Tuesday 30 July 2013

Trees and shrubs

BBC Radio 4's Guide to Garden Wildlife series of documentaries: episode 4, trees and shrubs.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Plants that eat air

Excellent news from nearby in the Midlands. Nottingham University has developed a way to have a plant draw the fertiliser it needs straight out of the air. It's done by bonding a proven-safe bacteria into the cells of seemingly any plant. Clover and soybeans already benefit naturally from such an alliance with air-munching bacteria. If it works and if it means even a third less fertilizer is needed, then it could have a real impact.

Some caution needed on this press-release perhaps, since the team has published no new academic paper on the topic since 2006 and their last conference poster was in 2009. Since Nottingham are commercialising it as N-Fix perhaps they've been quietly slogging through the patents system for the last few years? But then why does the press release have no supporting quotes from other scientists? Maybe it's just due to the incredibly lazy science journalism / public-sector PR we get these days, but you might have thought that the Nottingham team would have included a few independent quotes.

Friday 26 July 2013

Open Day 31st August 2013

The new site newsletter has arrived. The new site H.Q. is being erected 19th August, and the annual open day / produce show has been set for Saturday 31st August 2013. Competing produce needs to be registered for the show before 11am, when gates open to the public. There's also a... "Richard Shaw Cup - Photo / painting / craft on the theme of our allotments" and a "Stan Chell Cup for a Children’s picture".

Wednesday 24 July 2013


Now available, the "Hedges" episode of BBC Radio 4's new A Guide to Garden Wildlife documentary series. Made me think about the nectar needs of night-moths as well as bees, and also that my so-far complete freedom from slug damage may be due to having nightly hedgehog visits?

Tuesday 23 July 2013


No need to water the plot today, as the storm clouds have done it for me, giving the ground a really good soaking from dawn this morning. With more to come. It seems the storm also ushered in the new Royal Baby and future King. 'King Storm the First' has a nice vigorous ring to it... ;-)

Sunday 21 July 2013

Harvest Day #1

Weather: cloudy, quite warm and humid, and at times the faintest spittering of misty rain.

Up to water the plot again. On the way there: early Sunday church-bells sounding over Stoke town, and I spotted an old lady out washing the red-leaded front step of her terrace house. That does still happen!

It felt rather weird to be sitting on the plot when the sun wasn't shining! The run of fine weather is turning now, and we're in for "overcast with showers, hot and humid" until it breaks in a series of big thunderstorms. But until then, the watering is still needed.

It was my first real "harvest day" today. Three strawberries; another nice bag of blackcurrants; some of last year's garlic plants which had come up unexpectedly (a bit small, but they smell nice); a load of "cut n' come again" spinach; some potatoes; and a nice big load of the first courgettes...

Should make a fine curry!

My broad beans are not large in terms of plant-size, but they're producing the bean pods which is what matters... seen here a few mornings ago...

I also did an emergency quick fix on the hole in my shed roof, ahead of thunderstorms — a square of roofing felt and two bricks to hold it down!

Friday 19 July 2013

Gardeners Question Time from Staffordshire

BBC Radio 4's Gardeners Question Time, so recently in Stoke-on-Trent, now has a programme today from Staffordshire.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

What to do with all the courgettes?

Looks like I'm going to be needing this book soon...

Apparently they can be frozen if you carefully blanche them first, or else make them into a soup and then freeze.

Monday 15 July 2013

Guide to Garden Wildlife: Ponds

Just broadcast, part two of BBC Radio 4's Guide to Garden Wildlife: Ponds. Available online as "listen again".

Photo: By Lily.

It's all gone fluffy

Weather: the usual warm morning, in a run of bright summer weather.

Up to t' allotment early for watering. I also fished more useful bricks out of the skip, put a lot more woodchip down on the paths.

Apples growing...

More blackcurrants coming along nicely, despite my recent picking...

And my first courgette forming already!

Gareth pointed out the source of the blizzard of fluff that's recently been floating up and down the valley like snow, and covering some of our allotments. It's from trees, and not Rosebay Willowherb — either Poplar or Aspen trees, both of which can produce fluffy seeds.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Knotted hankie at the ready

Weather: hot, only light winds. Set to touch 80 degrees today.

The bored journalists in the mainstream media are diving right into Silly Season mode with KILLER HEATWAVE!!! scare stories today. "95F deadly heatwave" and "Heatwave to last a month - Today will be the hottest day in 7 years" squeals the Express. "Heatwave health warning" moans the Mirror. Broadsheets gravely warn the middle-classes: "don't go out in the midday sun". At least not without a knotted hankie on your head and a dripping choc-ice in hand :)

Still, it obviously is going to be hot today — so I walked up to the allotment plot early to water with the hose and watering can. Early enough, indeed, to be able to see Hanley looming poetically out of the valley mists...

My broad beans are starting to appear as bean pods, although pigeons are also starting to appear — to cast a beady eye over the plot :(

Friday 12 July 2013

Butterflies you can lick...

New butterfly stamps, from the Royal Mail...

Hartshill Green Summer Fair

No-one seems to have told Facebook or the Web, but apparently there's to be a Hartshill Green Summer Fair at the North Staffs Conference Centre on 27th July 2013.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Flowers 'n showers

Weather: another hot sunny day at 72 degrees, but with a nice stiff east wind on the hillside to keep things cool.

Up to my plot for another bout of showering it with the hose, and a little light hoeing. I've found a better walking route to the allotments, one which doesn't involve either the up-'n-down of Hartshill Park or the traffic of Stoke town centre — and which doesn't feel so very long.

Two of my best courgettes are coming into flower...

The honeysuckle on top of my shed is looking superbly bee-friendly...

I found a curious egg underneath the apple tree. Quite large, but I couldn't see a nest of that size in the tree. I suspect some magpie had pinched it from a larger tree nearby, perhaps from a pigeon nest...

I ate my first strawberry, which didn't survive long enough to be photographed :) The strawberry bed is now under hoops and netting.

The great red tea-roses coming out a-plenty now, and I dead-headed the fading ones to keep 'em coming.

Hauled some wood out of the skip, to help build up my bonfire stock.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Log Piles and Long Grass

BBC Radio 4 has broadcast the first in a new radio series on our garden wildlife: "Log Piles and Long Grass", and the creatures to be found therein.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Shop bots

Weather: another hot warm day, with a light breeze.

Popped into Sainsbury's for a mini shop about 7.30am — absolutely no-one on the checkouts, so I was forced to use one of their infernal checkout machines. In future, if I need shopping before 9am I'll be going instead to Tesco in Hanley or Morrisons on Festival Park. I also note that Sainsbury's management is doing other evil stuff, like calling for a blanket sales tax on all Internet shopping. Yuk.

Then up to the plot to get things watered with the hose and watering can before the hot sun. Picked some rhubarb, although it's getting a bit manky now. Also a small harvest of the blackcurrants to go with it...

I put more woodchip down on the path edges. Weedkiller might be easier :)

Shaded the new lavender with planks, since it looked as though it wasn't coping well with the intense sun.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Week o' heat

Weather: another warm and sunny day! A nice cooling north breeze.

Up to the allotment early to water with the hose and can, which seems needed given the heat we've got coming...

I also dumped another few loads of woodchip down on the path edge. Hauled a small slab and two nice bricks out of the skip that Gareth has kindly provided at the main entrance. Any allotment can always do with more bricks — I can't imagine why people throw away good bricks like that.

Took all the brambles out of the top hedge, and cut the hedge itself back a bit to give the blackcurrants room to breathe.

I was thinking I might do some digging in the cool of the morning, but by 7.30am it was already too hot in the sun. Any digging now a 5.30am job, methinks...

Two cheap discount-label additions to complete the "herb garden" on the bottom plot. Lavender for the bees, and some thyme — probably a bit too close together, but they can be chopped back once they establish...

Friday 5 July 2013

Heat week

Weather: hot and clear, and set fair and for the next week. Light breeze.

Up to the plot ahead of the week-of-heat that might even be the Great British Summer. Filled the water butt, and watered with the hose, as the ground's going to get quite dried out.

Tiny thumb-sized apples falling from the apple-tree, as the tree starts to balance the load it can carry.

Roses and potatoes in flower...

Plot generally looking good...

Cut back the remainder of the tallgrass up in the top wild-bit. Found that the blackcurrants up there are starting to fruit.