Showing posts from October, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

About 5 miles from here is the village of Bromham where the surrounding fields are currently crammed with leeks, cabbages, parsnips and kale, plus one littered with cushion-like pumpkins. Unlike my clayey lime garden and plot, the soil here is light, reddish in colour and a good loam: just right for growing vegetables. However, the local farm shop in this area (belonging to V & P Collins) has just one thing on its mind at the moment...
NB Hurrah, I have a couple of biscuit (aka cookie) themed guest posts today: the first one is here and the second one is winging its way through the ether at dusk.

YAWA: Your Events Guide for November

We're enjoying an Indian summer during the last days of October here in England, but the heavy weather forecast for Sunday means that we should get out tomorrow to places like Westonbirt Arboretum (pictured above) and enjoy the last of autumn's fiery leaves before they're all blown away. Once the storm's over, you might like to seek out one of the events the You Ask, We Answer team have found to help while away the darker days of November.

All month: A couple of writing events - you can either release your inner novelist by signing up for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), or if that sounds a bit like too much hard work, you could elect to post something on your blog every day this month instead. It's called National Blog Posting Month, aka NaBloPoMo and you can write about anything and make it as long or short as you like!

2nd-8th November: British Sausage Week. A celebration of all things banger and rather apt in view of the other events scheduled over …

VPGGB #11: A Gentle Plea for Bulbs

Unlike last year I was going to be quite restrained with my bulb buying this time, honest guv. But when packets like the one shown above wink at you from the shelf, who am I to say no? Besides, when I went to see Anna Pavord's talk on her new book, Bulb recently, her parting shot was Splurge, it's the only way. It was a bit of a siren call and I now find myself buying them at every opportunity. BTW Jane Perrone went to see her at the Garden Museum recently and has saved me the trouble of translating my notes for you from the ones I wrote inthe dark, by publishing a full account here.

It's a good year for bargain bulbs: EmmaT's been potting up some tulips and I've found a further selection at Chippenham's Focus DIY store (including species tulips and Quail daffodils) at 3 fat packs for a fiver. The pictured bumper pack came from a small nursery in Somerset (Rocky Mountain), so it's not just the big chains getting in on the act. It's not too late to plant …

ABC Wednesday 5: O is for...

... Open Pollinated Seed Varieties

Crumbs - what a mouthful. Do bear with me on this, as I'm trying to make things clear for myself as well as for you. If I'm not succeeding, let me know in the Comments!

This one's also for Karen because she asked which seeds I'd grabbed in the swap at the bloggers get together in Oxford on Saturday. Let's get the non-seed items out of the way first shall we? Ben from Real Seeds gave me a couple of blight resistant Will potatoes he's been growing. From garlic guru Patrick I had a very healthy looking head of Music and who could resist a couple of Tristan's (who has an organic market garden) enormous cloves of elephant garlic? Emma didn't either!

Any saved seed, like the packets you see here from Ben (tomato Tomatito de jalapa and Morton's secret mix of very different lettuces) and Vicki from the Heritage Seed Library (Bean Cherokee Trail of Tears, Leek Colossal and Beetroot Long Blood Red) were from what's called o…

Product Test: Air-Pot Results

Previously here on Veg Plotting, I've told you about how I got involved in trialling a new method of growing vegetables using an Air-Pot, a rather strange looking planter riddled with holes. I also updated you a while ago on how well things were going and also told you about how I was comparing them alongside using old compost bags.

Today it's time to reveal the final results and the photo shows the total number of potatoes from both trials. From left to right we have Edzel Blue potatoes from the compost bag, followed by the Air-Pot, then Yukon Gold potatoes from the compost bag and finally the same potato variety from the Air-Pot. As you can see the results aren't that spectacular for pot or bag, nor for each potato variety. In terms of weight the pots yielded 575 grammes of potatoes and the compost bags 950 grammes. So the bags have yielded nearly twice as many potatoes in terms of weight, from a slightly smaller number of them.

I've been asked by the company who gav…

Food Growing Bloggers Get Together '09

I thought last year's inaugural event couldn't be topped, but once again Pat and Steph (aided by Juleanne of INASP) did us proud and laid on a packed programme for our get together in Oxford on Saturday. The venue was most apt for us - a tranquil garden in the heart of Oxford at Restore. This project helps people with mental health issues learn life skills, including horticultural ones. The result is two productive allotments, plus the pictured garden. It's looking good despite the pouring rain.
Our meeting's even made YouTube as Soilman filmed Emma giving a Q&A session on her Alternative Kitchen Garden. Thank goodness he didn't choose me giving a preview of the post I've planned for later on this week on the results of my airpot product test! Vicki gave a talk on the work of the Heritage Seed Library, Ben from Real Seeds illustrated very succinctly some of the issues surrounding GM, Dr Simon Platten introduced us to the anthropological side to allotmenteeri…

A Slice of (Big) Apple Pie

I'm indebted to Daryl for sending me this image from her marvellous blog about life in New York, which in turn she got from a friend. I often return to it, even after 18 months or so as it still makes me giggle and ponder a little. That bottom section's painfully true - I managed to lose an entire packet of autumn onion sets up at the allotment the other day within minutes of putting them down 'somewhere' *. I also wonder what to replace Working with - Blogging in the winter and Gardening in the summer perhaps?
If you were to sum up your life in a pie chart, what would it look like?
I'm off to Oxford tomorrow for the Food Growing Bloggers get together (yippee and hopefully another slice of Cat's delicious marmalade topped apple pie will be available just like last year), followed by a workshop on potatoes on Sunday. Have a great weekend everyone and see you on Monday :)
Oh, and UK bloggers don't forget: there's the possibility of an extra hour's lie-in…

The YAWA Dictionary: Butt Updated

Early readers of this blog might recall the confusion I caused over the pond when referring to my butt. It led to my publishing the above picture and explaining how I use it to store water on my plot - you can have a look here if you'd like to see the original post.
However, sometimes the different meanings are deliciously combined and the word becomes completely irresistible to the You Ask, We Answer team ;)

You can see this and the other YAWA dictionary entries here. NBMr. McGregor's Daughter and Gail @ Clay and Limestone, I've added Marmite to the list after your comments last week :)
If you have something which you think the YAWADictionary team should be investigating to improve international garden blogging understanding and fun, do add your suggestions in the Comments below.
The YAWA Dictionary: adding meaning to your garden blogging

ABC Wednesday 5: N is for...

...Niggling Nuisance

How apt we're at N this week and I can use the words Niggling Nuisance to sum up my blogging situation at the moment. Last Friday the graphics card on my PC gave up the ghost: it's incredibly hard to blog anything when you're staring at a blank screen :(

NAH's come to my rescue and rigged up the spare laptop, so I can continue talking to you. It belonged to my late father-in-law, is at least 6 years old and limps along. The internet grinds to a halt every time the fan switches on, which is every few minutes. That's just about bearable if I don't spend too long online, so my apologies for not getting around and visiting you all as often as I usually do.

The most frustrating thing for me is the complete lack of access to my pictures, so various posts I've planned are stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future. Luckily, I had some articles pencilled in for the winter months which I've pressed into service this week because I'd either u…

From The Editor's Post Bag...

It's been a while since we've had a Question Time here on Veg Plotting, mainly due to the majority of the search hits I've had the past few months being from people obsessed with making preserves. My jam recipes are so popular, I've been wondering whether I've chosen the right subjects to blog about. However, now the darker evenings are here, a much wider range of queries are finding their way into the editor's postbag my site statistics.

Unfortunately for everyone seeking the Orange advert, they've had to make do with a view of Bristol's public planting instead. Whilst that fair city is host to said telephone company's HQ, I'm sure I haven't provided what they're seeking. I'm also sure that the query Everyone has these on their faces isn't looking for my Red Nose Day jokes either, but hopefully they left here in a better mood than when they arrived.

Unlike these examples, most of the searches hitting my blog seem to have had an…

Unusual Front Gardens #4: Llanychaer

I'm indebted to Mark for the above picture - plus another - which he took on one of his frequent visits to Wales. In the accompanying email he said:

These pictures were taken at Llanychaer in the Gwaun Valley, Pembrokeshire.
The garden also has a kitchen range built into the wall, but I forgot to photograph it. If you look carefully at the shot of the wall you will see it has tools built into it - a coal grid? as well as the millstones. But it is the loo and the sculpture that I like best - I think it might be a farmer / rat catcher - or is it a miner?
My money's on it being a farmer as Pembrokeshire's not in Welsh coal country - what do you think? I'm particularly grateful to Mark for this picture as I set out to take a photo of the alternative 'bog garden' round the corner from me a couple of months ago, only to find the owners had moved and taken it with them! Mark's version of this particular garden genre is much more spectacular, so out of my disaster his…

Out on the Streets: Wrap-up for September

Oops, September's been and gone for nearly three weeks and I've only just got round to my wrap-up post for Out on the Streets. However, it has resulted in a bumper crop of posts and many of you have taken the time to revisit the topic, which is simply brilliant.

Not only did Anna revisit OOTS twice, she also revisited her subject for June, one of Liverpool's public parks. It was interesting to see how this area had changed in just 3 short months. She also got out her holiday snaps and showed us just how good French public planting (here and here) is in the process. Carrie carried on this theme by telling us about her trip to Brittany.

Chicago also featured strongly: Alice was most taken with the on-street planters she found. I was pleased she did as several Spring Flingers have commented on how good they were and here at last is the evidence. Frances reminded us just how marvellous The Lurie is, as well as telling us about her favourite local nursery which also makes up lus…

'Garden' Visit: Westonbirt Arboretum

Many thanks to those of you who were so complimentary about the autumnal scene outside my back window yesterday. However, it's a mere trifle compared to the trip NAH and I made to Westonbirt Arboretum a couple of days ago. Our timing was perfect: blue skies and plenty of sunshine allowed the trees to show off at their best. I took loads of photos, but I feel nothing comes close to the atmosphere of the above shot. No doubt the best of the rest will find their way over to Sign of the Times over the next few days. In the meantime, you can have a quick tour via the Westonbirt website if you look here.

After a picnic in the warm sunshine, we started our walk in Silk Wood as we rarely go there. We were too late for the spindles' display (various deciduous Euonymus species, just their bright orange seeds were left), but timed it just right for the Acers. Silk Wood houses the national collection of maples, so I wandered around happily exclaiming over the richness of their leaf colour…

GBBD - Fiery October

Autumn's well and truly upon us and this scene is the one I'm seeing from the back windows for most of the day. It's the ash tree by the side of the house, perfectly poised to eat up most of the sun's rays at this time of the season. Last year, oranges were the main autumnal hue, this one seems more fiery. Perhaps September's sun and drought have made it thus. Now we've had over an inch of rain in the past week, so we not only have the tints of Autumn, the earth now has that characteristic smell of decay about it.

I found a red admiral in the kitchen yesterday, angrily trying to fly out of the closed patio door. It was dangerously close to the cobwebs by the cat baskets and it was only a matter of time before they captured it, or Jess alerted by its mad fluttering would come and play catch. I hastily opened the door and gently cupped the butterfly in my hands so I could set it free. It may have had the most ragged of wings, but it flew away strongly up into the …

ABC Wednesday 5: M is For...


I know I've used this for the letter Mpreviously, but it's high time I responded to Carrie's invitation from aaaaaaages ago to tell you 10 things you don't know about me already. I've been tagged in this way before, so you might want to catch up with the story so far by looking here and here, whilst not forgetting here. BTW I've seen a number of people wonder recently what a meme is, speculating it's all about me and the navel gazing egos we sometimes display whilst blogging. That may be so, but it does have an academic meaning too, coined by Richard Dawkins no less, which you can read about here.

Without any further ado, here's my pick of 10 things you might not know about me:
I love crunchy peanut butterI hate marmiteI can do tricks with a diaboloI can't juggle with more than 2 objectsThe sweet smell of freesias knocks my socks offThe vile smell of tea makes me feel sickI've eaten a whole lemonI've yet to try an ugli fruitI haven'…

Harvest Home

We had the first ground frost of the season forecast for last night, so in spite of an already packed schedule*, I scurried up the allotment early yesterday morning to harvest the rest of the squash, pumpkins and courgettes before they turned to mush. The pictured crate is the results of my labours and includes some windfall apples and pears as well as the aforementioned cucurbits.

My discovery of the year comes courtesy of Threadspider. She gave me some plants she had spare in the summer to replace my failed squash and pumpkin sowing. It turned out they included the marvellously curled Tromba di Albenga on the right of the picture. Picked young they're the most delicious courgette, left to mature they're more like a squash. I value them not only for their taste and productivity, but also for making me giggle every time I find one under the rampant leaves of their mother plant. In their early days they curl right round on themselves, reminding me of rather chunky bracelets. Ve…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #9

Start a very successful farm shop and cafe business on the outskirts of ChippenhamEnsure you have a wide range of organic goods with which to tempt your customersConstantly change your stock so that only the freshest of items are on displayWait for a blogger with a camera to notice you've not been quite so good at changing your signageEt voila!I think the squirrels must have taken them, just like they have from the hazel trees at the side of the house ;)

HA - I've Been MORI-ed

Do you find yourself shouting at the telly or radio when the results of the latest opinion poll are revealed? NAH and I do - it's usually something along the lines of who on earth do they use in these polls? or that's nothing like me!

Well, on Friday evening the phone rang. As usual, I answered it suspiciously and steeled myself to hear some sort of salesman on the line, probably phoning from India. Instead I got a rather polite American woman.

Polite woman: Good evening ma'am, I'm from Ipsos MORI and I'm working on the latest opinion poll, would you mind sparing about 10 minutes of your time to give me the benefit of your thoughts?

Me (still suspicious - it could be one of those telephone scams you hear about, but taken by surprise as well): Errrrr yes, that's fine.

MORI: Firstly I need to ask you some preliminary questions, so I don't ask you irrelevant ones later. Tell me, are you pregnant?

Me (wishing for once I had a video phone): No

MORI: Would you say…

Showtime: Grand Designs Live

At the last place I worked, one of the TV programmes bound to set tongues wagging the next day was Grand Designs. It's perfect viewing - and discussion - fodder: hosted by an intelligent, thoughtful presenter with jaw dropping projects (self-build homes or major refurbishments) and lots of high drama along the way. Each episode follows a project over a number months - sometimes years - from inception through (usually) to completion with Kevin McLeod's concluding analysis of the result.
So when James mentioned he was to feature at the show version of the programme at the NEC (aka National Exhibition Centre - you can also read about our first ever meeting there), I needed no further incentive to go and see for myself.
However, I was Mrs Grumpy by the time I arrived at the above view of the NEC. Note to the organisers: please do not put on your event at the same time as The Horse of the Year Show. It took me an hour to drive the last 3 miles, only then to be herded into the car …

Autumn: Reasons to be Cheerful Part 1

Last year I moaned about Autumn and was roundly told off by Emmat for doing so. This year I'm endeavouring to be a better person and to appreciate all the good things on offer this season. After all it's all too easy to do so in the spring or summer, not like now when there are darker days ahead.
So here's my guide to what I'm loving about autumn this year:
Leaf colour, naturally. Apparently they're due to peak at Westonbirt this week, so I'm off there on Sunday with my SUP pals D and S. It seems to be a little earlier this year - what do you think?Kicking my way through enormous piles of leaves. I've done this since ever I was a small child, in spite of NAH's dire warnings nowadays of finding dog poo in there. I never have, but it must have traumatised him somewhat because he warns me about it every flipping yearHot, buttered crumpets after all that leaf kickingGiant firework displays - this post is rapidly exposing how much of the small child is still…

National Poetry Day: Heroes and Heroines

You're simply the best,
Better than all the rest,
Better than anyone,
Anyone I've ever met!

I'm stuck on your heart,
I hang on every word you say
Tear us apart, baby
I would rather be dead

OK, I've chosen lyrics rather than a conventional poem for National Poetry Day, but they're relevant for the heroes and heroines story I'm going to tell you about. I'm showing you a picture from the Special Olympics opening ceremony in Dublin in 2003 and that's world hero Nelson Mandela, in the white top, officially opening the proceedings just after being led onto the stage by Bono from U2. Imagine how I felt to be there experiencing that for real!

I was one of 30,000 volunteers helping 7,000 athletes with special needs from around the world to realise their full potential and focus on the things they could do for once. The Irish nation took every one of them to their hearts and I had the privilege of looking after Bahrain's ladies basketball team. It was 10 days of compe…

ABC Wednesday 5/ Garden Visit: L is For...

... Lackham Country Park
On the surface Lackham Country Park has a lot to offer. It's just a five minute journey from where I live, the entrance fee is relatively inexpensive and there's a leaflet available to take you on an historical journey around the gardens. It has large grounds with small rural life museum housing both traditional buildings like the one shown above and also farming implements...

... plus an historic house built on a site which has had a manor house on there in various shapes and forms for 1,000 years. It was the headquarters of General Patton and American troops just before the WWII D-Day landings and today often plays host to weddings.

There's views across the large lawn to Lackham Farm and the countryside beyond leading down to the meandering River Avon...

... plus an orchard and a walled kitchen garden with pear trees waiting for their partridges...

... whilst not forgetting colourful flowers...

... and productive beds including a display of wartime veg…

OOTS: Public Planting Gets Political

It appears I'm not alone in my campaign for better public planting - hurrah! The Human Shrub will be taking the Conservative Party Conference by storm tomorrow morning with a bit of light container gardening outside the conference centre in Manchester to highlight poor open space provision in new developments. This is a joint event with the Greening the UK campaign, who have compiled a report recently on the subject. I hope to obtain my own copy soon to see if I can add anything to my notes from the Public Space workshop.
I first came across the Human Shrub during the summer and I've been waiting for an opportune moment to tell you all about him. He's been highlighting Colchester's public spending cuts which led to the town's tubs and baskets being left bare this year. He planted them up himself and also demonstrated outside the Town Hall whilst wearing an antihero style costume. He's also rather concerned that the Blue Peter Garden may be lost when the programm…

OOTS: Public Space Workshop: Management

At the end of last week we looked at some of the things to bear in mind during the design stage. Of course that's not the whole story: once a scheme is planted up, its aftercare needs to be addressed. Budgetary constraints often means this is minimal and it was interesting to see this was a painful issue for the event's host. After all, if I'd spent a great deal of time making sure my nursery's plants are of the best quality, I'd be upset if I then saw them being poorly looked after or dying on the streets.
For example, on the way back from our nursery visit in the afternoon we passed a long row of multi-stemmed Prunus serrula, no more than 2 years old. They were dying because the design had them perched on the top of low mounds and surrounded by grass. This was taking all the available moisture and so the trees hadn't been able to get their roots down to the now relatively lower water table than if they'd been planted at street level. It was painful to se…

Chippenham's Reel Deal

There's some good news this week about Chippenham's cinema, the Astoria. It may not look up to much, but it is independent, manages to show a variety of films every week on its 2 screens and is one of just five in Wiltshire. It's also extremely central, so most of the town's population is within a 20 minute walk away. We prefer to go there over the multiplexes in Swindon, though we've also been going to the Palace cinema in Devizes quite a bit lately.

For a number of years there's been rumours of a multiplex opening on one of our outer industrial estates. This would mean most people would have to drive there. It would also bring the relative freedom of our young people to an end, who go there regularly without the need of being taken there by their parents. A retrograde step in our view.
Three weeks ago the adjacent Bingo Hall closed at short notice and it now appears the cinema owners have plans to convert it back to show films again - on a further 3 screens. In…

YAWA: Your Events Diary for October

September's sunshine and lack of rain means the flowers are still going strong - just like my new Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' above - though the trees look like they're suffering from the lack of water. Now October's here, autumn's threatening to kick in properly, so I've had the You Ask, We Answer team hunkered down to find the best seasonal treats on offer this month:

4th: Mangold Hurling Championships, Sherston. Unusual sport with vegetables doesn't get any better than this traditional game from Somerset. The Mangold Hurling website tells you everything you need to know and more. However, Wiltshire is leading the way and the Gazette and Heraldreports there's a bumper crop this year. Glutbuster recipes have been devised by the local chutney company (soup) and the pub formerly frequented by Prince Harry has mangold crisps on the menu.
8th: National Poetry Day. As last year, Flighty will be collating blogging contributions. This year's theme is Heroe…

Public Space Workshop: Approach to Design

This is the third in a series summarising the Public Space workshop I attended on 24th September. I introduced you to the speakers here and gave you an overview on Tuesday. Today I'm looking at the approach to design: my asides to the presenters' comments are shown in [square] brackets.
We had speakers from two very different schools of thought on the day. Richard Bisgrove is firmly rooted in our historical gardens, particularly those of Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson and has also served on the National Trust's Gardens Panel. As with many English gardeners and designers, Richard's resultant approach is consideration of texture, form and colour groupings.
On the other hand Brita von Schoenaich has grown up with plantings informed by the landscape and nature surrounding her. Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury have made this approach much more familiar to us in the UK. She was involved in the design of the naturalistic planting at Garden Organic which is pictured above.…