadly, inevitably perhaps some of the tubers are indeed blighted. That dreadful, ironically unearthly stink that comes with the decay.

Alan said up on site that we were making a big mistake putting them straight into bags. So, once home we reconsider and tip the bags out onto the garage floor to dry out: Alan’s advice, grimly given at times is always worth listening to.

And we definitely needed that extra space in the garage.



*prompting the inevitable responses: “Whose garage is that then?” and “you’ve been busy!”


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