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Showing posts from July, 2013

OOTS: Where's Our Public Planting Legacy?

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This week sees us wallowing in nostalgia. It's a year since London 2012 and all kinds of sporting activities - such as The Anniversary Games - are being held to recapture that feel-good factor. Much has been made by the media recently about the Games' legacy: it seems we're playing more sport these days, as well as watching it. Hooray for us!


Since my visit to the Olympic Park last year, I've been thinking about a different legacy; one concerning our public open space. Whilst there I heard "Look at those flowers!", many a time and then, "Wow, that's amazing!". I wandered around the Park with a huge grin, simply listening to everyone's incredulous reaction to their surroundings.


Back home, isn't that the kind of reaction we should all have to our own public space? Surely it's not just about the legacy embodied in the Olympic Park? Looking at Wikipedia and the Olympic Legacy websites, it seems that so far it is. Now, if the reaction I…

Of Flying Ants and Citizen Science

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Last Thursday our patio was heaving with hundreds of flying ants as they made their getaway to mate and find pastures new. I'd seen the odd ant around previously, but hadn't quite realised how many we actually have. They were pouring out of around 10 places between the slabs, plus both large containers outside the back door were transformed into writhing black from their usual terracotta.

I'm wondering if we have lots of nests in our garden all co-ordinating themselves in some way, or was I witnessing an emergence from some vast subterranean network beneath our feet?

Thanks to @BrotchieLight (who hails from Canada), I was alerted to this fantastic blog, contrasting Lisa Smith's experience this year with an account of 'flying ant day' written in 1707. Her post also links to the Society of Biology's flying ant survey which invites everyone to send in details of their experiences.

An earlier survey of 6,000 'citizen scientists' has already dispelled t…

Salad Days: A Quick Look at Hydroponics

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We're taking a break from our usual Salad Days broadcast re salad leaves to have a look at how my tomato crop is faring and to see some preliminary results from trialling a self-watering container.

NB These planters strictly speaking aren't hydroponics ones because they're using compost as the growing media: with hydroponics an inert material such as a mineral wool or clay pebbles are used. However, I believe the kit I'm using utilises many of the principles of hydroponics and can be used to explain what this growing method is about.

As you can see the self-watering container on shown on the left (aka Quadgrow) consists of four planters which sit above a large tank of water. Inside, a strip of absorbent material is fed through a hole in the bottom of each planter and the material acts as a wick to transfer the water into the compost. Far less compost is needed than with the usual kind of containers; just enough to hold the plant in place and allow it to take up water …

Garden Visit: National Botanic Garden of Wales

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If you were watching The One Show last Thursday, you may have spotted Gyles Brandreth and Cerys Matthews reporting from the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Carmarthen. As we were also there a couple of weeks ago, I thought today is a good time to show it off some more :)

After walking through a tree-lined path from the garden's entrance, you'll find the above fountain and a wonderful winding rill inviting you to take the walk up the hill towards the world's largest single-span glasshouse aka The Great Glasshouse. We arrived just before 11am and found there was a guided tour about to start, so naturally that's where we headed first.


Stepping into the glasshouse is a jaw dropping moment. Even NAH was impressed! As it was a hot, sunny day there was lots of sound as the glasshouse windows were opening automatically to control the temperature. This glasshouse specialises in Mediterranean climate plants and as you can see from the various coloured kangaroo paws to th…

Seasonal Recipe: Gooseberry Meringue Nests

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It's a fabulous year for gooseberries isn't it? They flowered up at the allotment in profusion, so the bees were very busy around them earlier this year. Their hard work paid off and I have the best crop ever.

I'm growing an older variety called 'Whinham's Industry', which delivers smaller, sweeter berries that are deep red in colour. They cook into a lovely rich, jewel-like sauce, which I've used to make this very simple recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

12oz gooseberries, topped and tailed4 meringue nests (or you could make your own using half of this recipe)A good dollop of half-fat creme fraiche per person - mine came courtesy of winning the fab competition Mark and Gaz hosted recently :)Brown granulated sugar to taste (or whatever you have to hand)A splash of water
Method Place the gooseberries in a pan with a splash of water - you need just enough to make sure the gooseberries don't stick to the pan before they release their juicesSlowly bring the goose…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #34

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Decide your local company needs to get out and about a bit moreTake a pitch at Chippenham's Art in the Park eventSet up your informative displayWait for a blogger with a camera to notice your product isn't quite needed on the day in questionEt voila! It was definitely ultra-warm in Monkton Park last Saturday; the hottest day of the year at that point!

The Fling Comes to VP Gardens

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I so wanted to go to the Garden Bloggers' Fling in San Francisco last month, but events conspired against me and thus it was left to Helen, Victoria and Lottie to represent the British bloggers this year. Judging by all the posts I've seen by the Flingers, a high old time was had by all :)

Last weekend a fat envelope arrived on our doormat. It was from Helen and stuffed full of the vegetable seeds from her Fling swag bag; it was so thoughtful of her to share her stash. As you can see there's plenty for my 52 Week Salad Challenge and I've always loved the designs used by Botanical Interests on their packets. I'm also a sucker for trying out new varieties of squash, so I'm looking forward to growing 'Sweet Meat' next year.

Thanks for a fabulous haul Helen, you've helped me feel included in this year's event :)

Wordless Wednesday: Keeping Cool

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GBBD: The Gentle Art of Laissez-Faire

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Our shady side garden currently isn't looking quite as shady as usual owing to the combination of Rosa 'Rambling Rector' and Philadelphus 'Virginal'.  They've merged together into a wall of seamless white, where from a distance it's hard to tell them apart.

I wish I could claim some merit for this combination. Well, I suppose I did plant them where I did, but they've been left to do their own thing, the Rambling Rector in particular. I'm finding it quite hard to keep him in check lower down in the garden as he's threaded himself behind the other shrubs. These are now acting as supports for the cascades of white flowers almost reaching the ground.

This year my plants are also merging with the shrubs and trees on the public land as they reach out to join them. The frothy flowers of the elderflower are late this year and form an echo of creamy white beneath the ash tree.

If only my laissez-faire attitude was working elsewhere in the garden!

Garden Bl…

Bolting Lettuces

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I returned from holiday to find lots of my lettuces have started to bolt. It's due to a combination of the recent heat, the longer daylength and my having too many lettuces growing to keep them thoroughly picked to their central core.

It's too late to save my pictured 'Amaze' lettuces. A quick nibble on a leaf showed they're too bitter for eating. As these are windowsill grown, I'm not going to save their seed - NAH has been most tolerant of my growing activities, but I think seeding lettuces in the bedroom might be beyond his limit!

Outside I'm keeping my non-bolted lettuces well picked and well watered and I've moved the potted ones to a much shadier part of the garden*. These measures should help prevent my remaining lettuces from doing what comes naturally. As soon as they start growing upwards then I'll have to decide which are going straight to the compost bin and if any are worth saving for seed. So far, Black Seeded Simpson, Freckles, Marve…

I Heart Raised Beds

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My biggest and best project of the year so far has been converting part of my allotment to a no dig, raised bed system. A few sources of inspiration all converged last year to persuade me to finally take the plunge:
My visit to Charles Dowding and seeing no dig in actionListening to Alys Fowler talk about her Edible Garden at a study day at Holt Farm last year and then reading her book. Inspirational stuff which has got me thinking very hard about the way in which I garden and keep my allotmentFinally getting around to using the raised bed kit I received as a giveaway from Garden Answersa couple of years ago and realising that little patch is soooooo much easier to maintain So I invested in another six raised bed kits last summer. Unfortunately the bad weather meant I didn't get round to setting them up until late spring this year. I roughly cleared the allotted space of weeds and then laid a thick layer of cardboard with wetted newspaper on top to suppress any further weeds from …

Hampton Court is Hot

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After visiting several shows with accompanying cold weather and rain, it was rather a surprise to find this year's RHS Hampton Court show bathed in hot sunshine yesterday. It's decades since I last wore a hat (as I get 'hat hair'), but even I had to succumb to the inevitable and take shelter beneath a brim. Factor 45 sunscreen, plenty of water (with frequent top ups) and seeking shade were the order of the day. I even sneakily had a spray of water from the sprinkler on Chris Beardshaw's beautifully planted show garden in an attempt to keep cool!

Mark and Gaz have already thoroughly catalogued many of the show gardens with pictures much better than mine, and Matron has quite a bit to say on the edible side of things. So I thought I'd add some of the other things I spotted on the day which might otherwise get missed out.

A last-minute exhibit was the exotic butterfly dome, put on in conjunction with the Eden Project. This was an indoor area complete with tropica…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #33

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Set up a specialist gardening supply companyHide it away on an industrial estate well away from prying eyesDecide you really want people to know it's thereWait for a blogger with a camera to spot your advert on the roundabout by the estate where she livesEt voila! I've just started to get to grips with hydroponics, so expect more on this subject and possibly Bill and Ben to come :)

Postcard From Ceredigion

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We've just come back from an idyllic week in sunny South Wales, where the pictured bay is the typical coastal scene. This is Mwnt, where we spent a happy hour watching dolphins just off the rocks to the right of this picture. The lady in the cafe at the top of the 139 steps down to the beach told us the knack for good dolphin spotting. 'Look for where the gannets are diving' she told us, 'that's where the fish are and you can guarantee they won't be far behind.' She was right. Sometimes the gannets flew further out into the bay, and sure enough, that's where the dolphins went too.

VPGGB #17: Potato Bag

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I think this potato bag is one of the best £1's I've spent in a very long time. It's a breathable sack which has a black lining, thus minimising the light getting through to the potatoes inside. As a result, the potatoes last at least twice as long as those kept in a sweaty, light filled plastic bag.

It can hold up to 5 kilos of spuds and because NAH and I eat them only 1-2 times a week, anything which helps to keep them for longer is very handy indeed.

I'll also keep on using it when I dig up this year's crop. By keeping a supply close by in the kitchen, it'll save me having to go outside and dive into the large paper sacks I use to store spuds in the garage whenever spuds take our fancy.

What's your favourite bargain at the moment?

Wordless Wednesday: Summer at Holt Farm

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GBMD: July

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Loud is the summer's busy song
The smallest breeze can find a tongue,
While insects of each tiny size
Grow teasing with their melodies,
Till noon burns with its blistering breath
Around, and day lies still as death.

John Clare (1793-1864), July