Gardening is such a massive subject it’s impossible to know everything. Even if you know a bit there’ll always be a bit more you can master. Why not get back into the classroom (or learn from home or in the great outdoors) and undertake a gardening course. As well as learning new stuff there’s a good chance you’ll meet like-minded people who may turn into future gardening friends (Hi Scarlett!)
There’s all sorts to choose from including the varying levels of the RHS certificates, gardening for beginners and seed saving workshops and then there’s the loosely gardening-related courses like foraging and bee-keeping. The courses go from the cheap to the expensive so there’s something to suit all pockets. If money is on the tight side there are free courses about or ones that are as cheap as chips, they just take that bit more effort to find. We’ve also seen courses at various community gardens that are free, all you have to do is help for an additional hour with some small gardening chore in exchange. A favour for a favour and all that!
A few years ago we did a couple of free courses at a local city farm. The first was making a herb garden in a window box type planter and the second was worm composting in the city for beginners which was well informative (above is our wormery made from a bucket cadged from the local butchers not long after the course). The herb course even came with a free planter with a great selection of free herbs to choose from too, talk about a bargain! Have a look online (tap in “free gardening courses” on google, facebook or twitter) or in the local press. Community groups, local allotments and gardening charities may be good to contact about free courses too.
Another free way of learning is on the web, the BBC has a series of great informative gardening guides available, from growing fruit and vegetables to the basics of soil here. Well worth having a look at!
If you hear of any good courses on the cheap or for free do pass them our way and we’ll blog them here. Best of lunch with your gardening studies!
We at Weeds like to mix it up when it comes to getting our seeds. We purchase them from our local garden centre, have more than a fondness for a ebay “vegetable seed job lot” (if it says “rare” or “unusual” then all the better) and do we love a seed swap. What’s nicer than passing on something you got a few of and exchanging them for something else.
Organised seed swaps are fun events to attend, you’ll meet like-minded people (great for exchanging gardening tips and information) and you’ll probably bag yourself something that you’ve never thought of growing before or some heirloom/heritage varieties you rarely come across.
One of our favourite seed swaps was in a pub in Hither Green on a Sunday night; a small crowd of gardening enthusiasts gathered to drink, chat horticulture and flick through boxes of interesting looking seed packets (some customised and hand-decorated, much more interesting than your average pack). That’s how a Sunday evening should be spent rather than having to put up with the likes of Highway and Antiques Road Show.
We never like to go to one empty handed and try to bring things as interesting as possible, these have included: chitted seed spuds, Egyptian walking onionsets and a couple of packs of night scented stock as we’re always trying to turn people onto growing those.
Once at a seed swap we saw a girl (dressed in a steam-punkstyle) pull out of her pocket a list of “what she had” consisting of 2 double-sided typed A4 sheets. Her black gothic style rucksack (with metal bits and all sorts) was filled with tons of numbered “dealer bags” full of seeds which came complete with home made labels and even sowing instructions. That’s a bit over the top for us here but that’s how passionate people are!
Sort of related are the annual potato day/seed fairs arranged by Pennards plantsthat combine a seed potato sale, heirloom/heritage seeds and sometimes have a seed swap section. Have a look at www.potato-days.net for your local one.
So save your own seeds this year (there’s lots of sites online that’ll give you pointers on how to do it) or see what you may have left over in your seed tin and next year have a look on google/facebook/twitter for a seed swap near you and go down and participate and see what you can bring home! Why not make a weekend of it and go to the big annual Seedy Sunday in Brighton (Sunday February 3rd 2019). Also have a look online as there’s numerous sites that encourage the art of seed swapping without even leaving your own home. Good luck! #onaseedswaptip
When passing a builder’s skip do “keep ’em peeled” (as Shaw Taylor used to say) as you never know what you may find. We at Weeds have bagged all sorts over the years including a collection of terracotta pots complete with a bag of multipurpose compost, a nearly new IKEA table and even a carrier bag full of Happy Hardcore singles (also this lot in the bottom of the picture below). Some things will come in handy in the garden but if not, they can be stuck on ebay and any profit made can be put towards buying plants/seeds etc. A win win situation!
Be clever when looking through a skip though, don’t jump up and down in it like an excited child, a sly glance when walking past then a quick swiping movement (in and out) with the hand will suffice. Alys Fowler in The Thrifty Gardener mentions if she sees something of interest she will always ask the owner of the skip first out of politeness before actually taking it. She may have a point.
Once while driving past a skip with our good friend “The Portuguese man with a van” (number on request) we noticed some lovely pieces of timber suitable for making a raised bed. We got out and inspected the wood which was ideal width-wise but far too long to get into the van. Our man then disappeared into the back of his vehicle and procured a saw, problem solved! Whilst he was perched on the top of the skip just about to make the first cut, a very irate man came out of the house opposite shouting at the top of his voice “WHAT THE XXXX ARE YOU DOING?” with his wife in tow trying to calm him down. It turns out the wood had just been delivered and was going to be used the next day for his loft conversion. Thank god we found out just in time or that would’ve been an expensive raised bed! Ask first if unsure.
As well as skips, do have a lookout for stuff left out for the binmen and items left outside houses attached with a note saying “take me” on it. Remember rifling through other peoples dustbins is illegal and if caught you will end up on some sort of register and certainly be given an ASBO.
Comfrey is a plant that the bees love and a very useful one for the gardener. Get a root of it and you’re made for life but watch out as the plant can spread and easily get out of control. A thin layer of comfrey leaves can be used as a compost activator – alongside human urine applied from a bottle of course! – and a couple of leaves put in the hole before you put your seed spuds in will get them off to a good start.
We also use a big handful of the leaves to make a wonderful plant feed (that needs to be diluted) adding someborage and nettle leaves to give it extra goodness. Leave everything to steep for a few weeks in a bucket with a small amount of water and wait until it all turns to a horrible looking dark mush.
Public health warning: The liquid smells to high heaven, like a intense case of body odour or the smell of a dustcart in hot summer climates times fifty! We’ve had family members retching after spilling a bit in the kitchen when filling up our watering can the other month. Do not, we repeat DO NOT get any of the neat (or diluted for that matter) liquid on your clothes or gardening gloves as the smell don’t half linger. If you want an exclusion zone when walking through a crowd or a row of seats to yourself on the train in the morning then this is the perfect aroma for you!
Aside from the downside of the pong of the liquid feed, it’s a great plant to have in the garden and if Witchipedia is to be believed: “Wrap your money in a comfrey leaf for several days before going to a casino, poker game or bookies. It will help keep your bets coming back to you.” #keepitcomfrey!
The other month we were asked by the good folks at the Thompson and Morgan blogto impart one favourite piece of gardening advice. Just one?
Over the years we’ve picked up loads of horticultural information through gardening books, learning by our own mistakes and chatting to fellow enthusiasts (a great tip in itself) and it got us thinking, what are our all-time favourite gardening tips? Over the next few weeks we’ll feature a few of our favourites, starting with:
The compost bin is probably the most valuable addition to any garden. The secret is getting the balance of materials in the heap correct plus regular turning with a garden fork and adding more moisture if necessary. You ideally want a 50/50 mix of materials containing nitrogen (“greens”) and carbon (“browns”). The greens are: grass clippings (applied sparingly as they can turn to a smelly mush), plants (no flowering weeds or diseased leaves) and kitchen waste (vegetable peelings, ripped-open teabags and over-ripe fruit). The “browns”: cardboard, ripped or scrunched-up newspaper and egg boxes. Don’t bother with thick stems or anything woody as they tend to take ages to break down and no meat or dairy should be put in either.
Don’t make the mistake we did by adding salad leaves from a dinner plate that had been contaminated with some meat juice. It didn’t dawn on us that we did wrong until one Saturday while despositing some vegetable peelings we were faced with the back end of an enormous rat – the size of a large guinea pig – escaping down the compost heap. The large rodent took off into the neighbour’s garden with our cat gingerly following it down their path. A minute or two later hysterical screams were heard from next door but one’s back yard where a family barbecue was in progress. We kept our head down for the rest of the day and vowed never to put any meat in that bin again! #Compostingiseasy!