Along with every other part of the country we’ve had a bit of “Man Climate Change Made Warming Cool Global” weather over the last couple of weeks or so, (more of which later) which has somewhat restricted operations and, following the thaw, turned all the decent local walking routes into either impenetrable bogs or ankle deep puddles. The bogs are the worst, you don’t know they’re there until they suck you in, but, on the plus side, it affords the opportunity to take an atmospheric photo, somewhere in the vicinity of the greenhouse.
“Buy peat free” they said, “It’ll help the planet” they told me, so I did (well a couple of bags anyway). My own compost is fermenting away nicely, but for potting seedlings in previous years I’ve always used a decent Multi Purpose with a bit of peat in it. Norman’s influence is still strong in this regard, he never had a compost heap that I’m aware of but it makes sense to me, and by next year (all being well) I should at least be setting seedlings in compost I’ve produced myself. Any road up, no deals on peat free that I could find, although the general purpose was three for £15, but I did manage to get a couple of fifty litre bags, even if they did seem a bit pricey. Normally I just break up the bagged stuff with my hands and pick out the odd bit of stick to create a decent base but with this stuff the only option has been to sieve it. To be fair, the results have been good, so far as the quality of the sieved product goes, but my eighty litres is now more like sixty litres of potting medium and twenty litres of stick, root mass and pebbles. If I wasn’t such a rough old gardener I’d be dropping Levingtons an e mail, also, while I’m on the subject, the multi purpose stuff claims to feed for up to four months, whilst peat free claims six weeks. I think it’s a swizz!
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and also in keeping with the new slightly more “regimented” approach to how I go about doing my thing, I’ve started a few roots off. I grew some carrot last year, in a tub, which were okay, but I’m going to try them in prepared beds this year and see how we go. One of my drinking pals received from free seeds with his DT Brown order (so they should be decent) and donated them to the cause. Plan is to set seeds every week to 10 days in a bid to extend the growing season and mitigate against glut. I briefly contemplated putting an “honesty box” by the gate and trying to sell surplus produce, but I’ve decided against it. Too much like hard work and I’d be apoplectic if someone took a carrot or tomato without paying for it.
One of the things I’ve never really had success with, to any real extent, is lettuce or salad leaves of any kind, unless I count the rocket and mizuna which self seeds and grows profusely (if allowed to do so). Odd how it’ll grow alongside the paths and other plants quite happily without tending, but refuses to allow me to cultivate it in a trough. Anyway. I’ve change from trying to grow it in all compost and made a mix of sieved soil and compost, which should be a little less rich. These things are little more than weeds anyway, so that’s how I’m going to treat them, as for these tiddlers, they’re a mix of Cos and “cut and come again” leaves. They’ll either thrive, or they won’t, two choices.
The cold frame’s doing the job (so far) that it was designed to do. I’ve made an early start with the peas and beans this year, hoping to get two crops by planting again at the end of June (or thereabouts). The leeks, once established, should take care of themselves and everything else seems to be doing okay, after a fashion. I’ve lined the base of the frame with some water retaining fibre matting and draped the inside with a double thickness of plant fleece. We’ve had very little sun this year, but the lid comes off easy enough when there is the odd break in the clouds, I drape another double layer of fleece across the top of the frame when I close up, holding it in place with the lid. So far, so good, even during the recent very cold spell. I might be rough, but I’m not daft.
I’ve long toyed with the idea of having the growing areas within the house better defined, both for a sense of order in a world of confusion and to (hopefully) make things easier to manage. To this end I got Dave, the expert in such matters, to help me turn a dream into a reality. More on this next time, but the idea is to create two slightly raised rectangular beds to accommodate various brassica, leeks, root vegetables and (possibly) chilli plants. The old pallet boxes were lying around and we toyed with the idea of utilising them as they’re the right depth, but they’ve been rejected in favour of a more straightforward, simple design. Watch this space for updates on progress. Dave’s one of those guys who, although he doesn’t mind talking something through, when a job’s been decided on, there’s no prevarication. There’s also no shortage of timber, screws and nails, because he’s also an inveterate hoarder, but that’s another story.
I mentioned the weather, following the thaw we were on the receiving end of some quite blustery southerly winds, the south facing end frame of the greenhouse isn’t as stable as we’d like it and tends to move a little bit in the wind, although we rarely see strong southerlies on this occasion, over a couple of days, we lost the the end top sheets either side of the apex. Typically, the cold frame and the strawberry beds reside directly under this section of the house, so what would normally be a fairly straight forward operation became a little more complex due to having to work from the side rather than underneath. Dave’s the man though, his tenacity and skill were both put to good effect whilst I looked on, from a safe distance, as he replaced both sheets. I did have one small part to play by holding the top of each pane level (with a hoe handle) as they were manouvered into place. A good job, well done, but it’s clear the southern end panel needs a bit of realigning. Dave’ll get around to it later this year.
Of course, it isn’t all about planning raised beds, sowing seeds, watering, hoeing and trying to keep rickety old greenhouses from falling down around ones ears, there’s always time to settle back amongst the collected detritus of years, the empty sweet tins, tubs of rusty nails, sickles, scythes, brushes, pitchforks and shepherds crooks, brew a pint of nettle tea and spend a few minutes cogitating on the happenings of the day. I spent almost a year in The Middle East back in the day, granted the UAE isn’t that typical of the more (shall we say) traditional countries out there, but it is a Muslim country and there are rules one has to follow during religious festivals. I was in Dubai during Ramadan and although I was aware of it happening, then unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I can’t remember that big a fuss being made of it. I did go to a Shisha bar one evening (during the festival) with a Muslim colleague, but it wasn’t anything special. Generally people just went about their day to day with little apparent disruption.
Thirteen or so years later and more fuss has been made of Ramadan in London (far more than any other European city) than I saw in an ostensibly Muslim country. Apparently the spectacle was funded by “public donation” and included the use of Nelsons Column to wish everyone “Eid Mubarak”. I struggle to believe there isn’t London taxpayers money directly involved, but that’s another matter. As you probably already know, our friend Sadiq Khan, the current London Mayor and one time solicitor for The (banned from the UK) Nation Of Islam, was the man who switched on the lights, proving I suppose there really is no show without Punch. All harmless enough on the face of it, but I always question the motives of the likes of Khan, does he get involved in anything which doesn’t have some political connotation, or has some less than subliminal message to send? I don’t believe he does, and there’s the rub, because we’re constantly told we can’t overtly celebrate our traditional religious and cultural festivals, for fear of offending one group or another. However, you can imagine the howls of “Islamaphobia”, from the usual suspects, should I, or anyone else for that matter, be offended by this particular overt display of the influence Islam now holds both within both our capital city and the wider country. You can now buy Ramadan “advent” calendars, I wonder if, along with the mosques and flying donkeys, there are images, on the little doors, of those things Islam (especially in the west) is most famous for but wants us all to conveniently forget (until the next time)? Somehow I doubt it. I also wonder if all those who visit the “open Iftars” are aware of the vast numbers of animals which are brutally, for sacrificial purposes “live slaughtered” throughout the nations of Islam when Ramadan ends? Somehow I doubt that as well.
© Colin Cross 2023