Archive for May, 2010

Ready or not: Sweetcorn is go

Sweetcorn seedlingsDone it at last… and already I’m nervous. The weather has taken a turn for the worse today. If we get frost again, I think I’ll lose it completely. What kind of crappy year are we having??

I’m going a bit easy on the corn this year. Last season’s crop was so sensational that we gorged ourselves nightly for what felt like months. It was all a bit much – and despite a 12-month lay-off, I’m still not that enthusiastic at the prospect of more.

Posted on 31st May 2010
Under: Sweetcorn, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Too scared to plant out the corn

sweetcorn seedlingsOK, now this is getting desperate. I have two trays of corn ready to plant out, but no time to do it. Plus I’m still scared of frost.

Call me paranoid, but I’m convinced it will all go shit-shaped at least once more before ‘summer’ arrives. Once bitten, twice shy.

So the corn will just have to wait, and wait, and wait. Better to get a bit leggy and pot-bound than to perish under a still, clear, starlit, frosty sky.


Posted on 26th May 2010
Under: Sweetcorn | 9 Comments »

Celeriac: not quite yet…

celeriac in potsAstonishingly, my potatoes appear to be coming back… thank Heaven. Thanks to everyone who expressed sympathy, and good luck to those who suffered the same fate. Hope yours are recovering too.

My thoughts have now turned to the pot-bound plants that desperately need to get out on the plot – such as this celeriac.

Normally, I’d have planted them out by now. But this year, I simply daren’t – I have a nasty feeling that Winter hasn’t quite finished with us yet, despite the gorgeous 23C sunshine we’re enjoying this weekend.

my 10km run this morningSo I’m going to have a nervous breakdown trying to get everything out next weekend… when I assume it will piss with rain 24/7.

At least today I got a good run in the log book. This route was absolutely gorgeous, and I can’t recommend it highly enough – for a jog, walk, run, whatever.

Posted on 22nd May 2010
Under: Roots, running | 11 Comments »

In the running: Slow but steady

SoilmanThe weekend was pretty uninspiring for gardening. Got some peas planted out and spent what felt like hours weeding. But the real sense of achievement came from the 10km run.

This was the second 10km I’ve completed, and I’m beginning to get a little bit of confidence about it. Sunday’s was particularly encouraging, because I felt fresh at the end. Could have gone a lot further. It was even enjoyable… and I never thought I’d be writing that.

Such is my enthusiasm, in fact, that I’ve signed up for the BHF’s Blenheim 10km in June. My ultra-staunch training partner, aka my sister (poor deluded woman), is accompanying me. The aim is NOT a fast time. Nor are we manically raising funds – for now. We just want to run the whole course and finish.

So wish me luck. And send a paramedic.

Posted on 18th May 2010
Under: running | 9 Comments »

Frosted potatoes

Frosted potatoes

Ever seen a properly frosted potato haulm? You have now.

This is the wreckage of last night’s sub-zero attack, which has blackened and destroyed every bit of potato leaf above ground – on our whole allotment site. Nobody’s escaped.

Now normally I wouldn’t be too worried. We’ve had late Spring frosts before, and the potatoes – albeit damaged – have always shrugged it off.

This year, though, I confess I AM worried – very worried. The potatoes had been fighting to put on any growth in the cold weather, and this is the worst frost damage I’ve ever seen. If they do manage to regrow, I’m assuming the plants – and therefore the tubers – will struggle to reach a decent size.

And another thing, now guaranteed: we’re going to be digging the first new potatoes MUCH later than usual.

This year is just weird. Definitely the coldest, bleakest growing season I’ve ever known.

Posted on 13th May 2010
Under: Potatoes | 16 Comments »

Eat green: Save money, save jobs

I was fascinated by an item on Radio 4 early this morning about a Derbyshire NHS Trust that’s chosen to source all its food locally.

Not only has this cut the food miles of everything the patients eat, it’s saving the Trust £6m a year… and saving the livelihoods of local farmers. Some were on the edge of bankruptcy until they signed up to the scheme.

Of course it’s dangerous to extrapolate nationally from isolated cases – ideologues love doing it, and we all know where that leads.

But the Trust’s manager reckons a national scheme could save the NHS £400m annually. If it also saves jobs and puts healthier, greener food on sick people’s plates, you have to conclude it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

I’d also add two further comments: a question and a observation.

The observation: Here’s a potentially impressive cost-saving AND employment boost that will almost certainly go nowhere because NHS spending has been ‘ring-fenced’ by all political parties. When nobody’s looking for savings, nobody finds them. How can it make sense to avoid looking for economy in our single biggest area of national expenditure?

And the question: Why the bloody hell wasn’t this done years ago?

Posted on 13th May 2010
Under: Rants | 11 Comments »

The UK’s democratic deficit

This is not a political blog. Well, it’s not an avowedly political blog. As others have noted, the personal IS the political… but I generally try to keep politics out of these pages. I’m a gardener, FFS.

Unfortunately – at least, to those who’d prefer me not to – I can’t help commenting on the UK’s current electoral cluster-fuck. I find myself dazed, baffled and bewildered by the events unfolding in front of our eyes this evening.

Democracy: the people’s will

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought the point of elections (anywhere, not just in the UK) was to find a government that represented the people’s will and the people’s choice. FPTP, AV, PR, FUCTIFINO… whatever the system (each with its own unique pros, cons and imperfections), this is surely the aim of democracy.

So how is it remotely democratic, or representative of the people’s will, to install a government that contains not a single member of the party that commanded the most votes (2 million more than the nearest contender)?

The evil English

Looked at from the point of view of the various nations under the Union flag, it’s even crazier: the party overwhelmingly favoured (40% of all votes) by the most populous country in the union (England) is potentially to be excluded from government. Quite possibly by a coalition including parties from Wales and Scotland who sell their votes for guarantees that no public spending cuts will fall upon their homelands… but instead upon the evil, disenfranchised, majority English.

Well, well. As some people are fond of saying, you couldn’t make it up.

However you cast your vote, and whomever commands your political sympathy, I can only beg you to recognise that this scenario is as profoundly unfair, untenable and undemocratic as its reverse – say, the domination of Scotland by the tribally English conservative government of the 1980s. No democrat could regard that scenario then, or now, as right. I certainly didn’t, and don’t.

I’m not pleading for a Tory government. This is untribal, and apolitical. I don’t give a flying fuck if tomorrow morning I wake up to a government of Libs, Labs, Greens, Plaids and SDPs… provided there’s at least one Conservative in it. Anything else is an insult to the people who just voted.

In short, this is a plea for fucking democracy – the kind of representative fairness that the Liberal Democrats’ advocacy of electoral reform is supposed to address, and one of the things that lent them some credibility in the election campaign.

Or are fairness and democracy just another two things, like literacy and politeness, that we Brits have given up on?

Postscript: Well, the infamous ‘rainbow coalition’ hasn’t happened – thanks in no small part to the common sense of many senior Labour politicians, who perceived the mauling they’d get from the electorate down the line. It’s a relief, frankly, that common sense has prevailed.

Posted on 10th May 2010
Under: Rants | 9 Comments »

Roses without aphids: WTF?

RosebudNotice anything unusual about this rose foliage?

To my utter astonishment, there are no aphids on the new growth. And I mean none – I’ve hunted, believe me, and there’s not a single aphid of any hue anywhere on these plants. And it’s May, FFS.

It’s not because I’ve sprayed them; I don’t do that. So how come?

Well, to apply Holmesian logic: If I’ve not sprayed them, and nobody else is spraying them (the midnight Derris Duster?), there can only be one conclusion:

There are no aphids because it’s been SO FUCKING COLD.

Posted on 6th May 2010
Under: Flowers | 8 Comments »

Slowest growing brassicas EVER

Cauliflower seedlings gherkins

Now the mad time is starting. I’ve got seedlings stuffed into every nook and cranny of the house. There’s even more under plastic outside. I’m gagging to get them all planted out, but daren’t: it’s not frost safe for another month yet.

It’s already turning into a very peculiar growing year. My cauliflower seedlings have grown more slowly than I’ve ever known – the ones above were sown in early March, but still have only two true leaves. Quite extraordinary.

In other news, my potatoes are also coming through spectacularly slowly. Looks like patience is going to be the watchword for 2010… which is dispiriting news, because I have BUGGER ALL PATIENCE.

Posted on 1st May 2010
Under: Brassicas, Cucurbits | 8 Comments »