Archive for December, 2008

Food needs fundamental rethink, from the BBC news website.

It’s worth a read.  Good to see that people are putting some thought into this.


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16 November, out of curiosity I scattered some Phacelia tanacetifolia seeds around to see if I could start a late crop of this green manure.  Apparentlythis stuff sets roots deep, will break up the clay (30 cm below the surface in places) and in spring wil be chopped down and dug in, adding to the soil’s organic matter.  Anyway.  Today I go down to no 16 to add another load of peelings to no 4 compost heap, and to clear a few more barrowloads of scut, and what do we see?  Looks like Phacelia seedlings to me.  My broadcasting was frankly rubbish, lots of dense patches, so I’ll get another packet and broadcast that lot.  Experiment stage 2: see if Phacelia sown in late December will germinate too.


Now go and read Matron Down on the Allotment.   She makes me want to grow Ruby Chard.  So I will.

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photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe


Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was a Victorian photographer par excellence, and probably Whitby’s most famous artist. The woman with her scut pyramid will have been from the area…for all we know the two scut pyramids shown were built on the very same spot.

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Bin no. 4 built out turves.  You never can have too much compost.

Bin no. 4 built out of turves. You never can have too much compost.

Compost heaps nos 1 and 2 were plastic things bought from cheap shop Lidl (£16.99) and these are now full and doing their composting thang.  Wondering what to with my massive piles of ‘scut’ (the local name for turves of grass) rather than simply build a pyramid, a blinding flash of inspiration was to build a compost bin out of it.  No 3 (the straw-covered thing in the background) was built a few weeks ago and is now full. The idea is that the turves will rot down into loam while acting as the walls of the bin.

I get a box of veg peelings each week from a local convent and I layer this with manure and straw and a sprinkling of soil.  Heap no 4. was built today and already has a good layer of proto-compost in the bottom.

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Karen asks (she produces a lot of edible greenery from a postage stamp back garden in London).  Well, I’m a bloke and men can’t resist three things: running water, a hole in the ground and fire.  It’s atavistic.  It clears the ground and gives you a bit of ash to dig into the ground and its a bit of contemplative fun.  Ok, it releases a few particuates.  But it’s such fun.

Now go and say hello to Maureen, another allotment holder from the class of 2008.  It hasn’t rained for three days.  I wonder if Reg will let me back on my own allotment?

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Everyone needs a Reg.

Reg has had his allotment for 48 years, and knows a thing or two. He doesn’t give much of away, however. Yesterday I took the chance of a break in the weather to go to no 16. I wanted to Do Something. Not sure what, but the lack of allotmenting was making me itchy. Reg was there, burning clippings.

“What can I do Reg?” I wailed.

“Go home,” he said, “and come back when it’s dried out a bit. You’ll just compress the soil.”

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Utterly manky weather

has kept self off allotment.  A box of veg peelings from a nearby convent means I will have to go and add to compost heap no. 4 tomorrow or the car (wherein the box is spending the night) will pong.  There are some melon skins in there and they have begun to smell alcoholic.  Anyway.

The neglected allotments surrounding no. 16 are bad enough but seeing food rotting on the stalk and in the ground is driving me nuts.  There are people in this village for whom that stuff would really help stretched pensions.  Only being in my first year allotmenting hereabouts I don’t feel up to suggesting we find a way to distribute excess, but next year I damn well will.  I suspect there will be a lot of people on fixed incomes feeling the pinch.

And if you have some excess and try to do what a Freeborn John or Jane might think you can do in Britain and put a box of wholesome homegrown at your garden gate, with an honesty box for people to drop a quid or two in (say to help buy next years seeds), take heed from this tale of mammoth stupidity from the manure-brained excresences at Northumberland County Council.

All concerned should be whipped through the streets of Morpeth. And surounding parishes.

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