Question Time: Summer Edition

It's a while since we've had an edition of Question Time, so here's what I've found is on the mind of Veg Plotting's readers* over the past few days, courtesy of my blog statistics:

Empty plant pot

Here's an ideal opportunity to fill it with a plant you've just purchased, or if you don't have a suitable plant to hand, then it's great timing to buy something you like! Alternatively, if the pot is rather large and interesting, you could place it au naturel in your garden to make a focal point just like the one pictured above which I saw at Bolehyde Manor yesterday. However, if your pot is like this one, then it's best to use it as drainage crocks to line other pots. NB this search originally returned my response to Shirl's Plastic Pot Challenge, so you may like to look here for lots of ideas for reusing and recycling if your empty pot's a plastic one.

Should my elderflower cordial be dark brown?

Err no, it should be clear or a very pale yellow. It could be because you didn't fully submerge the elderflowers at the start of their infusion period. If the cordial already looked brown at that early stage, it could be because you overboiled the starter syrup when you made it so it began to caramelise. It's worth having a teeny tiny taste to see if the cordial tastes OK. Otherwise there's just about time to make another batch, especially if you have the later flowering elder, Sambucus canadensis in your neighbourhood.

What makes good bird scarers on vegetable plots?

The sparrowhawk we've had in the neighbourhood recently does a pretty effective job. If you don't have one of those to hand, then using old CDs scares the living daylights out of me whenever I'm up the plot as their roving shadows remind me of The Mysterons. My allotment's on a relatively windy site so the rattling made from old plastic bottles placed over canes is also pretty effective. However, I wouldn't recommend using old Christmas decorations like one of my allotment neighbours did one year. I can see why he did it: they were all shiny and sparkly in the wind. Sadly, they soon disintegrated and now his soil's full of bits of old tinsel.

How to dispose of parsnips gone to seed

On your compost heap as usual.

If you soak lots of fag-ends in water will it work as weedkiller?

Depends what you mean by lots and it'll be more effective if used as a pesticide, which is how tobacco has been traditionally used in the garden. Beware, many of the recipes on the interweb say this is an organic pesticide: it isn't as it'll kill beneficial insects as well as the nasties. It'll also harm plants from the Solanaceae aka nightshade family, such as tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes and Solanus. Therefore I don't really recommend it, so I'm not including a link to how you can make your own.

If you have lots of weeds to clear, then using the fag-end [aka cigarette butt - Ed] to start a fire would probably be more effective, though you'll probably annoy your neighbours at the same time. This also assumes fires aren't totally banned by your local council anyway and you haven't set fire to anything you'd like to keep in the process.

* = apart from how to make Rhubarb and Ginger jam, which has been my top post for 14 months now and is currently over 50% of my search engine hits.


  1. Great As to some Qs I didn't even realized I'd had till now. I'll try the bird-scare tricks at my allotment. I was complaining of low germination rates for my seeds, but perhaps there's a finer, feathered reason...

  2. I love these sessions, VP, more please! The old CD's idea seems cheap and easy, prettier than old pie tins which are hard to come by unless one makes a lot of pies using store bought crust. How nice that it is a recipe that brings the readers to you, our number one post at the moment is Lamb's Ear Love, a perennial champion except when it is Muhly grass season. :-)

  3. Thanks VP an interesting and informative post.

  4. personally, I'm happy to encourage birds into my garden. I've only got a terrace with a few large pots, but encouraging the birds there this year has made a big difference to the number of caterpillars I have to deal with!

  5. Helen - the link also has lots more bird scaring ideas if my suggestions don't do the trick.

    Frances - I can send you some spare CDs I have loads! xxx

    Joanne - you're welcome and good to see you again :)

    Tony - I love birds in my garden too, but the pigeons at the allotment are a trial for everyone. I spent a delightful time in the garden yesterday watching a thrush using our shed as its anvil to get at the snails it had found.


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