Hot You’re Hot

My gosh it’s baking today so this makes it “classic lockdown” weather like what we had at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. A time when the only habit to worry about was taking single teabags down to the compost heap a few times daily. That was long before the daily trip down with a garden fork to give the dalek bin a mix took hold. Those were the days my friends…

And talking of friends we had one visit us yesterday evening (above) who perched on the bamboo cane supporting a tomato plant while we were sitting in the Dad corner giving it a bit of a Henry David Thoreau with a mug of tea.

Oh yeah, the erratically sown poppies (below) don’t half appreciate being out in this heat unlike us at Weeds who prefer a bit of shade!

So to all those gardeners (and non-gardeners) in lockdown wherever you are in the world, hang on in there, do keep in the shade and enjoy the current spate of classic lockdown weather with a few reggae tunes.

And while we’re on the Keith Hudson production thing.

A garden update and a tune

Thanks to our good friend across the pond Justin Patrick Moore for the sending us a photo update of his back garden. That’s what’s brilliant around this time of year, the garden seems to grow overnight and at a fair rate too. We all should really appreciate this time as autumn will be here before we know it. Above are the “Tiger Lilies gone wild” and below is entitled “When the Compost Takes on a Life of it’s Own” and we all know about that when we get those potato peelings and old onions sprouting! Is that a cucumber/courgette growing and are there a few mushrooms in there too?

And below a nice patch of borage that the bees love and the leaves are a good addition to comfrey if you’re making a liquid feed.

He also sent us a nice tune to accompany the pics from Anna Nacher & Marek Styczyński off the LP entitled Throbbing Plants (the title sounding very Genesis Breyer P-Orridge meets Percy Thrower.)

Thank you for the pics Justin. Please send your garden pics, no matter how small your garden is, even if it’s just a couple of pots on a windowsill, send them in! The address is onedeckpete (at) we’d love to see your garden!

Forget what we said about seed tapes

There is a downside to seed tapes we found out after buying a bargain assorted vegetable tape off ebay. Turns out the names of what seeds they are, are only at the beginning of the tape (not all the way through) and now we’ve sowed a few we have no idea what’s what except brussel sprouts. Who told us seed tapes were a good idea?

And after a couple of hours hard graft today the front wall (nearest the road) can now be seen, trouble is the mass of ivy on the top right of the picture is covering a piece of wall that isn’t there. We’ll get back to you tomorrow with our solution to the problem.

And the first delivery of guinea pig straw (with added roadent waste) was left on the garden fence in a plain carrier bag with no note but we had a vague idea what it was when we spied it. The contents have now been dumped into the heap and we will keep you updated on its progress. We’re an interesting lot aren’t we? Blame the lockdown.

Where will three spuds get you?

It all started the other Saturday afternoon, we were in a shop in Forest Hill at the end of queue of people scrambling to buy some fresh fruit and veg. The woman in front of us was knocked back as she was trying to buy more than the regulation “Three potatoes per person” as stated on the hastily written felt-tipped sign on the wall. A thought came into our heads, what’s it going to be like in the next few months when it comes to buying fruit & veg? Will there be enough to go around and if so will they be affordable?

Apart from some onions and garlic which are overwintering, some packs of seeds left over from last year plus some from a recent ebay purchase we decided to see what else we could get, so another trip to Shannon’s was in order. We want to give a big shout to everyone there for their help, they’ve been great! When we were there they were well busy with everyone having the same idea as us to get seeds and plants in before the lockdown. They still had a good bit of stock left, so we bought a couple of big bags of compost, a large bag of seed spuds and a couple of packets of cut and come again lettuce. We know it’s early in the season and yes we’re taking a chance with the frost but the weeks will fly by and it’ll be summer before you know it, so we’ve started sowing now.

We’re working from home at the moment so we can now spend an extra hour daily (1-2pm) in the garden. As you can’t go out to get anything (and most places where you could are closed anyway) we’re utilising what we have stored away like the palettes we were given years ago now in use as raised beds and plastic cloches, window frames and the upside down terrarium thrown out for the binmen as frost protection. The latest thing is a roll of black material that was bought to put down before our decking was laid. It’s now in use as some sort of weed suppressant, frost protector come soil warmer for the early seed spuds that we put in. All we did was weigh it down with stones on top of the soil and cut an X in the material with an old bread knife and popped the spuds in. We put some soil on top of the hole that the spud will eventually grow through as extra protection. It’s a case of whatever we got, we’re going to use!

And it’s only been a month that we sowed those cut and come again lettuces we got free with the Kitchen Garden Magazine (post here) on the back windowsill and they’re well on the way to start eating! The tomatoes and pepper seedlings are growing too. The sooner you sow the sooner they’ll be ready to eat but remember to protect against those frosts!

Break it on down…

Here’s 900 words from us at Weeds for “a forthcoming project”. When it comes to composting, in the words of the Desperate Bicyclesit was easy, it was cheap. GO AND DO IT! 

One of the best things you can do as a gardener – especially one on a budget – is to make your own compost and, contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to do. It’s an inexpensive way of putting goodness back into your garden, especially if you don’t regularly feed your soil.

It is one of the finest soil improvers there is; it can be forked in, left on top of the earth for the worms to work in or even made into a tea and applied as a liquid. Adding compost provides a slow-release supply of nutrients and elements, feeding plants over a long period of time. It adds structure to the soil, helps to retain its moisture and feeds the worms and micro-organisms, keeping the ground in good shape. A great exchange for recycling some home waste.

Some gardeners seem to be put off making compost, thinking it will smell to high heaven, attract all sort of vermin or fear they will be left with a pile of garden waste that will never rot. I was one of those people but have been converted to compost production after learning the hard way; I’ve opened the lid of the bin to receive a faceful of fruit flies (always open the lid away from you!), came face to face with a rather large roadent happily napping on top of the heap and have only recently disposed of my first attempt that had been sitting around for years consisting of sticks and prunings wider than the thickness of my finger.

When you compost, fungi and aerobic bacteria initially eat the waste matter in the pile – the carbon and nitrogen content a source of their energy and protein – creating carbon dioxide and heat. When the pile cools, worms – alongside varying insects – reduce it further by eating what is left and pass it through their guts. Soil organisms then break it down again and ripen the material turning it into compost.

There are lots of structures on the market for composting but many are not an option for a gardener doing it on the cheap, though local councils supply plastic Dalek-shaped bins free as part of their recycling campaigns. These keep the rotting waste in and unwanted vermin out but because of their size can be difficult to mix (something you should do regularly to add air, a component needed in the process).

A composting container can be made out of wood – the classic square-shaped enclosure with a top to shield off the rain – or although not aesthetically pleasing, the waste can be just left to rot in a pile (which will probably not please the neighbours). Whatever method you use, it should be placed somewhere easy to get to, possibly screened from view and preferably in a position where it will get some sunlight which will add heat to the pile helping it to rot. In an ideal situation you would have two (or more) bins on the go, one started the year previously now yielding compost and the other for putting recent waste in.

The ingredients used in composting are “greens” (ones containing nitrogen) and “browns” (carbon) combined with water and air. Examples of “greens” include: grass clippings (applied sparingly as they turn to a smelly mush if used too thickly), plant waste (no flowering weeds or diseased material) and kitchen waste (vegetable peelings, ripped-open teabags and over-ripe fruit). The “browns”: cardboard, ripped or scrunched-up newspaper and small twigs (nothing larger than 1/4” unless put through a shredder). Cooked foods, fats and meats should be avoided at all costs unless you want to attract vermin and be very wary of putting salad leaves from left-over meals if meat has been on the same plate too. This is possibly where I went wrong which attracted the sleeping visitor to my pile thus giving me a fright in the process so be extra careful with what you add. No matter how prudent I am though when filling the bin I still manage to find when the compost has matured some strange stuff: the odd ballpoint pen, elastic band and on one ocassion a plastic Dr Who sonic screwdriver, usually prompting me to say “How did THAT get in there?”

Most important is to get the balance of ingredients right. It does vary depending on what gardening books you read or which gardening guru you follow but a 50/50 ratio of “greens” and “browns” will suffice. You simply add layers of material – ideally alternating “greens” and “browns” – one to two inches deep, interspersed with a light layer of soil every so often. Turning the pile regularly using a garden fork makes sure that it doesn’t get compacted and that air can circulate freely. If the compost looks too wet, smells foul or attracts fruit flies this indicates there’s too much “green” material, so more “browns” should be added. If the pile has dried out – especially during the summer – more “green” material and a little water will correct it. Worms should come naturally to your heap – especially the red brandling ones – but if you want to add more, lay down some wet cardboard in your garden and in a week you should have a few on the underside to put in the pile. Don’t worry they will multiply!

Depending on how much heat is generated in the heap and how balanced the materials are, you should be the proud owner of home-made compost in around a year. If you want to speed up the process there are compost activators – basically extra nitrogen – on sale at garden centres, but this can be done for free by adding nettle, comfrey and borage leaves which will in turn add more varied nutrients to the finished product. Another activator is human urine, best applied out of a plastic bottle for obvious reasons.

You will know when your compost has fully matured when it has a crumbly texture, an earthy smell and looks as described in an old gardening book,“rich like a Christmas fruit cake”. This pile of gardening goodness is now ready to be applied to your soil.

There’ll be times when things won’t seem to go right with your compost heap but once you get it correct and see the results you get from using it, you won’t want to look back. Your garden will thank you for it in kind and you will soon be growing the healthiest looking flowers, fruit and vegetables and will never yearn for pay-through-the-nose-farmers-market-produce ever again. You will then realise why home-made compost is known in the gardening world as “black gold”.

#Composting #Blackgold #Compostheap #weedsupto  #compostingtheeasyway

Southern freeez

It’s been too cold this week to do any gardening but the Sunday before last I cleared out one of the compost bins (supplied free from Lewisham Council) and got three barrows worth of rich looking humus. Over the last year I’ve tried to be very careful what I put in the bin but I still found a blue biro, gardening wire, green plastic plant tags, chocolate wrappers and a couple of crisp packets! I have now a old plant pot down there as a rubbish container for those “I can’t see a bin so I’ll hoof it in with the compost when no one’s looking” moments!
bare veg patch in feb

long bedI spread the muck over a couple of beds where this year I’ll be be sticking in vegetables that’ll benefit from the richness of the soil like potatoes and courgettes. I also have to consider what’s been in the beds previously as you can’t have the same (or related) plants growing in the same area year after year. If so the plants would will drain nutrients making the soil unbalanced, and also leave it open to pests and diseases which in turn would infect the plants. You use something called crop rotation to counteract this, which is in it’s simplest form is putting vegetables into specific groups and rotating these groups one season after another in your plot/beds. More on crop rotation to come.

Also this week while bringing one of our cats to the vets in New Cross I passed a woman struggling with two very large plastic plant pots (nearly 4 foot wide and probably the same height) on a crossbar of a pushbike. It turns out the pots were being thrown out on a building site. She told me she was going to use them for spuds, but if you saw the size of them a couple of small fruit trees would fit in them!

Do remember those free seed tokens in the Daily Mirror this week. I’ll be bribing roadsweepers, newsagents and train cleaners to try and get some extra tokens. Keep em peeled!

Let it rot

compost in a 2013 style I opened the compost bin I started just over a year ago this morning and it is looking mighty fine! The kitchen/plant waste has near enough rotted except for a few eggshells and the odd large potato. I’ve made a mental note to cut up the kitchen waste finer and to crush the eggshells even more from now on. If you look closely at the contents you’ll also see a nice blue biro. How the hell did that get in there? How long will that take to rot do you think?

Rereading Jane Perrone’s book this week I could really relate to the section about making compost where she writes “I’ve been known to secrete used tea bags in my pocket to take back for my own ever-hungry compost pile.” Tea bags never get wasted in our house, after a brew they either get chucked on the compost heap or the worms have them.

it's the worm!Talking about worms here’s how the wormery is progressing in the garage. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought (I started it early last summer) but I’ve got a big jar of liquid plant feed out of it and there’s also a good bit of compost underneath the rotting veg, sprouting onions, killer sized slugs and mouldy bread.

Also this week I started off some seeds on the kitchen windowsill, Cabbages (goldenacre) and Foxgloves (pam’s choice) and sometime soon will get those tomatoes seeds out of the packet. That’s good for me as I sowed them just after xmas last year. Patience dear boy!

Oi! Get orfa me barra!

Old Bob Flowerdew was right, as soon as you produce some decent compost you can’t get enough of the blooming stuff! I’ve been helping myself to my second attempt of a compost heap for a good while now but today I filled up two barrow’s worth to mix in with some soil which I put in the second raised bed made with the scaffolding boards obtained free from our “Portuguese man with a van”. Owt for nowt for definite! If you can be bothered to collect up all your kitchen waste, turn it every now and again and wait a few months, it’s well worth doing for some top quality compost!

Great weather today so did a couple of hours, weeded around the salad bed and as it was root day, sowed some Carrots, Beetroot and Parsnip. If the weather keeps up I’ll do more tidying up and “tipping around with a hoe” tomorrow.

I’ve moved the portable cold frame (aka the old window frame I found in the street which stands on some old bricks from a skip) over a couple of Courgette and Squash seedlings to give them some protection and a bit of a head start.

I’m taking a risk with the Potatoes I moved the cold frame from as there’s still a good risk of frost, but I’ve covered them tonight with some horticultural fleece I’ve had kicking around since last year. Fingers crossed it won’t get too cold.

And I tell you what, I’m missing that “gloves in a bottle” stuff too!

This week’s post was written while listening to Friday’s Echo Beach on WLUW-FM Chicago with a great Pressure Sounds mix.

Book of the week

Bob’s Basic’s: Composting by Bob Flowerdew
(Kyle Cathie Limited) 2010

This a good little book about the art of composting from the great Bob Flowerdew, he of the Rob Da Bank ponytail and recycler of old fridges as mini-greenhouses fame. This was obtained from the local library but I reckon it’s well worth shelling out the nine pounds ninety nine for (probably cheaper as it’s a couple of years old now).

It’s easy to read and stuffed full of hints and tips with humour making it a great reference book. The main themes running throughout the book are that even the worst heap can be corrected and once you start making compost and use it, you won’t be able to get enough of it!

It covers the whole range of garden composting from the history of it, different designs of bin, what you can and can’t use, how to correct a bad heap and even covers wormeries, snaileries and chickens! There’s lots of things that I didn’t realise that you could do like using ditchwater to boost the heap and soaking weeds in dirty water for a few weeks to start them rotting down plus a great tip of always adding a thin layer of soil over the layer of new waste you put in to help it on it’s way.

And finally, my favourite quote in the book is “sadly, composting human dung currently puts you in the ‘too eccentric to be a nice neighbour’ camp”. And I thought adding urine from a bottle was considered a bit bonkers!

There is such a thing as a free lunch!

Yesterday I attended the “worm composting in the city” course at Walworth garden farm in SE17 as part of their introduction to gardening classes. They are free but if you have attended one before in the same year you have to pay a small charge. It was a tenner for this one, a small price to pay for a great day.

In the morning we went through making garden compost something that has been occupying me for the last few weeks, looking at how the process works and the best ways to do it and a visit to a couple of heaps they have on site (one which was “how not to do a heap” which reminded me of my first attempt!) After lunch we looked more into worm composting, something I hadn’t a clue about before going on the course. You can buy a wormery on the internet for about £65 but we looked at ways you could do it for much much cheaper! At the end of the process you get excellent worm compost and a liquid you can feed to your plants, brilliant! Give it a few weeks and I’ll be making one.

Like the last one I attended, it was very friendly, fun, informative to say the least and well enjoyable. We all should make more of what’s on offer at places like the Walworth garden farm. Tap in “free gardening courses” into google and see if there’s a course near you.

Thanks to Scarlett for the great day!

For more info about the courses on offer at Walworth garden farm: