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Showing posts from 2011

Merry Christmas!

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Here's to a good Christmas for you and yours and may the sentiment expressed on the pictured Christmas decoration come true.

Veg Plotting will return in the New Year.

Announcing The 52 Week Salad Challenge

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This post proves procrastination can pay because it was borne out of idle pondering instead of writing my Christmas cards on Sunday. My thinking went thus:

I really should grow more of what we like to eat.

What do we eat all the time?

Salads. At least 4 days a week, that's what...

...and they're really expensive at this time of the year...

Why don't I grow more of them then?

a) Because I'm pants at successional sowing - I get to our summer holiday and never get going again

b) I'm not really making the best use of the resources I have - cold frames, cloches, windowsill growing kit, sprouting kit - what a waste!

c) I'm not making the best use of the techniques I know about either - forcing/blanching, microgreens, cut and come again, sprouting - why's that?

I wonder if I can grow salad leaves year round?

I'm bound to fail going by my past record :(


So I then tweeted the fateful tweet:

@Malvernmeet we eat salad at least 4x a week. I'm contemplating a 52 week sala…

Worrying Times on the Plot

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My allotment shed - in warmer and sunnier times

This week my plot's shed was one of 13 broken into, which now means there's 13 unsolved crimes added to our local police's statistics.

The first I heard about it was on Wednesday when I was telephoned by the local police. It was snowing at the time, so I wasn't able to get up there until yesterday to see what had happened.

As I suspected, I was lucky. I don't keep anything up there I would miss if it was taken, so all I had to do was close the door. Sadly my new allotment neighbours' spanking new shed had a neat hole where the padlock had been torn off. They weren't there at the time (no-one else was either) so I don't know if they or anyone else had anything taken.

We've not had a break-in for a few years and the colder, darker days means our site like so many others was less attended than usual. It must have been far too tempting a site for anyone looking for valuables to enhance their Christmas seas…

GBBD: Hangers on and a Few Surprises

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November and early December have continued in their unseasonably warm spell of strangeness, so there's still the remains of summer blooms amongst the usual death and decay. Last week our first proper frost finally took away last month's Fine Fuchsias, but I couldn't resist showing off September's Echinops flower heads again. The morning sunlight was highlighting them so beautifully a couple of days ago.
The ever reliable Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' still has the odd flower head* to show for its troubles and the perennial Nemesia 'Vanilla Lady' I bought at Malvern is taking advantage of the extra warmth by my patio doors. The big surprise is the giant potted summer pelargonium in my north facing front garden. It's still flowering away when its companion New Guinea Impatiens have turned to mush.
The garden feels very in-betweenish because many of the reliable winter flowers are still in bud. The Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' is being very sh…

Here's Some I Made Earlier

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Following yesterday's review of the Brother garden labeller, here's some examples of the different kinds of labels I produced. Click to enlarge if necessary.
I've added some text in red, so you can easily see some of the examples I want to point out as follows:
A = Largest size text, normal label width B = Repeated text set up as for A but with the printing set to 2 lines at the start of the text entry and the margin set to smallest (note the : at the start of the label is to denote where to cut so the label has even margins)
Numbers 1-4 are examples of me messing around with the settings to save tape as follows:
1 = 2 line entry, repeat label option set to 9 (with text settings as for A) 2 = 2 line entry set at the start of text entry, text size = small and repeated text entered twice. The chain entry print option was used 3 times, and also shows how the last label is cut in two if the print feed option isn't taken for the last label 3= 2 line entry where the space between t…

Brother Garden Labeller: Product Review

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I was recently sent the pictured Brother garden labeller to review and my inner geek has thoroughly enjoyed making all kinds of labels for both my garden and office supplies.

Using the labeller

It's very portable and easy to use. Labels can be produced quickly without really needing to read the enclosed instruction leaflet as it's very much like using a calculator. However, if you want to make full use of the functionality available, then the leaflet is most useful. For example, gardeners may want to use italics and quote marks so their labels follow plant naming conventions.
Text entered and any setting adjustments are saved when the machine is switched off, so it's worth getting into the habit of resetting everything at the start of the next session. This is very easy to do, as is using the function keys to select fresh settings or using the special characters available. The back of the unit has a handy quick function key and shortcut reference label, so it's easy to …

The Story Behind the Name

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I'm often asked how Veg Plotting and VP came about and Garden Faerie's recent meme, the Story Behind the Name is the perfect excuse to blog about it :)
We need to go back to just over four years ago... to a dark, rainy early November day with the wind wailing around the house like a banshee...
NAH was away and I was bored. Crucially I'd decided my then career break from work was going to have to be a permanent move (it was the deadline day for letting them know if I was going to return) and had just written my formal resignation letter.
I'd also decided I wanted to do something new to celebrate my now unemployed status, and so I was trawling the internet to find a nice weekend away. Instead I found The Bath Crafting Cranny. I liked her style and humour, the fact she was local to me and I loved the blogs she linked to, especially My Tiny Plot.
I wonder what it takes to start a blog? I pondered. A quick Google and 5 minutes later Veg Plotting was born. Bits and Bobs and Veg …

Trendwatch 2012: Honey I...

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Pretty much everything's been said already about the Garden Media Guild Awards last Wednesday, so instead I've trawled through the new products catalogue in my goody bag for what might be hitting the shops next year. The main trend I spotted was everything's getting smaller, so with a nod to a certain film, here's several ideas to look out for...
Honey I Shrunk the Compost - several companies are taking pity on us (and their lorry loads) and drastically reducing the weight of their compost. I hope they work better than the similar peat based equivalent did a few years ago. I wonder how well this version will rewet and swell up to the proper size.
Honey I Shrunk the Gardening Space - in recognition that over 70% of us have much smaller gardens nowadays and use various pots and windowboxes instead, there's a special rebranded seed range designed to fill them.
Honey I Shrunk the Gardening - everything's happening at the root zone level and with mycorrhizal funghi. Fr…

How to Receive Your Wiggly Wigglers Bouquet

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What could be better to receive on a gloomy, rainy November day than a lovely big seasonal bouquet of fresh British flowers courtesy of Wiggly Wigglers via Fuelmyblog? Here are my top tips to get them from box to vase and ensure the resultant smile stays there as long as possible...
Find a big space to open the box and process the flowers. Keep the box upright just like the delivery man did.

Open the lid and look at what's packed inside. Smile. A lot :D

I was curious to see how the packaging was holding the bouquet in place, so placed the box on its side and opened the bottom of the box. There's a reason for that big This Way Up arrow I showed you earlier: it stops the water from the bouquet's pouch spilling all over the place.
Here you can see how well wrapped and tied the bouquet is, plus the pouch of water to ensure it stays fresh. And yes, those dots on the tissue paper are there to tell you it was raining when I took these photos...
Remove all the protective w…

GBMD: Miriam Rothschild

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Sunlight through Clematis seedhead - late November 2011
I must say, I find everything interesting
Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005)
A quotation found via Transatlantic Gardener which could be a strapline for me and this blog :)

Wordless Wednesday: Red Windsor Apples

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For today's other Wordless Wednesday posts, visit here.

Should we Flattr as well as Comment?

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If you can't play the introducing Flattr video embedded above, try this link instead.
Today's been declared Pay a Blogger day by the people at Flattr, a social micropayments scheme designed to reward bloggers via readers and other bloggers who've signed up for it. Each signee decides how much they'd like to pay per month (a small fee, minimum 2 euros ) and bloggers who like the idea can display a button on their blogs.
If someone signed up to the scheme finds a blogger they like who's displaying the button, they can click on it in appreciation. At the end of the month their monthly fee is divided amongst all the sites they've clicked on. The idea is the blogging community can be rewarded for all the sparkling content they provide free of charge.
All this of course is dependent on people signing up and I suspect today's Pay a Blogger designation is to try and gain some publicity and generate awareness. Until last week I'd only found one blog displaying the …

On Assignment With David Perry

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One of the highlights of our trip to Seattle was the photography workshop kindly provided by David Perry. I've followed his blog for a number of years and from that know he's extremely talented and just how passionate he is about his subject. Here he's giving us our initial introduction at the start of our visit to the Bloedel Reserve - in the pouring rain, hence the slightly fuzzy shot.

Guess what's in the paper bag?...No Idea?...
...it was a mirror - chosen to illustrate our first key point of the day: the most important element of taking a picture is ourselves. Each one of us is unique. This affects the way we see the world and ultimately the pictures we choose to take.
I hope David doesn't mind I've scanned his Fling handout into here. Apologies for the state of it, but a wet day in the Reserve, plus travelling thousands of miles hasn't kept it in a pristine condition. You can click to enlarge if necessary - there are some really good points on there whi…

Felco Pruning Saw: Product Review

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Before going to the Seattle Fling I'd heard they were giving away door prizes, but had no idea what that actually meant. It turns out they're items given out at some point in each activity on the Fling's timetable, usually over lunch or when everyone is gathered together for a good natter.

Quite often they were prizes in fun quizzes such as naming flowers in our host's garden or knowing a little something about Washington, such as its State flower*. When Lorene asked the question who's staying the longest in Seattle?, I was surprised to find it was me and even more surprised to find myself the owner of the pictured Felco pruning saw + spare blade, courtesy of David Fishman who'd generously donated it.
I was delighted, but soon began to worry I might not be able to get it home. Having been stopped at customs in Australia in 2003 with a metal kookaburra** in my hand luggage - you might get air rage and attack your neighbour with it madam*** - I had visions of be…

Sites for Sore Eyes? More About Google Search

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Last week I explored blog readability - thanks to all of you for your thoughtful comments :)
This week I'm looking at another change to Google's search capabilities I found out about at BlogCamp which you might not be aware of. Did you know the search result you see might be different to mine even if we enter the same search term at exactly the same time? This is because Google takes your previous searches and what you clicked on, plus the websites you visit through other means (e.g. via your bookmarks) into account when producing the list of sites it presents for you.
Most of the time this has little effect as it's very likely the site you want to look at is in the list. However, there are a couple of situations where it might not give you what you want to know: You may want to assess how your blog performs in a particular search e.g. on your blog's name , or whether e.g. a garden visit you wrote about features highly when that garden is searched for on the webThe artic…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #28

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Form a company tapping into the increasingly lucrative accident compensation marketRecruit a number of sales people to bring in the business you needProvide them with a mobile advertising unit just right for temporary high street installationWait for a blogger with a camera to spot it has an in-built trip hazardEt voila! Note that the usual blogger with a camera can be seen further down the street on the right. My thanks to NAH for spotting the possibilities and taking the photograph :)

OOTS Extra: Snoqualmie

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Serendipity brought us to this place. Having persuaded NAH to come with me to the Seattle Fling, he then found out one of his friends from Uni days lives in nearby Snoqualmie. I'd also earmarked it as a potential place of interest because it's home to an historic railroad :)

Both factors led us to spend quite a bit of time in the area. Having spent the night at D's lovely home overlooking the mountains, we also spent the last day of our holiday there. Wandering around the centre of this relatively small town, I quickly realised it has much to teach us about creating a sense of place in our public surroundings. In the above photo you can see the chosen paving looks like a silvered boardwalk and a generous decorative iron covering gives the street trees room to breathe.

Snoqualmie is proud of its railroad heritage and this is reflected in the pedestrian crossings on the side streets.
Even the drain covers are decorative and carry an important reminder they don't connect wi…

Wildflower Wednesday: 30 Degrees to Yakima

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This is my final wildflower installment from our American roadtrip around Washington State and the Oregon Trail this summer. Firstly I need you to retrace your steps and imagine yourself on the relatively cool slopes of Mount Rainier, amongst the colourful Alpine meadows and the sweet mountain air...

Leaving the mountains and heading eastwards, the landscape soon changes most dramatically. The hills are more rolling in nature, brown in colour and sparsely vegetated. As we headed along the scenic route along the Tieton river valley, I looked up and realised we were travelling through the ancient beds of immense lava flows, hundreds of feet thick. The columnar structure of the rhyolite rock reminded me of basalt columns of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. I learned later these ancient lava flows are also hundreds of miles across. Imagine how active the volcanoes were at that time!

We're now in the rain shadow of the mountain where the annual rainfall drops dramatically from th…

Arne Maynard on Garden Design

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Threadspider, T and I attended another great Bath University Gardening Club talk recently, this time courtesy of top garden designer Arne Maynard.

I'm showing a picture of Rousham, because Arne told us this is the one garden he constantly returns to for inspiration, as a point of reference and is the place he always learns from or visits if he has a problem to solve. He loves its pared back simplicity and explained there's no guidebook or signage for visitors. Instead, there's an 'invisible thread' William Kent (the designer) used to draw the visitor through the garden.
Arne likes the garden's subtle contrasts such as uncut vs. cut areas of grass, flowing vs. still water and perhaps most important of all, sun vs. shade. It's this latter contrast in particular which helps to draw visitors through the garden. He reckons most of them take the same route as they are constantly beckoned on to find what's around the corner or to see what lies beyond the next …

A Simple Garden Checklist

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I've always considered VP Gardens as my first true garden even though we've lived in several places previously. It's the first time I've felt truly inspired by a space and wanting to do the best for it.
I wasn't that knowledgeable about gardening when we moved here and having a completely blank canvas I was worried I wouldn't manage to design the planting to have something of interest in every month.
So I came up with the pictured simple garden checklist (click to enlarge it if you want to see the detail) and put my provisional plant list down the side and the months of the year across the top. What you see is just one of several pages and this one covers the shrub side of things.
The blue crosses show the flowering season and the red writing any leaf colour or berry season. It was then an easy task to look down each month and identify the gaps. I'd also marked each plant with its height (in silver by its name, plus whether it's deciduous or evergreen in g…

Two From Timber Press: Book Review

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I'm writing two reviews for the price of one today because the second follows on naturally from the first, even though they're by different authors.

High Impact Low-Carbon Gardening by Alice Bowe is the first time I've seen design and environmentally friendly gardening in one volume*. I have quite a few books on this topic re planting, but virtually nothing on the hardscaping side of things**. The combination of the two here results in a much more holistic approach to gardening.

This isn't just about designing a whole garden from scratch. You may choose to focus on a chapter or two to give your garden a mini-makeover, such as deciding which plants to use (and their supplier) for a particularly challenging part of the garden or to attract more wildlife.

Since reading this book, I've started to think differently about the changes I'd like to make to my garden. Bowe writes about 'designing for disassembly' i.e. using materials which can be reused or recycl…

How Readable is Your Blog?

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One of the things we discussed at the Writing for the Web course I attended recently was the readability of various media. I was surprised to learn the average reading age in the UK is 10 years. The reading ages of The Sun, The Guardian and The Financial Times are 8, 14 and undergraduate level respectively. Whilst many people sneer at The Sun's content, it's the only paper we looked at on the course which has a chance of being read and understood by the majority of the UK's population. This may help to explain why The Sun has relatively high sales.
We then turned our attention to our web writing and a simple tool available on Google Search which can be used to gauge the simplicity of the language we use. You'll see in the image above I've put my blog's address into Google. As usual various pages from my blog are returned together with some examples of where it's mentioned elsewhere on the web.
I've then gone down the various options in Google Search…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #27

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Times are hard, so come up with a new initiative to bring life back to your town's high streetGive it the snazzy title Chippenham Alive!Advertise the key businesses involved in the initiativeWait for a blogger with a camera to notice the sole advertisement in the town centre is in the window of an empty shopEt voila!Chippenham Alive! is the new monthly late night opening initiative, designed to counteract the effects of recent high street closures and massively hiked parking charges. The reaction to the first opening last month was mixed. There was quite a lot of publicity in the local paper, but it would appear not so much on the streets and participating shops themselves. Here's hoping tonight's late night opening which includes the Christmas lights switch on fares much better.

Allotment Experiments: Echalote Grise

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Having given up half of my allotment, I was worried I wouldn't have the space any more for the kind of growing experiments I love to do. Thank goodness for the discovery of Echalote Grise, the strongly flavoured gourmet shallot (aka echalions or banana shallots, a variety I've always wanted to grow) which is planted in the autumn. Isn't it great to find something which can be planted out now?

To the left are some I bought from my local supermarket. Now most books warn about using shop bought edibles as seed. I'd certainly agree with them about garlic and potatoes*, but these British grown shallots look pretty healthy to me. On the right are some sets I bought from Edwin Tucker, a new supplier for me to try** and theirs was by far the cheapest I could find. However, they're still about twice the price of my supermarket ones for around the same number and weight.
Will I get what I pay for? Will proper seed triumph over shop bought? Will I be able to save any of my c…

Wordless Wednesday: Spot the Real Plant

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GBBD: Fine Fuchsias

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This spring, I was surprised to find some of my hardy fuchsias hadn't survived the harsh winter, even though some of the more tender plants like my in-ground dahlias and potted olive tree had.

Usually when I lose a plant, I treat it as an opportunity to try something else. After all, there are so many more I'd like to grow than there's room for. However, my Fuchsia 'Garden News' worked so well in my lower terrace bed I decided to replace it with one I found at the Malvern Spring Show. There's not that many hardy fuchsias with a double form and this one flounces its skirts so prettily. It's also good at arching itself over the wall which makes it particularly noticeable when taking the side path down into the garden.


On the upper terrace bedFuchsia magellanica 'Versicolor' has grown particularly tall this year, despite its slow start after the winter. The flowers of magellanica type fuchsias always remind me of earrings. These are also providing a wel…

Chestnut and Mushroom Soup: Seasonal Recipe

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Our local supermarket was selling off tins of chestnut puree very cheaply recently, so it can introduce slightly smaller ones of the same brand at the previous price. Naturally I was very happy to score quite a few of the larger cans for my store cupboard :)

Last week, I decided to make chestnut and mushroom soup for lunch and devised this very quick and simple recipe.
Ingredients 1x 435g can unsweetened chestnut puree 250g well flavoured mushrooms e.g. chestnut (!)1 tbsp oil (I used olive oil for its fruity flavour)1 litre vegetable stock (or 1 stock cube made up to this amount)Salt and black pepper to tasteMethod Empty the tin of chestnut puree into a large pan, swilling it out with stock to ensure all the puree is obtainedAdd the remaining stock to the panBring the liquid slowly to the boil, stirring well at the beginning to ensure the puree is dispersed into the stockMeanwhile thinly slice the mushroomsAdd the oil to a frying pan and add the mushroomsFry the mushrooms - you're aim…