The best things in life are (nearly) free!

Seed swap_1_Edit
A big thanks to Lewisham Gardens and Golightly Gardens for organising the great seed swap in Deptford yesterday. I got nearly everything from my wants list and there were loads of great seeds available. These events are always good for meeting fellow gardeners, getting growing advice and for picking up those odd varieties of seeds.

I got sunflowers, sweet peas, hollyhocks, poppies, foxgloves and gaillardia in the flower line. I wasn’t looking for too much veg as I’m happily sorted for those after getting a bargain of mixed veg seeds on ebay the other month.

I did get a couple of varieties of basil (bush and sweet genovese), french beans and a beefsteak tomato called Marmande which looked like it could be an extra from that silly 70’s film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.Seedswap deptfordI was on my way out when I met a lovely chap who was looking for the seed swap who worked for Lewisham council. He told me later after a long shift at the council all he wants to do is spend the rest of his day up his allotment. Great stuff! Back in the seedswap he shared a wide variety of seeds (and I don’t even think he wanted anything in return as far as I can remember) and I got a tomato called Black Krim from Russia!

When I finally left I visited the new and improved Dig This Nursery in Clifton Rise, New Cross after being ribbed by Mihaly (who was doing a talk at the seed swap about growing veg in small spaces) for not being up to speed about knowing that their shop has moved. Sometimes I find it hard enough to keep up with what’s going in me own small world let alone outside it! They’ve even opened a new shop in Rye Lane in the parish of Peckham too.

In the New Cross shop is a second hand record section where I flicked through some old reggae singles (£3 each) where they had a copy of the late great Nicky Thomas tune Love of the Common People (to hear the original jamaican version without the strings click here). On the B side of that well-known single is the tune below which I was reminded about by The Rhythm Doctor when he span it at one of our events at Limewharf last year.

And thanks to the excellent Dancecrasher website (from The Tighten Up Crew) here’s the vocal version of the above from Slim Smith. Well I never knew that!

Thanks again to Lewiham Gardens and Golightly Gardens for this event. More seed swaps please!

You bring out the gardener in me

A big thanks to Vic Godard from the great Subway Sect and his partner G for sending us these great photo’s of their garden. If you remember earlier this year their excellent runner bean wigwam was our beanpole of the month. It’s featured again in the photo below as a backdrop to those squawking parakeets you often see around these parts.


Love the tomatoes in the grow bags with the great watering devices, they look like cut off pop bottles if I’m not mistaken.


In the flower department the garden features some wild roses, mallow and sweet peas. They look great!

Vics wild roses



Best of luck to Vic and his forthcoming run of gigs starting with The Latitude Festival next week (19th July) and the also for the release of “1979 Now” in October. Cheers Vic and G, ta for the pics!

Sweet as a nut

Things have been a bit mad here the last couple of weeks as life has been conspiring against us (and trying to grind me down!) I’ve also got just over the shock of seeing the back of the house in Green rather than the dreary Grey undercoat that’s been on it for nearly 2 years as I finally got off my backside and got the paintbrush out. It’s about the same sort of time that the fence has been in a half-painted state too!

Pete's Sweet Pea Tower

After months of nothing but bare bamboo canes (AKA “Pete’s Sweet Pea Tower!) the Sweet Peas are now giving it large. I think they are from some overwintered “perfumed mix” seeds I got off ebay for less than a couple of quid with P+P. It was looking a bit ropey in the spring so I popped some more seeds in and now it’s gone bonkers. I do like a sweet pea and so do the Bees it seems. The Sweet Williams are now out after a good years wait. I reckon it’s been worth it to see a bit of mad colour now. Here’s what the garden was looking like the other morning. The Plum tree is steaming on (see the specialised root watering device beside it aka an old grey bit of plastic pipe found in a skip) and in the lower left corner of the picture those mad egyptian onions which I got well cheap in the local garden centre.

Early July morning

The slugs have also been giving me gip as I’ve lost a few plants over the last few weeks. I was told by a gardening mate that there was a piece in The Telegraph a few years ago that mentioned making your own nematodes (microscopic eelworms than feed on slugs) (the recipe is here!) I’m all up for the DIY punk ethic and all that, what with the composting, the wormery in a bucket and Comfrey liquid but DIY nematodes, no thanks! The thought of collecting 20 odd slugs and keeping them rotting in a bucket is not my thing. I blame it on the time I stood on a slug once in my barefeet on the way to the loo early in the morning when we lived in a grotty bedsit in Clapham years ago. Have you ever tried getting that slime off? urghhh!

On a brighter note I was passing Victoria Embankment gardens the other morning and watched a council gardener in his cream jeans and bright yellow fred perry with the collars up (do they sound like gardening clothes to you?) doing press-ups while holding a trowel next to the flower bed while his mates were putting in annuals. Brilliant, don’t you just love those council gardeners!

Also I was told by another gardening mate that if you just lightly “wilt” Carrot Tops they are like Spinach. I have never heard that before. I know Joe Maiden from the brill Gardening with Tim and Joe was talking the other week about eating baby Beetroot leaves in a salad after doing some thinning out. They sound better than Carrot tops though! Big up the Summer (when it finally arrives and stays for more than two days).

Raise your beds, raise your beds

I heard a great thing off a mate of mine yesterday, that estate agent’s signs were all the rage on his allotment with everybody on the hunt for them. It turns out the poles that hold them up are ideal for using as wooden stakes when making raised beds and they’re a lot cheaper than shelling out cash for wood at wickes. Another use for the damn things rather than making snow shovels out of them!

Talking of making do, old tight git here recycles all his plant ties and gardening wire. I get an old jam jar, stick the plastic plant ties in them and wrap my old gardening wire around the top (it’s a dual purpose thang, innit?) I used this highly sophisticated method yesterday when taking the sweet peas off the old apple tree prunings in the back.

I am fast becoming a man with no mates with my collection of jam jams, 2×1 off-cuts and old plastic margarine tubs from around the world. “Sorry I can’t come out for a pint tonight as I have a big box of used 2BA screws and panel pins to sort out into their respective jars.” Brilliant!

Eye eye eye eye moosey

A weekend fit for gardening or what? Here in the UK it was! Yesterday while thousands of others were sunning themselves crammed onto Brighton beach I was weeding in the back close to the house listening to the excellent slow-mo electonica of Andrew Weatherall on the red bull music academy site recorded in one of the pods of the London eye last year. Lovely stuff!

Things are starting to roll now in the garden and not forgetting the windowsill! There’s three pots of “cut and come again” cos lettuce mix ready to eat soon. The seeds cost me £2.35 and just add to that the price of a pot of compost, it’s cheap as chips to grow it yourself. As it was “leaf day” yesterday too, I took the chance with the weather and sowed outdoors two sorts of lettuce; artic king and little gem plus some spinach in a part of the garden that throughout the day will get some dappled shade which will stop the plants from bolting and going to seed early. If there’s any sign of frost I’ll stick some fleece or an old net curtain over the seedlings.

Today I did another couple of jobs in the garden, including making a very simple raised bed out of a couple of scaffolding boards given to us by the Portugese man with a van (an excellent bloke who does removals and house clearances at a decent rate, contact number on request!) who sometimes uses our garage combined with three end pieces found in a skip last weekend. Those with a couple of screws and voilà, a raised bed! Now I’ve got to give them a lick of weather protector when I do the fence next month and find some compost to fill them with.

I’m also in the process of “hardening off” some `sweet peas (I’ve jam jars on them at night which I take off during the daytime to get them used to the weather conditions outdoors as they were started off on the windowsill). I couldn’t find any bamboo canes to put in to support the plants when they grow taller, so used the prunings off the apple trees from early this year as a substitute. I knew there was a reason I kept them!

The Andrew Weatherall mix is here: