Saturday, 26 January 2013

Win a Prime Lot

To quote the Bristol's finest wordsmith:

"Every dog has it's day, and today is woof day. Today, I just want to bark"

Well, woof day was actually 2 weeks ago but it's taken me this long to bark about it. Yes, having demonstrated my ineptitude with a humble garden, I've now got the key to an allotment!

Many of you will have been here before. The joy followed by the fear. 

This is a big thing, make no mistake. On the one hand, no more cramming the onions in next to the raspberries, it's time to get some order in my veg. On the other, it's goodbye social life hello nagging guilt that I'm not keeping up with the Tom and Barberas...

Actually, no I'm not that foolish. I've learnt that I'm not the kind of guy to turn down a pint on a Thursday night, or even Monday night for that matter. 

Knowing this and having avoided allotment waiting lists for that very reason, I've pushed my way to the front of the queue. Yes, I've pounced on an opportunity to help work colleague Sian who, having won allotment newcomer of the year soon hit that 'difficult second year'. At the same time I apparently managed to cajole another work colleague to cover my lazy days.

With the need to up her gardening game Sian sought help. It just happened to be at the work Christmas party meaning I had hazy recollections of all this and was no doubt at my most enthusiastically vulnerable. 

However, my colleague Andy of divine comedy post fame couldn't remember a thing. Couldn't recall agreeing to help. Couldn't recall agreeing for his wife Emma to help, as I found out when I bumped into her with new born Dillon and congratulated her on allotment as well as baby...

Oh but it's a good plot, especially if you ignore the shadow of the 4-lane flyover next door. It's in a vast well kept allotment, with a direct view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the roar of Bristol City supporters in the background. Albeit rarely.

So far I've been good to my commitment, have got my hands dirty weeding and as thanks have been  treated to a leek. 

And today, the first signs of rhubarb appeared, something I've never grown. Although there is a lot of hard work ahead, I'm hopeful that between the four of us we can make this the finest plot in all of Bristol. Yeah, that's right, I'm already eyeing the other plots with a competitive glare...isn't that what modern allotments are truly about?

Actually no, for now I'm in the honeymoon period. I'll be calling on all of you with allotments for advice and ideas in weeks to come but for now we need your help identifying this. Digging up the weeds we keep finding this bright white silly string deep in the soil. Haven't a clue, but we assume it's bad? 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Stop if you think you've heard this one before


Daily Telegraph, earlier today:

  • Britain facing 40-hour 'snowstorm' with falls of up to 12in
  • Commuters face nightmare journeys as rail network freezes
  • Authorities warn of only essential travel amid chaos
  • Network Rail: 'assume where white where biggest problems
  • 3000+ schools close; A-level exams cancelled 
  • Train passengers stranded as rail networks shut down
  • Flights cancelled as passengers sit in airports
  • Panic buying hits supermarkets as shelves cleared

They did the same last year, even when in some places it didn't actually snow (click me). 

If you're a journalist reading this, and are in any way responsible for today's doom-mongering then stop. Just stop.

And if you're one of these spooked types who saddled up the car, hot-trotted it down to Tescos to beat the neighbours to the last of the frozen burgers then woah there

I don't know a single person who didn't want a 'snow day' today. We're all having fun for once, out sledging, throwing snowballs at strangers, taking and sharing photos, warming our mittens on a hot chocolate or our insides with sherry (you know who you are). 

Spot the snowman!

And the world looks beautiful.

As for the garden, yes even hardy gardeners have had to pause. 

And how nice it is to do that eh? When does the garden ever stop and when does the soil get a break from our meddling? Ah, yes ok in my case perhaps I could do with a bit more meddling, but you get my point.

Today, the snow has flattened every inch of my back yard, and hopefully taken out a few snails with it.

With a few exceptions - I hope emergency services are getting through and perhaps those suffering a broken boiler have jumpers - it seems that the country hasn't come to a crippling standstill, and the garden isn't going to suffer. We're all far too resilient for that.

So for all you without genuine cause to worry, either go out and make the finest snow man you can or just get a brew and put your tootsies up. You can be safe in the knowledge that both you and your garden sometimes show more signs of life when the snow comes than perhaps any other winter day.

Failing that,you could always indulge in some of this miserablism instead:

Monday, 7 January 2013

Status Woe

So there I was ambling down the hill when I saw a magazine lying atop a recycling box, calling out "pick me, pick me".

'Allotment and leisure gardener' was its name.

Anyone who kids themselves that gardening is a leisurely pursuit is guilty of one or more of the 'sins' I'm about to share with you. 

Last year, a survey revealed the 10 biggest gardening faux pas. Apparently, gardening is the new frontline in the battle for social status as shown by the startling fact that 55% of us think negatively of neighbours who don't keep their gardens in check... 

Only 55% of us?

So what are these crimes? Lets count them down...

At 10 - Mock Grecian statues

If it's good enough for the Romans? 

In at 9 - Astroturf rather than real lawn

Astroturf has a bad name, all those sliced shins from hockey and football of my youth. But if you can't be bothered to push a lawnmower then you really shouldn't be allowed a garden!

Slipping 2 to 8 - Children's toys permanently left out

Have you ever tried to get your kids to clear away their toys? Exactly. Harsh call.

New entry at 7 - Completely paving a garden

If Astroturf screams laziness, this probably needs a call to the cops

Up one to 6 - Half finished decking

Um, eyes bigger than your stomach? 

Non mover at 5 - A dead lawn

No comment...

Re-entry at 4 - Overgrown hedges

The classic returns, and no it is not cool to trim them in the shape of a cockerel. Or anything similarly named.

At 3 - Broken garden furniture

Seen the prices at B&Q? No excuse.

At 2 - Overgrown garden

Given the rain we've had, and my own recent experiences I think we need to cut our neighbours a little slack. Or casually rearrange the garden boundaries...

At Number 1 - Litter

Who litters their own garden? Who?! Someone elses maybe.

Is there anything missing from this list? What annoys you about the neighbours garden the most? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know! Mainly because I can't see over my wall and I need some garden gossip!

And whilst you do that, don the denim and have a bit of Quo

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New year's resignation?

A couple of weeks ago a small newspaper article caught my eye. It took our beloved gardening celebrities to task for giving the illusion that gardening is easy.  It appears that the likes of Titchmarsh and Fowler have been pressing their green thumb to their nose, wiggling their fingers and blowing us a raspberry. 

Whilst they have an army of helpers we, in awe of such passionate and trusting figures, have been fighting over 30th place on the local allotment waiting list to get a piece of the mucky action. Then, with our mitts on the keys and having claimed our precious we dance a middle class dance of joy only to ditch it at the first sign of hard work.


Now, I'm sure there are good genuine reasons for both wanting and giving up an allotment plot. The weather, for example.

It comes to something when even gardeners moan about the rain. Grim conditions have been just one of my many excuses for allowing my garden to get into the state that it has. 

On reflection, however, I have a nagging feeling that I'm just a little bit lazy. The slightest grey cloud becomes my excuse to hop it to the coffee shop.

So here I am on New Year's day. Do I want Titchmarsh chortling in my amateur face anymore? No. But is it his fault my garden is a mess? No.

Curse you filthy weather, damn you celebrities, gardening is about rolling up your sleeves. Yes, I too have written down the magic words 'I will spend more time in the garden'. But for once, I've followed this up with the courage to step out and take on the landscape of my own neglect.

Here is taster of what I faced this afternoon...

The whole garden was like this. A fallen tree, wind-strewn bird table and grow-houses, weeds amok, engulfing discarded pots and rubbish.

I took my saw to the tree and cut it to pieces, leaving a trunk that will find a curious ornamental look propped up against a wall, because I'm a bit weird like that.

Down came the cherry-coloured raspberry stalks, cut at the base ready to grow again at the hint of spring warmth.

Out came the mini hoe, decapitating young weedlings to reveal a juicy soil free to breathe again.

And my favourite hobby, deadheading my rose. Still healthy, vibrant and with a fresh bud. 

I wish I could show photos but my camera seems to have lost them. Honestly!

Gardening isn't easy, but if you like me face a daunting challenge out there, there is no better way than sticking on the wellies and getting dirty.

Happy new year, I hope you feel inspired and look out for a lot more from this blog...

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.