Tuesday, November 15, 2022

No dig allotment , the easy way!

 I've seen all the utube vids from experts like Charles Dowding, I watched Huws garden for years, enjoying his earnest and easy style, I've read books on Hotbeds, Companion Planting and have known Mr Hessayons input for over 50 years, and  I still champion the wonderful Ruth Stout, who knew a thing or two  before they were all born BUT declare that I have found my own way to grow my veg without getting embroiled in 'right ways'.
My allotment is full size, apart from the tiny part my daughter uses. My neighbours all come from school of straight lines , no weeds, and double dig.  I don't have rules , am not pretending to be wholly organic, don't have any weeds only pollinators, and plants needing a more suitable home.
 I get immense pleasure from removing couch grass  to its rightful home, the grass borders, and allow the bindweed to bind away next to the railway line so that I can play "Grandma! Grandma !Pop out of bed !' in August. I don't worry if my 3 colour rotation is tweaked , as long as onions never grow in the same ground 2 years running.

Picture one 
I don't dig, I gently fork out Some deep perennials like  Dandelions and Nettles and bountiful and profligate free seeders like Sow Thistles  and  Borage before winter, I know the hoped for frosts will kill the little annuals like Chickweed and Groundsel , Spurges  and Creeping Speedwell, and my favourite Scarlet Pimpernel but welcome them the following year, easily hoed out . I leave them on the soil as mulch.
I do not have access to a ton of Stable manure as my neighbours do. My plot is not next to the road so the tractor can tip it into the yearning  bins. I have to barrow it all from the pile dropped by the road to my bins. I cant manage that.  Friend Colin brings me beautiful 2 yr rotted down stuff from his small holding when he has time, and barrows it to the bin for me, but it is past being manure, it is lovely compost, friable and rich and I am sparing with it. 
All no -diggers add mulch  on top of beds every year, mulch on mulch, on mulch and on mulch. My soil is never bare, Crops over winter, and bare soil on beds which dont change  like Asparagus and Rhubarb are cushioned in mulch all winter.
My 3 year rotation suits me . I don't need to grow many cabbages, so one brassica bed is enough most years, as I like Sprouting Broccoli which crops for up to 2 years if the growing points are nipped off.  I have about 10 raised beds in old builders bags filled with greenstuff which rots down, like the masses of   creeping bulky Nasturtians which easily fill the empty  bag beds in October. I usually plant the bag beds up with garlic the first year .

This is how my easy no dig works
Raised bed and dormant straw bale
awaiting its fate

  • Divide your plot into strips so that you can work without treading and compacting the soil.
  • Work out each autumn what you want to grow the next year, and  plan where you want to put them within your rotation system , 3 year or 4 year
  • Don't think you have  to  cultivate each strip the first year
  • Work on one strip at a time, depending on what time you start
  • Starting in  Autumn  cover strips with cardboard and mulch ( could be manure or heavy stones or bricks to weigh down from wind)
  • Cardboard is the best friend of no dig. Encourage your friends to give you all theirs from buying large items. Ikea is your best friend here! Cardboard should be brown and with no sellotape or writing all over it, or a shiny layer. Plain porous brown is best, just remove tape and staples. Cover your strips with it , having taken out perennial weeds and large stones  first and raked as flat as is practical. (Ruth Stout planted on top of grass field , but you will have  to google that  as she planted on bales of hay.)Stop the cardboard blowing away  by watering it and weighing down with bricks or large stones. My foolproof method is to buy 10 bale of barley straw every Spring which I leave to get thoroughly damp and wet so that by the autumn it can be separated into slabs and easily placed on the cardboard. See Picture one 
  • Just gradually do this to all your strips
  • If you are using a strip as Add Manure in Autumn, my yellow  strips that year, add  chicken pellets on top of straw , or stable manure if you have  some. Add more in the spring too . 
  • You are now up and running . By the spring you can plant straight into the bed, even if you have to make a hole .  I rarely plant seeds straight in to strips as most seeds can be sown in modules  and dug into bed when large enough . I put potatoes under more straw and never earth up , just making sure straw is thick enough to block the light, as green potatoes are poisonous.  Brassicas go straight in from modules when about 6inches big with 6 leaves, Leeks the same , Chard the same , sweetcorn too and beetroot. You use the modules discarded by garden centres, and fellow gardeners. I wash them and use very year until they split. 6  or 9 are the best, as the tiny ones have  not enough root run and have to be replanted in to larger ones . Our Nursery Reighton sells ready grown seedlings in a 5in flower pot ready to be pricked on into modules, these are cheaper than buying a packet of seeds. 
  • I often let vegetables go to seed , and when plants come up around them I use these, Chards and broccoli do this easily.
  • If you are starting in the Spring  you have to make sure not too much bare soil is open to the 'weeds' so plant Green Manure until you ready to use. Cover with crops as soon as possible, even radishes, and lettuces to cover. I would plant lots potatoes under straw the first year just to use the land , and gradually do the 3 Colour rotation.
  • I plant Garlic, Onions ( from Sets) and broad beans in the autumn. More sets can be planted in the Spring. Advice from Mr Hessayon still applies to cultivation here. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Ace pollinators

 The heat this summer has given my Lavender bushes a boost. I have never appreciated before just how , being Mediterranean natives , they prefer dry and hot conditions. Similarly the Rosemary bushes are thriving, and we have olives on the potted Olive tree, my friend Ann is harvesting figs, and our Oleander in the yard continues flowering. I am hopeful for bananas on the small Banana plant , but it only has 4 leaves yet as it is only young. 
This year I have sat longer on my plot, enjoying the bee loud glade. I’ve pulled out unwanted plants and laid on bed to act as mulch, anything to keep the soil moist.

Barbara on next plot is harvesting her Lavender today. She cuts carefully into even sized bunches and hangs in her light and beautifully made greenhouse/shed that husband Terry built for her. She was widowed recently after a being a full time carer, and she gradually brings the plot back to its usual perfection as she restores the years the locusts have eaten . She is leaving some of her lavender , as I am , for the bees. My daughter has just messaged me to ask if we should get a beehive. She can forget that idea. I do however love to drive round these Wolds and spot hives hiding in the fields of Borage , Oilseed rape and Linseed, purple, citric yellow and blue. My honey is produced by a local beekeeper, a Mr Danby of Seamer. I buy it at Reighton Nurseries. The borage honey is the palest yellow. 

I let Borage and Nasturtiums seed freely all over my plot. No dig gardeners like the soil all covered with beneficial plants, bringing in insects and keeping down the unwanted  but not unloved Sow Thistles , and Spurges, the delightful Scarlet Pimpernel . I like the Dandelions and love the chickweed (beloved of Budgie keepers). I have a favourite wild plant which adores my plot, but it is wind pollinated I think, as it is green. I know its not Good king Henry, Chenopodium bonus henricus, I wish it was, I wasted seeds every year and still not managed to get even one to germinate .This is an annual relative , Fat Hen, but my Wild Food Book says it can also be eaten. The leaves are a lovely gray green and this  amongst my 3 sisters planting of Sweetcorn , Sunflowers and Mangetout managed to sneak up to 3feet high in as many weeks.

Echium is 12ft tall , still covered in bees, and cucurbit  flowers are beloved by tiny pollinators. I have succeeded , she says proudly of having something to attract pollinators during every day of the year, letting my brassicas go to seed, allowing dead nettles to grow through winter, and never hanging on for the bulbs, as there is always a wild flower arriving to fill in any gaps.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Have bought you a crab, Mum!

That picture was taken in June , the last time I managed to get a crab. Today on August 11th Ann and Graham have brought me one from Scarborough from the shop where Gary fillets fish sometimes. That shop is only open  first thing in the morning. 
Our lovely Filey wet fish shop closed down at Easter just as we were all planning our Good Friday meals. No, I'm not complaining.There is always another way . We do not have to eat Crab. We , if go by the media are going to have a job to afford food at all . Yes, I am working out a strategy to save Gas and Electricity, and I'm taking positive steps to change our lifestyle.

Colin's Carer Chris suggested that I should unplug all the chargers around the house until I need them. Ive just counted, there are 6. For the first week I did indeed switch them all off, but my intentions have been thwarted by my butterfly mind. 

Martin Lewis , who I admire from his easy manner on MoneyBox Live is profuse in great ideas for coping with the current Media Circus and scaremongering re Price Caps on fuel and direct debits of hundreds a month. I am reminded that he wants to be an MP too, (I think)and wonder for how long he can remain the impartial voice of reason. I hope he will join the Green Party. (I have just followed grandson no.1 and joined).
I am going to start cooking on the top of my Log burner again, and put a kettle on it, before its illegal to burn the Kiln dried Ash logs we use in winter, and the stove warms all our small cottage. I have the national Collection of candles still from the Millenium Scare.

I'm doing all I can to cut down on my plastic waste. This is not easy as spouse has so many medical items that are made of plastic, I have to use them .
Yesterday , however I disposed of 4 food containers that declared they are not recycled yet, Soft prunes, ground coffee, Truvia and yellow split peas. None of these items could be sold in paper packets. Son in Brighton and daughter in Sussex , where the green awareness is very high, are able to go to scoop shops   taking their own containers. I am pleading for another one to open in Filey. Twenty years ago we had one , which I used as often as I could, but it was ahead of its time and lasted only less that a year. 

Filey is a poor place to shop anyway as it is  demographically client led, catering for the Caravan trade,  the Geriatric ready meals trade , and  Yorkshire's idea of a good diet. ( Thank God for our Greengrocer and butcher). We have 3 friends who eat no vegetables except peas. These are nutritionally ok, being second class proteins, but for us there are only so many Pea, mushroom  and Paneer curries we can eat in a month.
Our chiropodist  Ann has recommended a champion of eating cheaply , Jack Monroe oka  The bootstrap cook. Her Cook Books are great, and her out of the box ideas for recipes helpful for everyone.

I stopped , or tried to stop, buying foods flown in to the uk, except for Avocados , grapes and oranges. I have tried to grow pulses on my allotment and have succeeded with chick peas, mange tout, and sugar snap peas. If we are going to get through winters more economically, I am reminded that dried peas kept people going before potatoes came to the uk. 
My allotment neighbour Brian grows enough peas to see him through the year . I imagine him sitting and shelling them for days, for the freezer. Broad beans too are easy to grow, and so are that other neglected staple Butter beans. WE just need to find better ways of storing and using them . I remember my mother  soaking butter beans to use them . We could do that easily. I make a great soup with yellow split peas, coconut milk , onion and Red Thai paste, easy to freeze when very thick , and just water down to serve. 
Dhal can be made so many ways too, with so many different  spices 
and additions. Its such a cheap staple too, as a 500 gm pack red lentils cost 99p In Aldi, add onions and tumeric and optional hard boiled eggs and feed 6.

Martin Lewis says It's more economical to boil a kettle on stove than use an electric kettle. I have a 3.5 ltr one , its taking us a while to dovetail the timing and the amount of water to put in the kettle, but we've only had it a week. 
The Microwave might have to go next, although spouse remembers all those childhood dinners kept warm on 2 plates over a saucepan  of water. 
I'm not good at Jam  but I've managed this year with a thermometer and before the birds broke through the netting to the blackcurrant bushes. The redcurrant jelly took 2 boilings using the cold plate set test, but the thermometer did the trick . I use the ancient Marguerite Pattern book of recipes which is dropping to bits and yellowing .
Grandson no 2 is always trying to get me to listen to Podcasts. Every one is listening to them these days he says  as he reels off the names of good ones. I must listen to the younger generation now I'm classed as one of the Olds. But I still like to put actual words down on virtual paper  like this blog , and read the constant stream of Library books that daughter no1 brings from her workplace, a great  library in the East Riding 10 miles away. I get plenty of updates about the World on Radio 4, (long may it continue), and the Music world form Jess Gillam on Radio 3.

I'll go now and get the lunch. Spouse has to have main meal at lunchtime now, following strong medical advise. Ive just read in todays Times that they recommend that too now for a Healthy lifestyle. The trouble is that this Old is exhausted by 2pm after preparing food from scratch, washing by hand(until machine is fixed on Tuesday) , watering the plants first thing because of the heat, fielding phone calls, and callers, so that when I sit down to read , I drop off. By 5pm I'm ready to prepare a meal from scratch, so perhaps I'll have to prepare tomorrows meal today, and recycle my time as well as my wrappers.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Theatre of the not absurd

I would like a posh one , but at present am not able to wield a saw , a plane  or even a hammer really. My theatre will do for me , cobbled in a corner of my backyard using bricks, bits of bricks and sitting resplendent atop an ageing coal bunker.

My start of the day  has an updated routine now
  • feel if I'm alive
  • take life prolonging meds 
  • do Lectio 365 
  • see if spouse is alive
  • make us both a cup of tea
  • do ablutions
  • collect daily washing ,start washing machine
  •  peg washing on line
  • make porridge for spouse
  • prepare breakfast for self
  • go to Wydale  or Filey Parish on Zoom (weekdays except Tuesdays)
Daughter no1, son in law, friend Liz  and I have been discussing the collecting and displaying of Primula auriculas.  Though recorded in Elizabethan times, and popular in the 19th C when specialist Flower Societies were formed , son in law tells me Geoff Hamilton popularised them , but for me Chelsea Physic Garden first brought a Theatre to my attention. 

An aside
Spouse and I love the Chelsea Physic Garden, we went every time we were in town , and in the days when members got in at the front door and had to sign a book, and the gardens were more or less free from the hoy palloy. Now its open most days, and spouse knows he might not be able to visit again. We will have to put the membership in my name. I think being there  without  spouse might be one of the hardest visits I will ever have to do.

I can appreciate why P. auriculas were popular with the working classes in Victorian times. They are easy to cultivate,  tolerant of afternoon shade and take up very little space , are mostly kept in pots and are just displayed once a year when they flower, April and May . 

In our last holiday together in 2019, and with family who are seasoned navigators and bargees, on the Staffordshire and Worcester canal  we passed a famous garden centre, Ashwood Nurseries, which I unashamedly recommend  for Primula Auriculas. I am going to buy only 4 new varieties a year, on the phone  of course, so that my delight doesn't become an obsession or I a frightful bore.
This year my favourite is called SVR. I had to ask the salesperson what that meant . Guess it !   *see bottom of post
When daughter No 2 next visits from East Sussex she is bringing me some more P. a's from the nursery she works in. They are all different again, not doubles but more 'edges'.

My readers will know that I love Echiums, as I have written about them several times.You may not know I also too love to grow Coleus from seed, just so that you know I have an eclectic taste. Daughter no 1 loves to grow onions. She has 82 on her allotment , and counts them every day. I grew Loofahs  last year,  but have decided I don't love them. I am growing lots of sweetcorn this year, of the coloured  heritage variety.  I'll let you know what I think in October.
Meanwhile enjoy my Coleus....

*SVR Severn Valley Railway

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Little Gidding, Pete Greig , and Mental Health


My friends all know that I love Poetry. 

We had a huge cull of books when we moved back into the cottage 10 years ago , and left a room which was furnished from floor to ceiling with bespoke  bookshelves made by the craftsman  Malcolm Johnson .Colin loaded up Mother's sholley with books several times a day and walked to the Charity Shops with the load until we were advised they could not receive any more. I kept all my Poetry books, most shelf space now after my Botany books.

Little Gidding is my Adlesdrop place, as I did pass through it unwontedly on the way to Yorkshire from London avoiding motorways. I always knew it had been  a religious community of the strict High Anglican sort , but not having ever read the Four Quartets  that pleasure was  to come.  Pete Greig always surprises me with his rhetoric , his writings and his vision,and I value his contribution to the stability of my mental health. He writes on 4th Jan


 Reading today's headlines, I'm reminded of a line from T.S. Eliot, who died on this day in 1965: ‘Christ is the still point of the turning world' .....

it has become my necessary daily practice simply to sit in silence and stillness each morning for a few minutes,......

But I believe that God’s quiet invitation to each one of us at the start of this year is this: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ (Psalm 46:10). We know ‘of’ God through the bible but we actually know him through the practice of silence, stillness and solitude. Good doctrine is dead without doxology. This was something I experienced deeply and cumulatively during my three week solitary pilgrimage from Iona to Lindisfarne in October. ..............

in 'Little Gidding' - a poem named after a small monastic community - T.S. Eliot captures and conveys the spirit of precisely this kind of silent praying;
'You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.
And prayer is more
Than an order of words,
the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind,
or the sound of the voice praying'

For two years now I have been doing LECTIO 365 , a free app on my mobile . I don't read it, I sit quietly after my initial quiet sit , and I listen. Since Colin has been more himself and able to listen , we have done the evening Lectio too , and listen together , like doing the Compline of the Daily Office.My friend Tara first told me of it, and my friend Pam further up my road, and I have told many friends of it.
Throughout lockdown and to this dayI have also been in a parallel world as reluctant carer to infirm beloved. THIS life is dominated by the truly boring tasks in life , and may be accompanied sometimes by the temptation to run away, to cry, to moan, to cook and eat ready meals, to wear the same clothes for a week, and to feel sorry for myself. I want to .. I want to.... and even if all the Art Galleries and days of sunshine, and Beautiful music and meals out were possible , I would still be completely out of my comfort zone , my head space would still be in need of still ness, balm and thankfulness. I now appreciate that Brother Lawrence worshipped during the washing of pots, and just how saintly are those who can truly live and not count the cost. For me I am with Pete Greig, and find stillness does wonders.The busiest of days need the stillness first for me.

I Wrote in a previous post, the one that has had the most hits [ from the data] that Gardening had kept me sane. Five years on I still cling on to my sanctuary that is my allotment, but things have changed there too, as the fast daily walks to the mile away plot are no longer practical as my HIP is paining and I cant walk fast at all , so my cardio work out is missing from my routine. I cant be bothered to do sit ups or any other exercise, its as much as I can do to walk to the chemist for beloveds prescriptions. BUT I can take the car and I can still do my no dig gardening with joy and satisfaction and am planning my rotations and my potato order.
Last year I grew LOOFAHS and got seeds for the whole of Filey for this year seemingly. Our Christmas lunch at Kiaora included Red Cabbage from the plot cooked with apples and onions also from the plot. I am still picking Broccoli and Chard and my rare Echiums are still alive , just.

It warms my heart that I am not the only person to have heard of and employ 'no dig' and my joy will be complete when Mike and the rest of the Allotment association buy NO Peat compost for the site SHOP.

Some Sunshine please now O Creator of it!
May you all enjoy GOOD MENTAL HEALTH this year.