Showing posts from January, 2014

Illuminating Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey has a fabulous event on at the moment to celebrate the photograph's 175th birthday.

It's called Illuminating Lacock Abbey and I liked how the lights were also placed outside the Abbey's grounds to greet and guide visitors. It's great to have a local event which helps to brighten up a gloomy winter's evening.

We're not that far away from the Abbey's forthcoming snowdrop weekends, so I was also on a recce to see how these were faring.

There are quite a few just beginning to peep through, with the promise of more to come. Eranthis were also brightening up the gloom and some of the trees on the drive up to the Abbey were helping to light the way.

Some of the deeper shades are reserved for the cloisters. Both inside...

... and out.

One side of the cloisters also gave a view towards a projection of a leaf image. I liked its juxtaposition with the tree forming an arch over the doorway. The original image was created by placing the leaf on top of a pie…

Veg Journal Giveaway: The Result

Congratulations to CJ who's the lucky winner of Charles Dowding's Veg Journal. I'm looking forward to seeing the results over at her fine blog :)

If you'd like your own copy, don't forget there's a special offer available from the publisher at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99). Telephone 01903 828503, or email them and quote the offer code APG69.

OR, send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, and send it to: Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3RB. Please quote the offer code APG69 and include your name and address details.

* = UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Salad Days: Roots n Shoots

Winter's continued to be mild here at VP Gardens, so technically setting up my new seed sprouter (courtesy of Victoria) hasn't really been necessary as we have plenty of fresh salad leaves to hand already.

Force of habit from 2 years of salad challenging has kept me doing this; besides you never know when the weather might take a turn for the worst and turn the outdoor stuff to mush. I was also keen to try out a sprouter with dividers. It means I can easily sprout 4 different seeds at a time in the same space, so the flavours available are doubled :)

It's also meant I'm able to get up close and personal with the seeds' roots. I love how growing differently at this time of the year adds a new perspective to what we do. I usually line the trays with kitchen paper, so I'm glad I forgot this time.

The instructions which came with this sprouter advised rinsing the seeds with a 1% bleach solution first. I've only come across this when preparing tomato seed for s…

Puzzle Corner: How Did You Do?

Here's the solution to the Gardener's Word Grid I published I last week. How did you do?

The link takes you to the original cryptic puzzle, if you missed it the first time round and fancy having a go.

There are more puzzles to come, once I've devised them!

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

This is quick reminder about this weekend's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch from the unlikeliest of spots: the ladies loo at Bridgewater Services on the M5. I spotted this advert above the hand dryers at the end of January last year and I saved it especially for today!

Forget the dates you see in the picture, the ones for this year are the 25th and 26th January. Here's to finding an hour this weekend with plenty of birds :)

The ladies loo at Bridgewater Services seems to do a nice line in odd juxtapositions: here's another one I took for Sign of the Times.

Vegetable Tourism: A Surprising Project Outcome

Last year, we learnt a little about Incredible Edible Todmorden and the crowdfunded book which Joanna Dobson and her partner are writing to help spread the word. I'm delighted that with your help, the fundraising target was met and work has commenced on the final stages of publishing.
Joanna has kindly kept her promise to return to Veg Plotting as my guest to tell us more about the project and how it's grown ('scuse pun) into more than just one town...

When the founders of Incredible Edible Todmorden began sneaking vegetable plants into public spaces six years ago, they had no idea that they would attract attention from all over the world.
But when word got out that a town in west Yorkshire was growing food for everyone to share, the interest began to snowball.
The Incredible Edible pioneers wanted to create a stronger, kinder, greener town by bringing people together around local food.
In just a short space of time they have seen all the town’s schools become involved in…

Let's Talk About the Birds and Bees

Last year I received an intriguing invitation to Camley Street Natural Park for the launch of Birds and Bees, an "ethical bird feed company". My initial thought was "hmmm, all bird feed is ethical, right?"

If ethical means providing the right kind of food to ensure our garden birds survive the winter, then perhaps all suppliers fit this term. However, there are a few companies out there who are prepared to take things further. Birds and Bees is one of those.

The key difference is the company is working with wildlife friendly farmers to source the bird feed's cereals component from them. This means the farmers have a guaranteed buyer, which in turn encourages them to continue to farm in this way. As the grants paid to wildlife friendly farmers via the recently reformed Common Agricultural Policy are lower than what was lobbied for, this may help to make up the shortfall.

This isn't an overnight idea. Rob Allan has been wildlife friendly farm manager for ove…

Book Review: Charles Dowding's Vegetable Journal

This is the latest offering from no-dig gardening guru Charles Dowding and is essentially an updated reprise of his earlier Veg Course in bite-size monthly chunks. Seeing part of Charles's philosophy is to do 'little and often', his Veg Journal sits well with this premise.

After a very brief introduction, we're straight into January and setting up for the coming growing season. February sets out the argument for the no-dig approach and March deals with the types of beds, plus their pros and cons. April sees the creation of our no-dig beds. We're also into the growing season proper at this point, with the growing of each crop introduced at the appropriate sowing time. Woven into the mix are various general information articles on weeds, pest control, crop rotation etc.

Each month is completed with a list of jobs, plus there are blank pages inserted at various points for the reader to keep their own notes and for the book to be in keeping with its title. As with mos…

Puzzle Corner: A Gardener's Word Grid

The bumper Radio Times cryptic crossword is a Christmas favourite here at VP Gardens, so perhaps it was no surprise my brain started devising some garden-related clues of its own. I then had a lot of fun trying to arrange them into some kind of grid, falling just short of the classic symmetry of a full-blown crossword.

I hope you enjoy completing this as much as I did devising it. I'll publish the solution next week.

A few days after putting this together, I learnt it's the crossword's centenary. This knowledge, combined with my endeavours meant I simply had to buy a copy of John Halpern's The Centenary of the Crossword. It's perfect reading for puzzle lovers :)

Further puzzles will appear on Veg Plotting from time to time. In the meantime, there's my Garden Finder Wordsearch and Garden Scramble to have a go at, if you missed them previously.

How Do You Say Garden?

Here's a quick extra post for the week because I love this discovery from yesterday's Guardian.

I'm particularly delighted to see Denmark's translation of  "garden" is haven and the potential for us to drink sodas in Lithuania.

You can take the link to the original article see how the word 'cat' translates across Europe and to have a play with the map yourself. There are also some FYI links on there which my Print Screen version hasn't captured.

GBBD: The Return of the Cyclamen...

...aka sometimes neglect works.

I have a confession: last year I didn't make up my summer pots properly. I was in a tearing hurry so I didn't replace all the compost and I simply shoved in the summer plants where the winter ones had been just moments before.

It means I'm enjoying this cyclamen for a second year as I didn't clear out the corms like I usually do. These blooms don't usually last past December as they're quite tender, but a milder winter plus a sheltered spot means they've continued to brighten up my view.

As well as greeting me when I step out into the garden, I can see them when I'm eating my lunch. When we first moved here, I planted up lots of winter pots all over the garden but I quickly learnt those closest to the house give the most value. Plants placed there can be seen at all times whatever the weather and these at eye level are especially easy to view.

Most winter flowers are quite small, so it's been great not to have to lie…

A Gadget for the Garden?

I love blogging about gardening, but that does set up a conflict - it can keep me away from the the place I write about. A compromise I've tried - and failed with so far - is to work in the garden.

So I was interested when I was lent the pictured tablet for a while last year to see if it fared better than my botched attempts with my laptop.

There are a couple of design features in its favour - the ports have covers, which protect them from dust and grime, plus it's waterproof. Like all gadgets of this nature it has a much longer battery life than my laptop, so potentially I could stay in the garden all day - well, about 8 hours - if I wanted. It's also a lot lighter to carry around.

So far, so good... but how did I actually get on?

On the plus side, it was perfect for using apps like the pictured Ash Tag, particularly because pictures taken with the tablet could be uploaded directly into the app. Picture quality is good, though of course it can't match most cameras. Ho…

Lessons from the Land

Sitting on top of a mountain pass may not seem the ideal time for a spot of garden thinking, but there's something about a holiday which enables a relaxed mind to wander off into a reverie which can be quite rewarding.

The above picture was my view from the Wicklow Gap in Ireland last September. I was sitting atop a rock like the ones you can see, trying to spot the distant blue of the sea on the horizon, with the sun warming my back and just the breeze and the birds for company. Bliss!

My brain stopped its frantic whirring so I was able to just sit, observe and enjoy the moment. Whilst the vegetation and bedrock there are nothing like what I have at home, I soon found some 'lessons from the land' which I could potentially use here.

The textural quality of this moorland grass illustrates less can be more. And whilst this was covering a wide open space, my homing in so it filled the picture shows it has possibilities for a smaller space like my garden. This was the effect …

Goodbye Plot 14A...

... Hello Plot 25!

Were you fooled, even for a little bit? No, I've not lost or given up the plot - we were given new numbers just after we paid our fees last year. Going from Plot 14A to 25, shows you just how many full-size plots were divided up to meet the town's demand for allotments.

This approach, plus 2012's poor weather brought Chippenham's waiting list down substantially. However, I see over 40 new people were added to the list before the end of June 2013, showing demand is still strong here in Wiltshire.

A new number isn't the only change on our site. The grassy slope whereThreadspider and I used to have our coffee and biscuits is no more. I was surprised to find a man and his digger opposite my plot one day late last year.

He's levelled the slope and added hard core to expand the parking available. I'm eyeing up the mound he's left behind at the back and contemplating using some of the wildflower seed mats I've been given to trial on the…

Book Review: RHS Botany for Gardeners

If your Christmas present stash included a book token or two, then you might like to consider RHS Botany for Gardeners as a suitable present to yourself. It's a very readable account of the subject and is beautifully presented.

The RHS's Lindley Library has been plundered extensively for lots of superb botanical drawings with which to illustrate the text.

It's a dippable book in terms of telling the story of botany rather than a dry reference (though see my caveat in the Weaknesses section below). It's perfect for curling up with on a dark night and will help to chase away those winter blues.

Tells the 'story' of botany and the people who developed its thinking - such as Mendel and LinnaeusIt's not a dry tome - good at relating botany to gardening/'botany in action' e.g. pruning; use of a plant's natural defences to deter pestsThe science of plant breeding is explored, though it stops short of GMBeautifully illustratedA high qualit…

Breaking the Rules: The Gentle Art of the To Do List

I'm a firm believer in the To Do list - it's most satisfying to tick things off as the final nod to a job well done. It seems I'm not alone - monthly lists of gardening jobs are a regular feature in gardening magazines. Websites like the RHS feature them too - here's theirs for January.

Pick any one of these you have to hand and look at it carefully. Does it bear any resemblance to what actually needs doing in your garden? No, it's nothing like mine either. Here's what I need to do this month:

In the garden
Clear up December's fallen leaves and use them to mulch borders (remember Compost Direct?)Cut back fallen stems which no longer have seed headsShred stems, plus the twigs etc brought down by December's stormsWeed garden pathSee what I have on hand already for the GQT border (my new name for the front garden side border) - I'm thinking Alchemilla, ferns, a grass from a hanging basket (also need to look up whether spider plants are hardy or find out…

Garden Finder Wordsearch

Here's another fun puzzle I've put together to help while away the winter blues.  Note that I've had to omit the spaces in the Wordsearch, otherwise they show up in the puzzle.

Like my Garden Scramblepuzzle, I've visited all these gardens but I might not have blogged about them... yet.

If you need to use a pencil and paper to solve this, you're welcome to print off this post.

If you fancy making your own Garden Finder or other wordsearch, here's the website I used for mine. If anyone knows of a wordsearch generator which also puts them on the diagonals, let me know in the comments below.

NB Ignore the time on the puzzle, that was how long it took me to get a Print Screen. You have as much time as you need to find the gardens, not 11 seconds!

Next up is a cryptic word grid puzzle in a couple of weeks time...

I Love January For...

... Being New

I always struggle with January and February, but I do love the 'slate wiped clean' feeling I have today. There are so many possibilities to look forward to, like these hyacinths my brother-in-law and family gave me when they came to stay.

I'm not usually a huge fan of hyacinths, but having something growy to do just after the year has turned, makes them just right for now :)

GBMD: Try Something New