The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul. We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled. The small boy needs a football pitch! Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own. I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)
There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren. Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer. The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop. The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)
The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed. I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower. He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long. No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.
I love my garden. Here it is, as photographed from my kitchen window. It is 5x5m square (one-hundred-and-sixtieth of an acre), small but perfectly formed. Unfortunately the gardener does not measure up to the garden. I am the worst kind of fair weather gardener. On the first sunny days of the year I get over-excited and plan all sorts of amazing food growing adventures. Sometimes I even get round to actually planting things. Mostly though at some stage I will neglect everything for a month and a half, and then it all perishes.
My fruit and veg collection at the moment consists of a couple of very active raspberry canes, which are shooting up (no sign of any fruit yet though) and three beautiful cordon fruit trees I rescued from my Mum’s garden which are spending this year settling in. We hope to have some fruit from them next year. There is also a rhubarb crown hiding in my veg patch, but I have yet to nurture it into producing anything edible.
On the sustainability front, the compost heap has now become two compost heaps, because I naively filled the first with all kinds of woody prunings which are never going to rot down. I need to go through it and get rid of all of that stuff. Compost heap number two is a brave new departure, which has been treated nicely and should actually compost properly with a bit of luck.
The wormery is doing well, the little wrigglers seem to survive now whatever the weather, and are busily churning out lovely, friable black gold from my kitchen scraps. It is very exciting to lift the lid and see all the life in there. It is absolutely heaving at the moment! Looking forward to using some of the worm casts when I plant up some lettuce shortly.
My next project (Him Indoors despairs of all this, and would much rather I actually grew stuff, rather than filling the garden with endless sustainability projects) is to harvest some rainwater. This is something I should have set up years ago, but somehow it was difficult to work out the best way to do it, and so it never got done. Happily I now have an ingenious plan. It is the smallest scale water harvesting system ever, but I am very excited about it.
Finally, the chicken plan may eventually materialise as my downstairs neighbour is also keen. No actual plans yet but it’s looking ever so slightly more realistic.
I hope your gardens are doing much better than mine, filled with beautiful flowers and burgeoning fruit and veg. Hopefully I will have some better news next update.
My neighbour is paving his 30ft garden with massive slabs of battleship coloured concrete. This is a tragedy, clearly, but it was going to happen sooner or later. He lets the house out to students, a transient bunch of doctors and nurses (probably, we live across the road from a hospital, so it seems a fair assumption), who understandably are not motivated to grow much in what has always been a bit of a wilderness.
It has been a source of some reassurance for me though. I can relax, safe in the knowledge that however long I leave my garden when I’m too busy to give it the love it deserves, it will never quite descend into the natural jungle that is next door. If you can call a combination of brambles and nettles a jungle.
I have attempted a spot of guerrilla gardening on it, by occasionally chucking various seeds over the fence, but to not much avail. I’ve even entertained the odd day dream about knocking through and illegally using it as an allotment patch. Now it seems the landlord has chosen the terminal option for garden maintenance. Pave it once, and it will never be out of control again. I suspect a man may pop in once a year to napalm the weeds out of the cracks between the slabs, and that will be that.
All of which reminded me that there is a new scheme which might save other plots from similar treatment. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, saviour of the chicken and committed supermarket-botherer has set up a website which aims to match gardeners with plots of orphaned land around the country. There are nearly 40,000 people using it so far, have a look.
If I make an effort to save a cubic foot of Chinese dirt being flung into obscurity so that a black plastic bag of mine can putrefy in its place for a few millennia, I end up ankle deep in nausea-inducing bransagne. And I’ve paid 8 quid for the privilege.
A while ago I wrote a post about Bokashi, a system of pre-composting in which you add specially treated bran to your kitchen waste so that it will all break down more quickly.
After a dedicated 6 months worth of experimentation, I have two main findings.
The first is that it works, which is great news. You can more or less Bokashi anything that has lived – meat, fish, tea bags, vegetable scraps, the lot. It all breaks down quickly in the bin, then degenerates into the black gold that is home-made compost when you tip it onto the heap. So far, so good.
Incidentally, you do have to follow the instructions. Don’t skimp on the proper bins, because it’s supposed to be an anaerobic process so you need a tight fitting lid. Believe the bit about how it won’t work with citrus peel or onion skins. I was bunging them in anyway for a while, but they resolutely refused to play, so ultimately they bypassed the Bokashi and went straight on the compost heap.
The second finding is that it is rather a gungy process. The bin smells of sweet vinegar which permeates the kitchen and a lot of liquid is produced. You can tap this off and use it for house plants, which sounds fabulous when you first read it, one of those lovely permaculturist ‘everybody wins’ situations. However it’s highly unlikely you have enough plants in your house to benefit from all this liquid, bearing in mind you have to dilute it with 99 parts water. The inevitable result is that you don’t tap the liquid off nearly often enough. The inevitable result of this, is that you end up with your carefully layered Bokashi marinading in its own juices, and consequently you don’t empty it very often. Frankly, you’d rather spend half an hour practising self-dentistry with a pair of rusty pliers (or watch Britain’s got talent) than heave a gigantic bran lasagne out of a bucket, dripping vinegary slime onto your slippers whilst the neighbours gawk at you from first floor windows with utter incredulity. Again.
Perhaps I wasn’t using enough bran, but the fact that you have to buy it in the first place seems to me rather unfair. If I chuck my rubbish straight into landfill it costs me nothing. If I make an effort to save a cubic foot of Chinese dirt being flung into obscurity so that a black plastic bag of mine can putrefy in its place for a few millennia, I end up ankle deep in nausea-inducing bransagne. And I’ve paid 8 quid for the privilege.
In conclusion, I’ve gone back to good old composting. I suspect that if you have to buy some kind of gadget/stuff at great expense in pursuit of greeness, it probably ain’t worth it.
I see that my neighbour Gordon Brown has a new blog, and it seems he’s also a garden blogger. He has uploaded some photos of the Number 10 garden during the summer bloom. There are some lovely foxgloves, fuscias, and agapanthus, and a particularly pristine lawn. I think there’s a big old garden roller hiding in the Number 10 shed. But does he do all his own gardening? More information needed please Gordon. Please feel free to leave a comment.
This is Richard Reynold’s original guerrilla garden. It’s not actually his, it belongs to the tower block he lives in. Richard cleared it of dead plants, litter and rubbish in 2004, replanted it, and has been looking after it ever since.
It is just 2×2 metres – even smaller than the Penelope Bennett’s window-box allotment (the subject of the first BSGL podcast), yet for Richard it was the first step on a journey which would see him developing neglected land all over London, cultivating a forum for other guerrilla gardeners around the world, now several thousand strong, and being invited to create a garden for this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show.
I met up with Richard for a pot of tea in his flat above this little patch to find out more. He started off by telling me how he became a guerrilla gardener.