Tuesday 21 February 2012

Baby it's cold outside!

As I write this*, the weather is starting to turn, to improve, to warm up, to tempt the novice gardener into a false sense of security and lull them into a mad frenzy of seed sowing, and frantic seedling-based activity.

I've seen this before - I feel like a wily old sea dog advising the hapless fisherman that they'll need a bigger boat.

I might just chew on a stick or something for effect whilst I type...

I have been collecting seeds over the past few weeks, both by emptying the contents of my wallet at the nearest garden centre and via the generosity of kind folk out there in Social Media land @HorticulturalH with an honorary mention.

Of course, this meant that I had a mass of seeds and nowhere to store them (I'd lost my seed tin and it's contents - still A.W.O.L). However, yet again the milk of human kindness washed over me (I needed a bit of a bath afterwards, as you know how milk goes when it sits around for a bit) and I was kindly sent the most amazing seed box - which I will keep for as long as I am sowing seeds - how gorgeous is this. Thank you, you beauty - you know who you are!

I've gone off track haven't I...

Yes, so (places chewing stick back in mouth) having been caught out before now and sown seeds aplenty only to find out that weeks later through lack of sunlight (we live in a shady house - that's not to say it's dodgy you understand, just lacks a little sunshine - which is not to say it's an unhappy house, just a little dark... Oh, bugger it). The lack of sunlight means that the poor little seedlings that poke their way through the compost searching for a little sunlight end up getting "leggy" and rather too feeble to hold themselves upright. Result - another sowing required and a lesson learned.

So this year - with the aid of my new highly organisable (?) seed box, I have a plan - well, a bit more of a plan than I've ever had before.

I spend a short while last week organising all my seeds into their respective sowing months slots in the seedbox - stood back and looked smug for a second.

Bask in the smugness...

There are a few seeds which are indicated sowing time of around now, but I'm holding out - I'm determined not to have any failures this year (seasoned gardeners will now this is utter foolhardiness, but I'm keeping my glass half-full).

As a result, I have not really sown/planted anything other than onions, garlic and a batch of peas.

So, to the onions - I bought 100 sets (I can't be faffed with seeds - though they smell lush) and on Sunday morning TheBoyWayne and I donned our cold weather gear and headed out.

We arrived at the site gate - locked, and nobody to be seen. Another sign that one might be a little early, but hey - we were there. I opened the gate and we made our way to plot 35.

I marked out the first line (with held from TheBoyWayne) and we started to place the onions sets firmly into the ground. Birds will pull at them, but if you firm them in nicely you shouldn't have too many casualties. Line one, then two, three and four - five or six lines in total and the job was done. The ground had a slight frosty crust, but nothing a quick forking (steady!) didn't sort out.

Onions - done.

Garlic followed soon after - a much quicker job. 3 bulbs - resulting in about 25-30 cloves, which will result in about 20 plants I'd imagine. Maths never was my strong point...

Anyway - just so I remember what they were:

By this time the cold was starting to take it's toll on the pair of us. One snotty nose and one slightly aching back - I'll leave you to decide who had what..

So - a quick wash of our hands and we'd head back.

En route to the tap we passed the chickens, which of course needed a quick visit to say hello and we all converse in chicklish chit-chat for a bit before TheBoyWayne decides that it's actually quite boring having a pretty much one way conversation (he should try having himself as a son sometimes).

Then - upon reaching the tap I remembered the sign at the gate "the taps have been switched off to avoid frost damage and will be switched back on once the weather warms up a bit" - or words to that effect. So we returned home proper grubby boys.

That is of course after TheBoyWayne had his Peppa Pig inspired splash in the muddy puddle to "clean" his boots.

Thanks Peppa!

We arrived back home to LadyWayne preparing Sunday lunch (we had some friends due round later that day), and TheBoyWayne decided it was a much more attractive proposition to help mummy out in the nice warm kitchen than outside in the cold with daddy. So, I cracked on getting some peas planted.

Now, anyone who's grown peas before will know that they throw down a long root system, and that starting them off in pots can be a bit troublesome. So, rather than sowing direct and feeding the local mice (one entire sowing was devoured by mice one year), I grow mine in loo roll centres.

Bear with me.

Loo roll centres make great "root trainers" - taking the roots straight down and giving the plant a better start. You simply fill the tube with compost, sow the seed and when ready to plant out, you place the whole thing, cardboard and all straight into the ground. The cardboard degrades after a time, but not before it's acted as a channel to focus the water straight down to the roots where it's needed most. You'll need a lot of loo roll centres for this method, so get a network going, ask friends and family to save them for you - you'll need all you can get. Storing them can be a challenge, but simply fold them up and stuff them inside another tube to save space:

Then, when ready to use, simply stand them up in a seed tray, fill with compost and sow 'till your heart's content.

Not sure if you can tell from the packet - but these are simply "Peas - Spring".

They are now sitting in the greenhouse - I'll hopefully see little green shoots poking through in a couple of weeks.

Until then, I will be mostly chitting potatoes...


*this is a slight lie, because it's 20:30hrs and it's a bit parky outside, but you get my drift...

Monday 30 January 2012

Back "by popular demand"

I’m a bad blogger.

There, I said it.

It’s been almost a year since my last post, and I feel terrible. Of course, nothing much has happened in that time – such is the life of a Wayne.

I’m lying of course, a vain attempt at placating my guilt and buying myself a bit of time whilst I think about what to put here in my first post of 2012.

Suffice it to say that last year was possibly a bit of a write-off where the plot is concerned. A flurry of activity toward the beginning of the year, which Wayned (pun intended and badly executed) as the year progressed.

Thanks to the wonders of modern Facebookology however I now have a timeline of what I did, and when I did it (to a certain extent), so a quick recap reveals:

• 2 weddings
• 1 cut finger
• 1 Vegas stag do
• A bike ride
• A job change
• The beginning of pre-school
• A beard

2011 in a nutshell.

So, why the renewed efforts to get blogging? Well, at this juncture I should probably mention a few people – so I will. Via the wonder that is the Twitter machine @allyssaroxx @victony01 @anita_neet and various pals on the Grapevine (growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine) all convinced me in their own way to get blogging again, so here I am…

Is that enough explaining?


So – during a conversation between LadyWayne and myself a number of weeks ago, I aired my concerns at being able to carry on with the plot. “We’ll make it more of a family activity” she replied. We’d had this discussion before…

A promise of spending every Sunday morning (weather/schedule permitting) on the plot as a family was offered. I took it – with open arms.

So, after the Christmas mayhem (we hosted again – gladly) I set about gathering my seed catalogues and the search began for my own seed stash. That search is still going on – I’ve lost my tin.

Writing this I’d like to make you aware that I am at present, a little bit edgy at the prospect of having yet to sow a single seed. Other gardeners (of any level) will understand this apprehension, as the season fast approaches, the knowledge that in a month or so, chaos will reign supreme as I try in vain to get seeds to germinate, eke out every second of daylight, run out of room….

Deep breath.

Of course, before one embarks on the annual seed-fest and subsequent flurry of activity, it is important to prepare the final resting…..growing place of the plants you intend to grow.


I’ve missed a step.

This often happens (again, beginners like me will understand).

Firstly, it’s probably a good idea to decide on what you want to grow. Previous years have been a bit hit and miss – the last 4-5 years have been a steep learning curve, understanding what grows well on the plot, what you like to grow and so on.

So, I’ve drawn up a list of the produce I am looking to grow this year – based on our likes and successes:

• Sweetcorn (lots of)
• Beetroot (lots of)
• Carrots (successional sowings of)
• Peas (podded and “mange tout” types)
• Potatoes (2nd early & main)
• Courgettes (green only)
• Squashes (butternut & one other type)
• Gherkins (although not a big success last year)
• Chillies (see previous item)
• Onions
• Garlic
• Fennel
• Celeriac
• Brussels Sprouts
• Broccoli
• Spring Onions
• Runner Beans
• French Beans
• Parsnips
• Swede
• Turnips
• Herbs (oregano/mint/rosemary/thyme/sage/basil/parsley)
• Rhubarb
• Apples
• Strawberries
• Raspberries
• Flowers of various descriptions (one year on looking at my plot I decided it was too “green” and vowed to inject more colour in subsequent years)

I’m sure there are some things I’ve forgotten – but that seems enough to be getting on with for now.

So, I’ve started to order seeds from numerous suppliers in the absence of my own stash – I will learn to put it in a safe place, I will.

This Sunday just passed was out first “day” as a family on the plot. Sods law that only days before the pretty weather ladies (and a few chaps) suggest that we are in for a four-week long cold snap! They of course are right, and a quick recce out the front window on Sunday morning revealed a frost – confirmed by the blast of cold air as the kitchen window was opened as we prepared breakfast.

Breakfast done, I loaded the car up with the basic paraphernalia required this time of year – the lopper, pruning shears, secateurs, long-handled spade, 3 bags of leaves and several layers of clothing.

TheBoyWayne and myself dressed as one would expect, boots, scruffy trousers/jeans, jumper and body warmers (though I think they’re called “Gilets” nowadays). LadyWayne however, perhaps less as one would expect:

Car now unloaded LadyWayne and TheBoyWayne awaited instruction – I uttered a few basic requests and set about tackling the apple tree with my pruning shears. The tree was in need of a haircut:

I started tentatively as always – keeping the “goblet” shape in mind, and soon realised that I perhaps needed to be a little more ruthless and clambered onto the tree to access the more meaningful branches. After about 45 minutes, several branch stabs and a cut finger, it started to take shape. I took a step back and glanced over onto the plot to notice that LadyWayne had made great progress and had cleared several beds already!


I have omitted the numerous "raised-voice" instructions that TheBoyWayne had already received at this stage – as they will most likely add nothing to the sense of progress.

“The beds are in good shape – makes it a lot easier to dig” uttered LadyWayne after another couple of beds had been cleared.

Now in itself this probably doesn’t mean much to many of you – but to me it meant that the years of hard work that have been put in to date, are finally starting to pay off. I remember spending hours on some of the beds – pulling up roots, pulling weeds, digging in leaf mulch, compost, cardboard and so on. The soil it seems is starting to improve.

*takes a moment*

Once the tree was nearly complete, TheBoyWayne decided he’d had enough of being “talked to” because he kept walking over the beds instead of using the paths, and wandered off a few plots up to go and see the “bock-bock chickens”. He soon returned pronouncing he didn’t like the chickens – but wanted mummy to go and have another look with him anyway.

Off they went as I finished off the tree. It always looks harsh after its haircut – but hopefully I’ve done what is required for another year:

LadyWayne had cleared tens beds by this point, TheBoyWayne helping deposit the discarded weeds, roots and dead plants onto the “compostarium” (parents/viewers of Mr Bloom’s Nursery will sympathise). So, they decided to go for a walk around the allotment site – which gave me about half an hour to prune the roses, cut back the raspberries and have a bit of a tidy up.

Now, the raspberries have just been decimated in this photo - I intend to tidy them up, and stake the canes properly this year.

The rose doesn't look much like this, but last year saw plenty of blooms - I'm hoping this year will be the same:

It also gave me the opportunity to picture in my head where things are going to go this year. More organised gardeners/allotment holders will have charts and crop rotation plans, but as with most things I tend to rely on what’s in my head at the time– which is why I’ll never be more than a pottering gardener.

The vision I have will manifest itself into a living plot one day – I know it will. For now - it just looks a bit like this:

(I know it looks a bit untidy, but I will tidy it up as the year progresses, I promise. The lack of shed doesn't help)

Parents of young gardeners will know that it having children on the plot will probably mean that a ten minute job will most likely take fifteen with them “helping”, and that it can sometimes be a little frustrating – but, the rewards far outweigh the hardships.

It’s those little moments – peeing on the compost heap (male wee is a well-known compost accelerator – I discussed this with a friend recently), which he of course takes great pleasure in doing. The “daddy, look what I’ve found!” as he runs over clasping something in his hand – the look of panic on my face as he presents me with this:

(on taking this photo the chrysalis moved in my hand and I very nearly created my own little chrysalis!)

TheBoyWayne will have his own bed this year to grow whatever takes his fancy – I may need to employ some cheating tactics to get things moving a bit quicker – patience are not a 3 year old’s strong point.

I’m looking forward to 2012.

Now where did I put those seeds…?

p.s. someone remind me to bale everything properly please.

Apologies for the mammoth post - I've had some making up to do. Time for s sit down...

Friday 15 April 2011

And in other news...

Garden related again.

Well, plot to be more precise.

Managed to get to the plot for a whole day on Sunday with the family Wayne - with the addition of two extra pairs of hands in the form of my parents.

Dad cleared a whole load of couch grass - call it what you will, but I say couch, others say couch....

Raspberries are looking far neater after EdWayne Scissorhands set to them with his secateurs. No idea if I've done the right thing or not as some are Summer fruiting, and others are Autumn fruiting, but Ill be darned if I can tell them apart! Will know better at the end of the year I'm sure.

Planted a whole row of peas, a load of broad beans and finally managed to get my potatoes in - all 6 rows. 3 of each early and main crop. Just need to remember which ones are which...*

*Demonstrated my mobile phones endless abilities, and took a photo of the the bed with my hand holding the label aloft so I know which one is which. There's no app for that!

Also got the remaining onions into a couple of beds - about 100 spring planted onions to go with the 100 or so autumn planted ones that are already showing green.

Took our old plastic patio furniture, a little drum barbecue and LadyWayne took charge of refreshments and sustenance. All fed and we carried on.

I de-flowered* the rhubarb as it had started to bolt due to the dry weather we've been having, and cleared the weeds from around the plants stinging my hands to buggery in the process on the surrounding nettles.

*no, not in that sense!!

Finally I (with the help of Dad) built the raised bed for Bean that I have been promising, and now that I have a plentiful supply of green garden paint I can coat it, line it and fill it.

On the subject of filling, it would appear that I have found a source of topsoil courtesy of FreeCycle - I just need to sort out how I get it from source to plot....

Maybe that's for the next post.

I will update with some more interesting matter (photos) shortly, once I remember to take the camera with me..

Until then.

Saturday 12 February 2011

The "death wobble"

At this rate I'll need a bit of their help myself!

This post is not in the slightest bit garden related (well apart from the hedge mention a bit later), but I feel the need to impart.

As many of you know I took part in the British Heart Foundation's London to Brighton Bike Ride last year and loved it. I was also fortunate to raise a decent amount of money for them thanks to the generocity of friends, family and you guys on-vine.

I decided to enter again this year, and as I'm a former participant I get a guaranteed place and also enter a team myself.

Having completed the course last year I had a number of friends, neighbours and colleagues who said they'd take part this year and of the four "definites" only LadyWayne's brother is taking part.

So, I sold him my bike and bought a new one and we eventually managed to get out for our first ride this afternoon. The weather was forecast for sunshine so I have to admit the hail we set out to was a bit of a surprise. Then we tackled the big hill just outside the village. Brother-in-law behind me I set off and rapidly dropped down through the gears. "We'll get to the top even if it takes half an hour" said b-i-l. So I plodded on, breath puffing in front of me, lungs heaving, throat rasping.

There was a steady stream of water running down the hill from the now dissipating rain and hail - it became mildly hypnotic and before I knew it I'd reached the last corner - not long now. To this point I hadn't dared look behind me to see if Chris was still there or not.

Eventually the hill began to flatten out and I glanced behind me to see nothing but empty road. I decided (not before time) to stop and have a bit of a drink. After a few minutes I saw Chris come sauntering round the corner huffing and puffing. As he drew nearer he mounted the bike again and made it up the rest of the hill. "Well done lad" I uttered. "I think I've bitten off more than I can chew" came the reply.

We carried on.

Chatting away for the next couple of miles I mentioned that it gets easier with practise and that a lot of it is down to gear selection. Not minutes later we approached a small hill and Chris began to falter in front of me. "Perfect illustration of gear selection" he uttered as I passed him.

We then reached a turning point in the road. Right would take us on a longer loop and a bit of dual carriageway and left would take us on a shorter route but down a really steep hill - where last year I reached my fastest speed.

Left we went.

As we approached the apex I began to push hard in top gear, chasing down the cars that had passed us shortly before.

"See you at the bottom" I heard from behind me.

Now I should point out at this stage that I am on a new bike that I had never ridden before. I had replaced the stem before we had come out, and it's a smaller, lighter bike than the one behind me that I rode last year.

As I approached a bend I hunkered down and tucked in my elbows.

Then my heart leapt.

I felt the bike start to shake.

Then it started shaking more violently.

I feathered the rear brake (discs) and started to look at the hedges flying past as a "softer" option.

The bike eventually started to settle down and my heart worked its way back down into my chest.

As I slowed my brother in law came flying past not realising how scared I'd just been.

At the bottom of the hill there was a pub. We stopped for a pint and I recounted my tale over a medicinal Tribute.

The rest of the journey home was much more sedate and enjoyable.

I have since looked into what I'd experienced and have read that the "death wobble" (and it did feel like I might have been hurt quite a lot had it have gotten worse) is a relatively rare occurence - not one I wish to repeat any time soon.

Neeldess to say - if I make it up Ditchling Beacon again this year I will take things a little more steadily on the downhills into Brighton.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Terrible two's?

And so it begins! The terrible two's - well that's not exactly true. In fact it's a downright lie! We couldn't ask for more from a son - he's our absolute treasure and even if the two's do turn out to be "terrible" he'll still be our gorgeous boy at the end of it all.

Speaking of two's it also seems that he may well skip the potty (which is about right given that we've spent a fortune on potties and paraphernalia) and go straight to the loo. He much prefers a "toilet wee wee" or "toilet poo poo".

Moving on from one manure related tpoic to another.

It's that time of year when those of you in the gardening community will know that although there isn't much growing going on, there is plenty or work - be it planning, moving, sowing, planning, pruning, browsing, planning or otherwise.

As such I am thinking bout all of those things - admittedly doing little about it to date, but am getting twitchy at the prospect of teh lighter days and warmer temperatures.

Among the tasks that are forming in my mind are to create a couple of raised beds specifically for Hayden (aka Bean) to grow his own little produce or flora. I also need to move the compost heap outside the plot boundaries, create a herb bed....

I may have aleady posted all this - but it's too late to check as my browser has opened the edit page in the same place.

Anyways - I'm pretty sure I haven't posted this before. A couple of years ago I bought a number of raspberry canes - 6 summer, and 6 autumn fruiting. At the time I didn't quite appreciate how rampant raspberries could be, so managed to somehow end up with a mass of raspberry "bush".

My options are thus as I see it;

Try and work out which ones are which (probably resulting in another year without any raspberries) and move them into a more formal arrangement.

Dig them up, throw them out and start again with neat rows, supports and trainers.

I haven't quite made up my mind yet, but optyion 2 is my current favourite.

The more I write, the more I am itching to get onto the plot and get started.

On that note, I am going to stop typing, and concentrate on tomorrow for now. I'm off to the Williams F1 conference centre tomorrow for a work related presentation and meet and greet so I'll leave you with a couple of piccies taken during Bean's birthday weekend.

Ciao for now!

Blowing out his candles all by himself.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Mobile blogging

This is a test to see if I can actually blog from my phone, hopefully making it easier - and more likely that I blog more often.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday 20 January 2011

So, where do I begin?

Since I last posted so much has changed.

I've been made redundant,worked as a consultant and then found a new job (which is great). Working in the sameplace for eight and a half years it's amazing how much you miss out on in the outside world.

My brother-in-law and his partner have had a baby girl making me an uncle. She's a real beaut.

LadyWayne has changed job, and has more time to spend with her boys - for which we are all grateful.

Christmas has come and gone, which we hosted again (we're good like that).

I have a new phone - it's one of those "smart" phones, and I'm not proud to admit that it is way smarter than me.

The X-Factor came and went - let's hope it stays that way!

When written down in a short list such as this they all seem fairly mundane and insignificant, but life has changed dramatically and fundamentally - yet life is still very good and full of enjoyment.

Enjoyable not least because of our little boy - Bean, who will be two years old in a matter of weeks. It's hard to believe that I was posting on here (and in a large part on the Grapevine) about his arrival.

He's now more a little boy than a baby - the old cliche's about children growing up fast are proving to all be true. He's talking loads, running round, causing havoc and being what all boys are at that age I'm sure.

In terms of the allotment and plot- well, I've been almost as neglectful of that as I have been to this blog. It's been weeks, if not months since I have been on the plot in earnest and I'm feeling equally as guilty about that as I am about my lack of posts here.

Both of these things I intend to address.

I have plans for the plot which include moving my raspberry canes. I might have to start again as the autumn and summer fruiting varieties have merged into such a fashion that distinguishing them is nigh-on impossible.

I also intend to build a couple of high raised beds for Bean, so that he can really get involved. On the odd occasions that he has ventured to the plot with Daddy he has had great fun, so I imagine his own little plot will be great fun for us both.

I need to relocate my compost bins outside of the plot boundaries as I'm getting to the point where the whole plot is almost in use (whoop whoop I hear a call).

I also want to create a dedicated herb bed - and this will hopefully end up in the space the compost bin will vacate.

What else?

I'm sure there have been plenty of things that have happened that a 35 year old like me is struggling to recall, but for now I think I'll call it a post and perhaps interject future posts with sudden recall to try and keep things interesting.

Oh, to "square the circle" (a bonkers saying if I ever heard one) I have signed up to take part in the London to Brighton Bike Ride again this year, and this time have my own team - Wayne's Wheeled Wobblers. I have a few people signed up to take part with me, so what this space for further news.

No, can't remember anything else at the moment - plus Human Planet has just started on BBC HD and it looks interesting....

Oh - here's one of those recall moments. I've just remembered that my potatoes have "gone over" (a bit squishy for consumption), so I'm looking into the possibility of making my own Vodka, but it involves a bit of investement in terms of kit, so it may well be another idea dead in the water. Or should that be Vodka?

No, that's really it for tonight.