Monthly Archives: July 2010

Re-use Record

I’ve just hit a new record for the number of times I’ve reused an item: the humble bag from a sliced loaf.

So, it went like this:

Use 1. To hold a loaf of bread

Use 2. To hold my lunch on the way to work

Use 3. To line the pot at work, where folk put their composting (tea bags, coffee grinds, etc.), which I then take home to my composter.

Use  4. To hold dog poo between garden ‘poo patrol’ and the bin.

Next challenge is to find an alternative 4th that allows a 5th, or perhaps I should amend step 4, as I think the bag is recyclable and I ended up landfilling it.

Hmmmm. Food for thought…

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Slimy Assailants

I have a bit of a challenge on my veggie plot, in that it’s very wet down that end of the garden and the plot itself is immediately followed by an area of untamed madness, which I like to call ‘where the wild things are’.

The ground is quite clayey and although nutrient rich and great for holding water, it has the tendency to bake hard and crack in prolonged dry spells. So, I leave any unused areas to the weeds, until I need them, which keeps the ground as moist and manageable as possible, without actually managing it.

So, back to the challenge! Which is that ‘where the wild things are’ appears to be the capital city of slugville and my unmanaged areas are little slug hostels, along the highway to seedling heaven. Anything that I sow straight into the ground is immediately (at least once darkness falls) pounced on by tens of the slimey little blighters, as is any fruit that isn’t picked the moment it ripens.

I’ve spend quite some time researching alternatives to chemical slug pellets and the methods that seemed to have most support were crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and pine needles. Having decided to sow some rocket straight into a section of my plot furthest away from slugsville, I returned from holiday to find the seedlings coming along nicely. Other than those, that is, which had been yummed up by something slimy!

So, my war began. My first offensive manoeuvre was to source a couple of carrier bags of egg shells from the kind ladies on the breakfast bar at work. I soaked them in Milton overnight, to give them a proper wash, remove any odour and kill any bacteria. Next day I rinsed them and crushed them all up, before making a thick (4cm) line of them all around my seedlings. Next morning, another one had gone…

So, back to work I trotted and asked the nice ladies on the breakfast bar for some coffee grounds. Bless them, they obliged and back home I trotted with a big pot’s worth and a new layer of slug repellent was laid next to the egg shells that evening. Next morning, two more seedlings down…

Aaargh… what now? Back to t’interweb, who’s infinite wisdom told me to mulch with pine needles. I don’t have a Pine in my garden but I do have a Yew and decided that it’s needles were pretty spikey. They pierced my skin, so surely they would be sharp enough to bother a slug’s tender heel? Did they heck as like! Next morning, still more seedlings down to the enemy.

By now, the plot was looking a little comedy, to be honest (see below)

You may notice a rather odd looking contraption in the shot above, which looks like a bean tin with a slice of cucumber on it. Well, that’s what it is. Not a gem of the omniscient world wide web, this time. No, I decided to believe a circular email. Not something I normally do, to be honest but come on, I was desperate!! A circular, extolling the many benefits of the humble cucumber and I let it fool me into believing that it could even win me the war. Put a slice of cucumber on an aluminium pie dish or can, it said, and the slugs and snails will flee.

Next morning, 2 more gone…

So, today I gave in and put some slug pellets down! Inside the three bands of ‘repellent’, though, so I reckon if they are going to be that determined, there’s not much else I can do. I’ve also covered them with my home made poly tunnel, so the birds can’t get at them when they desist.

If anyone is reading this and has a non-chemical, REALISTIC, slug repellent recipe, please let me know! I know the one about beer and might try it but I’d rather not kill them if I don’t have to (and, of course, I’d rather drink my beer than give it to them; the little buggers are already eating my rocket, broccoli and pumpkins!)

Pilfered Perspex

Okay, so not pilfered in the sense of stealing but definitely a top freebie find.

Having spotted some huge (2m wide x 1.5m high) sheets of perspex at work, looking like they were soon to be landfill, I soon found out that they were up for grabs, so grab I did.

I managed to get 3 of them back home on my roof rack and set about making something out of them with the kids.

I’d been wanting to make a lean-to for a couple of weeks, since witnessing how much more bushy my sister-in-law’s chilli plants were, when located in one; even in the wilds of Anglesey! I’d been pondering all day how to make something useable out of huge, flat sheets, when I didn’t have any decent perspex tools. I finally managed to coble together something, by heavily scoring one of the sheets and then snapping it (roughly) along the scores. It needs some filing down to make it work properly but here it is so far:

Reclaimed Perspex Lean-To

At the moment, it has some material from an old material green house blocking off a gap at the top. I might shorten the sides and make a pespex top, instead, as the material solution isn’t ideal,  particularly in the wind.

I’ve got some salad lead seedlings, my chilli plants and some herbs that are just germinating in there at the moment. I’ve definitely noticed a real improvement in the salad leaf growth, so it must be working.

I plan to make a more airtight and funky version, probably hinged, once I can get my head round it, so watch this space:             !

What’s that all about?

I decided to start this blog as a diary of my efforts in my veggie garden. Partly so I can look back in future seasons, to see what I did when and, more importantly, if it worked. The other part is to share with others the bit about my approach, which is perhaps a little different to the average veggie gardener:

My aim in my garden is to grow as much of my own food as possible, as cheaply as possible and, wherever possible, re-using or recycling, to make it as low cost and low-impact as I can.

The whole idea is fuelled by various different things: a general lack of money on my part; concerns about the future of the economy and the environment; a love of growing and eating food and a wish to utilise some of the waste I see around me in a positive way; amongst others.

The sorts of topics that may be covered in this blog are home composting, propagation, chemical-free pest repellents, reusing waste to make useful gardening implements, land-sharing, seed sharing and produce sharing schemes and ideas, and many more.

I am lucky enough to live in a (rented) house with a big garden, which includes a medium sized veggie plot, which when we moved in, required a little taming. The whole garden was (and still is!) largely unkempt, in fact, which has allowed me to stick pots, growbags, lean-to’s, poly tunnels, etc. in where I like, without impacting too much on existing flower beds. I have also been lucky in this house, as the previous owner was clearly a herb lover and has left mint, lemon-balm, rosemary, fennel, oregano and chives behind, for me to make the most of. We also have the bulk of a greengage tree overhanging from next door, an apple tree (russet), a wild cherry tree and a hand-me-down strawberry patch, which is probably in it’s last (3rd) year of decent fruit yield. There are also wild strawberry patches dotted about the place, which the kids love to plunder (sometimes, even when the fruit is ripe!).

I will be sometimes assisted by my wife, Sophie and our two children, Tilly and Isaac; and will be generally hampered by our dog, Titch!

I hope that helps to set the context of this blog and that some of the content will be of interest to you. I’d love to hear of others’ experiences or tips, so please do leave comments, or send emails. I will try to reply to any questions and will always be interested to hear any input.

Cheers.

Tom