Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I Think I know The Problem

Something's been vexing me a bit lately and that is the question of how I'm able to do all the things you're supposed to do at the correct time at the gardening club but am totally unable to do this at the allotment.

I've been wracking my brains to fnd out what the magic ingredient is at the club and so far have only come up with the fact that I'd be letting people down if I was as flaky at school as I am at the allotment.

So, could it be the weather? No, as far as I can tell the climate is not balmy at school. It is just as wet and cold there as here. Perhaps it just feels warmer, being surrounded by children chattering and other adults rather than the sound of silence, pheasants and my own thoughts.

Perhaps it's the inconvenience? Nope (again). I have to get in the car to go to both places. And lug stuff. And climb slippery steps.

Could it be the time factor as it's sometimes easier to get things done when you only have a small window of time to do them in? For me, it concentrates the mind and I'm better with a deadline. Hmmm, I don't think so, I don't have hours and hours to while away at the allotment. It is not a parrallel universe there where time stands still. I have as little time to spare there as I have everywhere.

GOT IT! I think I have the answer.......but I need to do some "research" first. No good knowing what the problem is if I don't know how to fix it....

Monday, 24 November 2008

Winter Gardening Club

 It's mighty chilly out there but my merry band of green-fingered imps rose to the challenge of coming to today's gardening club. They are all so enthusiastic and it's joy to be with them.

Here's a recap of what we've done this term. We started two-three weeks late and one session was cancelled due to weather and another because of a poorly toddler (mine).

 But we've got lots done, everything, in fact, that I had planned. Oh, ok, maybe not the broad beans but that's because I wasn't entirely sure where to put them. And I must be getting better because I didn't refer to my bible once!

So here's what we did:
  • Sowed sweet peas in loo rolls and when those ran out into coir pots that someone kindly donated. We got through at least two packets which are now all coming up in the grow house. The children were very enthusiastic about this activity.
  • Cleared the beds, weeded and sowed green manure on one and covered another in well rotted horse manure. They weren't so keen on the latter task, I have to say.
  • Sowed garlic, one packet in our "winter veg bed" and one head I bought at a supermarket. We sowed those ones in little pots as a kind of experiment to see which do the best.
  • Sowed shallots in the ground. These are already shooting up. We followed this up another week by planting another two rows, mainly to fill the bed. It also contains a couple of cabbages, leeks and garlic.
  • We planted hyacinth bulbs in individual pots and these are now housed in the cold, dark boiler room. We also planted some paperwhites and other narcissi in pots and green shoots are emerging in the grow house. Gotta love that grow house!
  • We made a new flower bed and planted daffs and lillies in these. Some red and white striped tulips went into a pot.
  • The free Morrison salad seeds were planted in a large pot and they are all coming up. 

Today we concentrated on looking after the wildlife so we went for a short hunt around the school grounds (it's a small school) for logs to pile up on one side of the garden to make a home for any hedgehogs or toads. I'm not sure if any will check into our critter hotel but it was a nice thing to do, a thank you if you like to the wildlife.

I also whizzed into a local diy centre before the session started and bought some peanuts, fat balls and other bird seed which we strung around the trees and fence bordering the garden. The children were delighted by a curious robin who will hopefully be joined by other feathered friends.

Have to say, feel a litttle bit anxious about the new term as I'm not entirely sure what we're going to do. As ever, I'm always open to (cheap) suggestions. I've asked for Alys' book for Christmas so maybe I'll get a few ideas from there. I'm also (really, just thought of this) going to send off for lots of seed catalogues and get them to do some cutting and sticking on the first session to give me an idea of flowers and veggies they may like to plant.........hmmm it's hard to say who enjoys this club more!

Friday, 14 November 2008


I always thought, before I really got into gardening, that all gardeners did in the darker months was huddle with seed catalogues and dream.

Now I know differently. I'm still planning and dreaming but there's a fair bit to do. And this weekend looks (touch wood and whistle) as though it's going to be dry!

My first job is to get out into the front garden and plant my tulips which I succumbed to at Chelsea. They arrived a while ago but....y'know how it is at Carrots. However, as ever, nothing is quite as simple as just popping in some bulbs. Nope. I have plans to redesign this very boring, uninspiring space but that involves a fair bit of Hubby's time and some money (naturally).

I shall probably get shot for writing this, there is probably an unwritten gardening law that I'm about to break, but I want to replace our hedge with.......a fence. There, said it. The hedge is really awful, it bows out, is not straight and despite regular trims just grows up and up and I don't want something that high.

I'd like a rustic type fence, something quite low and which I could grow things up on both sides. We're also going to move the gate so you enter the garden from the other side. I know we could replace the hedge with another one but I have little people and a dog that need to be kept in a secure garden from the get go.

There is probably another solution that involves less work and less money but I have neither the imagination or knowledge to come up with it!

But what has this got to do with my tulips? I'm going to make a big, curvy border on one side of the new path and the tulips shall go in there. Or rather, will once the work's done. My plan is currently languishing at number 32 on my Top 40 of Things That We Need To Do Now. So until it occupies the number one slot I shall just plant the bulbs in tubs and containers.

And don't get me started on the back garden........

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Just Who Am I Running the Gardening Club For?

I am quite lazy. Oh yes I am. I know it looks as though I'm not - five children! Runs a gardening club! - but one quick look at my home (messy and chaotic), the allotment (shallot sets still not in) or even this blog (sparodic posting) will confirm that fact.

But come Monday lunchtime there I am with 17 children, loads of loo rolls and various sweet pea seeds and vroom! I'm off.

Take a quick peek back at home and the saved newspaper sits forlornly on the side, still not transformed into paper pots, the tulips are not in and all my plans remain just that - ideas in my head and not brought to fruition.

Which makes me think - who am I running this gardening club for exactly? Because, unless there is a reason why I absolutely have to, there is no other gardening going on in my life at the moment. So it's a jolly good job that I have the club. Bless 'em, my little gardeners think I am doing them a favour when all along it's the other way round....

~ I am thinking of moving this blog to Typepad. Well, when I say move, what I mean is start blogging at Typepad and have a link from here to there because I'm not sure how to move lock, stock and barrel (I've looked into it but it looks complicated). I know it's a pain, having to update links etc so that's why I'm thinking about it ~

Monday, 3 November 2008

Growing Your Own - Possible But Stupid?!

Cards on the table - I'm not a great fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He's okay, I've got a couple of his cookbooks (Hubby likes the game recipes, I like his family cookbook) but I do find him a bit annoying.

He annoys me in the same way that Jamie Oliver does, who I actually like more than Hugh. I get tired of being hectored about expensive (and it is invariably more expensive than not) organic food by a couple of blokes who, though well intentioned, have no idea what it means to live as most ordinary people do; within the confines of tight budgets.

Sometimes, depending on my mood, I get fed up seeing their wonderful gardens, perfect set-ups and their license to print more money by extolling us to live as they do. Goodness, I could probably have a kitchen garden to rival Jamie's if I had such an expert gardener tending it.

I realise it's probably unusual in the gardening world not to love HFW, after all he's very enthusiastic about getting us to grow our own. I caught a bit of his River Cottage Autumn programme on Thursday night and was intrigued by the scheme allowing people to grow veggies in others' gardens for a share of the produce. It is, I think, something my very green village is in the process of setting up (that and apparently more allotments!) but was less enamoured with the squirrel stew, amongst other dishes, he was preparing.

By some coincidence I was also surfing at the same time (oh, I'm good at multi-tasking) and stumbled upon this article by critic AA Gill about River Cottage Autumn. I don't agree with everything he wrote but I did have a chuckle at this:
"His shows rely on the cosy repetition, the absence of surprises, the huggable sense that bad things happen only in cities, and that somewhere just off the M25 is a never-never happy valley where Hugh lives, surrounded by smiley, monosyllabic peasants who knit those appalling jerseys and turn slugs and stinging nettles into delicious fizzy pop."
Mr Gill also seems very anti-self sufficiency. I think he feels we should be concentrating on helping each other and not on helping ourselves. He even goes as far as to call it "small-minded, selfish, mean and ultimately fascist". Goodness, who knew trying to rely on big multi-nationals less and eschewing the rampant consumerism found today would engender such vitriol?

"Growing your own vegetables is a bit like making your own fridge or whittling a car. Possible, but stupid," according to Mr Gill.

Which doesn't make me angry but does make me sad. For poor old Mr Gill who looks likely never to feel the magic of growing plants from seed, never feed his family from his own hard graft instead of someone else's and will never experience that special feeling gardening, particularly veggies, can give you - empowerment.