A cover to be proud of

An album sleeve from the late 70’s/early 80’s and I do love this cover! The badly cut out orange overprint at the top makes it looks like Sly Dunbar is wearing a poorly made cardboard pirate hat or something from a cheap xmas cracker. If you can beat this, please send us your reggae (or any music genre) design classic.

Festive fever

Sorry for the delay but Christmas got in the way, hope it was good for you with many a drink sank and some “come dine with me” type delicacies consumed.

I got a couple of great gardening books from yesteryear which are brilliant for ideas as they often feature plants that were once fashionable and now forgotten. There was also some good stuff learnt from “Herbs and the kitchen garden” by Kim Hurst from 1998 like planting lemon balm near hives keeps the bees happy and a handful of mint in a hot bath comforts the nerves.

That reminds me when I once ran a bath and put an infusion of strained lemon balm in (also great for the nerves). I turned off the tap and promptly forget all about it until about 3 hours later when it took high strength bath cleaner and elbow grease to get the filthy tide mark off. Years earlier I had another bath experience when I was given some heavy duty acid (that the council caretakers used to take off graffitti with) to clean the bottom of the toilet in our council flat. It worked a treat so I tried it on the bath and it took all the enamel off and long soaks in the bath were never the same again!

Not much gardening done this week apart from putting in a blackberry cane that spent a week in Forest Hill sorting office but now out the back with some winter protection around it of fleece wrapped round a couple of short bamboo canes.

This is a time of putting the feet up or out socialising, but it’s also a good time to plan for next year and even some real forward planning like what you could overwinter next year as the garden is a bit bare at the moment. Okay the weather will dictate but there’s always cloches, cold frames, mini greenhouses and even windowsills that can supply you with herbs, salad leaves and the like if it’s mild.

I also have to watch it this time of year as I tend to get over-excited as I’m itching to start off some seeds, I know it’s far too early but give it a month or two and my kitchen windowsill will be chocka with all sorts of seed trays and pots with clear plastic bags over the top.

Take it easy!

Ain’t bin to no music school

There was a frost this morning and mighty cold out, but I still managed to have a look at my third attempt of a compost bin. A fortnight ago it was filled to about three quarters of a way up with alternate layers of “green” and “brown” material but today when I lifted the lid, it’s gone down to about a third. It looks like things are happening even in this temperature. Today I threw in some veg peelings, ripped up sunday papers, a couple of cardboard middles of loo roll and some leaves, the same sort of material as usual. The neighbours must have thought I was mad taking snaps of it all.

The other attempt of a heap is going great guns too, after throwing in more “browns” and giving it a good turn with a garden fork a fortnight ago after it went slushy and smelly. I lifted off the top and it looked a rich brown colour and the number of writhing worms which were there have lessened, a sign that the thing is finally on it’s way!

I heard last week citrus peelings are a bit of a “no, no” to stick on the heap. I’ve looked for info and found conflicting reports. Any ideas as I throw in a few lemons over a week and really would like to get it right this time. Rot on!

Vinnie Riley’s musical project before he went a bit more “jokey”.

A date with the rain

In the days before the council introduced “wet money”, a couple of extra quid a month to work in all weathers, the rule was you didn’t work in the rain (“It’s a health and safety issue, ain’t it guv”). So at the first sign of grey clouds or even someone walking past in a raincoat, we would stop what we were doing, look up to the sky and put our hands out to see if we could feel rain and if we did, would make our way up to the shed for a few hours of tea drinking.

The hard and fast rule was if three cars passed consecutively with their windscreen wipers on, it was officially raining so we could stop work. How mad is that?

Rock, rock, plan it rock

As the garden is starting to wind down for the year, now is an ideal time to give it a bit of a spruce-up which will give you a head start when things liven up again in the spring.

I’ve raked up the last lot of leaves, bagged up some for leaf mould and stuck a few in the compost bin to add some “brown” to the kitchen peelings, tidied over the beds and generally made the garden look a bit more presentable.

If you’ve anything in pots that needs protecting from the frost and snow move them into the shed, conservatory or greenhouse (if you are lucky to own one). If the pots are too big to move, stick some bubble wrap around the bottom to keep them from cracking. With plants you can’t move, protect them with some horticultural fleece or net curtains (a cheap alternative from the second hand shop or skip). A good layer of mulch around plants will keep the soil frost free and keep the moisture in. Cold frames and cloches come in well handy this time of year too. I sowed some overwintering Carrot and Lettuce seeds well late so have stuck a couple of mini cloches over them and hoping for the best.

Now is also a good time to plan what you want to grow next year. Make a list of what you fancy and have a look through the seed catalogues/on the web and see if there’s varieties suitable for your garden and climate. I’ve already ordered a few packets of seeds and they are now in my scottish shortbread tin, so by January I’ll be itching to start them off in trays on the kitchen windowsill (to the detriment of the paintwork which I have to redo every year!)

So like with anything else, a little bit of preparation and forward planning comes in handy with this gardening lark.

Do it properly!

I spent a couple of hours in the back garden today dodging the old boy next door (he wants me to cut back my apples trees) and started my third attempt at a compost heap. With two behind me, one woody and as dry as a bone, the other formerly a smelly slush but since adding more “brown” material, it’s now on its way, I’m making sure I go by the book with this one.

In the new year I’ll be attending the composting course at walworth garden farm for pointers in the right direction but in the meantime, no twigs or woody material, getting the right mix of “greens” and “browns” and adding the material in two inch layers into the free plastic bin I got off the council.

It was filled to about three quarters of the way full with layers of shredded newspapers, kitchen peelings, leaves, nettles, a few handfuls of rotting material with writhing worms from the other heap and a unmentionable liquid to start it all off. Fingers crossed!

There will be irregular updates of how it’s getting on.

Get up and use me

One thing I’ve learnt over the last few years being broke, is to make the most of what you’ve got and to reuse as much as possible. Bob Flowerdew, gardener’s question time panelist and recycler to the max, always comes out with brilliant ideas, reusing something ordinary in an unusual way that’ll benefit his garden, from old fridges as cold frames, knackered radiators as garden paths and thin strips from old venetian blinds as plant labels. Inventive eh?

Being broke shouldn’t stop you gardening, if anything it should inspire you to be more creative with whatever material comes to hand. I compost my garden/kitchen waste, collect autumn leaves and make leaf mould, reuse all plant pots after giving them a good clean and save all my bamboo canes for next years runner beans like everybody else does but here’s a few more ideas:

  • Jam jars: Brilliant as mini-greenhouses for starting off seeds outdoors or giving those just planted seedlings some protection.
  • Plug plant containers: Take out the plants, refill with compost, sow some seeds, water and hey presto more plug plants!
  • Gardening twine/wire: Wrap onto a small bamboo cane rather than throwing away and use again.
  • Long twigs and non thorny prunings: Use as “peas sticks” to support your prize peas!
  • Scratched CD’s, jam jar lids and free DVD’s from the sunday papers: Thread twine through them and hang between bamboo canes to keep birds off your seed beds. 
  • Comfrey and nettle leaves: Make your own plant feed which will save you a fortune!
  • Ice lolly sticks: Great as seed and plant labels.
  • Margarine tubs, yoghurt pots, persil capsules (or similar) plastic tubs: Stick in a few drainage holes for great seed containers.
  • Cardboard egg boxes and cardboard toilet roll holders: Double up the egg boxes for a good seed tray and use the toilet roll holder as a pot for seeds like corn that don’t like their roots being disturbed.
  • Car tyres: A local nursery school has a few on top of each other as planters. They look a lot better than you think.
  • Small metal dustbin: Drill a few large holes around the bottom of the bin for a great mini brazier for your garden or to take camping (thanks Marc for that top tip!).
  • Old biscuit tins: Great for saving your seed packets in, you know I like a box!

The list is endless and the above is only a start. If you have any good recycling ideas post them up here as I love a good gardening tip like anyone else!