Archives for June 2009

Meet the (grand)parents

Chris Howard Chris Howard | 17:34 UK time, Monday, 29 June 2009

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chris_gran.jpgI am so jealous of Sara for going to Glastonbury. Last year I had one of those 'bad weather' festival experiences, and decided to give it a miss this time around; but as soon as Glasto came on the TV over the weekend I was sick with envy! Still, if the Gardener's World crew can't get her back into the gardening, maybe the Glastonbury hippies can.

Whilst moping about my house feeling jealous, I was treated to an apocalyptic storm in East London on Saturday. It was good in one way, making up for my tardy watering of late, but I was terrified it was going to destroy all my hard work.

I sat, glued to the window, as the poor squash plants were battered, the carrots flattened and the tomatoes flung about in the storm. But as the clouds broke and the deluge abated, it was soon clear I'd worried for no reason. All of my plants had passed their first real test in the big bad outdoors and as soon as the sun broke through started to look as healthy as ever. Go veggies!

chris_fruit.jpgOn a completely different note, after my weekend of young people, this week I went to visit my grandparents, one of my gardening inspirations. I still remember the day we arrived on a family visit and couldn't park our car because there was a lorry load of horse manure dumped on their drive. What with us coming, they'd thought it was a good time to get some serious hard work done manuring their whole acre and half garden. Brilliant.

They never cease to amaze, and are still at it in their 80s. Fruit has always been the real big crop for my Nan, and nary a dinner goes by without a home grown fruit pie. With generous helpings of sugar smuggled on by my Granddad when Nan wasn't looking.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, are pics of some of this years crops, and my Nan and I enjoying some fresh gooseberries, blackcurrants, loganberries and redcurrants. And if can be even a quarter of the gardeners they are, I will be a proud, proud man!




Getting muddy - for a different reason!

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Sara Cox Sara Cox | 11:19 UK time, Friday, 26 June 2009

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Looking forward to putting on my new red wellies and getting muddy this weekend - not for gardening but for Glastonbury, where me and the other half will be joining a couple of hundred thousand other like-minded loons for the legendary festival.

 

Must admit I've been too pre-occupied with last minute festi preparations to really tackle the patch. Think I need to pull up the beetroot and lettuce and hopefully make way for other goodies to plant, if I'm not too late. Otherwise maybe a large scarecrow will fill the gaping void left by my wilting veg. My broccoli is really shooting up, as are the toms and carrots... and weeds! Let's just say my patch is looking tres au naturel at the moment and I've accidentally created a kind of wild conservation area where all manner of weeds and grasses have taken seed.

 

Word reaches me that the Gardeners' World crew would like to return to my garden to film the patch... oh dear. I will really have to get my act together if they're visiting. I'm considering buying some vine tomatoes to superglue to the plants. While I'm at the supermarket I'll have to stock up on teabags and biscuits, if the last visit is anything to go by. Maybe the threat of their spot-check will be the catalyst I need to once again embrace my green fingeredness...

 

In the meantime enjoy your weekend. I'm off to the best festival in the world. Long live rock n lollo rossa.

 

Gardeners' Choice

Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 18:28 UK time, Thursday, 25 June 2009

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Just a quick post to ask - what would you like us to post about?  The blog's for your benefit as much as for ours, after all.

Are there any subjects you'd like advice on, or just a good discussion about?  Leave a comment and I'll make sure Chris and I do our best!

Things I'll probably do posts about soon otherwise are watering, bees and plant psychology - let me know if any of those take your fancy to write first.

Feed me!

Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 23:23 UK time, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

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 A question that's cropped up a few times lately at Dig In events is what, and how much, to feed plants? Anyone who's ever looked sadly upon a sorry, stunted, yellow specimen will know that the little leafy darlings need nutrition if they're ever going to flourish. And that's where we can help. 

Plants don't eat the soil - obviously, as it's still there after they've gone.  Instead, they build themselves out of light, air and water.  But they do need a few minerals to pull off this trick and thats what we feed them, especially if there's not enough in the soil or compost they're growing in.

The three minerals all plants absolutely rely on are nitrogen, phosporus and potassium (represented with the symbols N, P and K).   Plants suffer in various ways if they don't have enough of these -  not enough nitrogen leaves them short and yellowed, too little phosphorus and they'll go purplish and shrunken, and if they refuse to flower or grow fruit, they could well be in need of potassium.  

These three are the ingredients of most off-the-shelf plant foods like Growmore and Tomorite, so using any of those will usually help.  Don't overfeed though, it can be just as bad - make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle or packet.

comfrey_small.jpgThis type of plant food is made using industrial chemical processes, so if you've decided to garden organically, you'll want to avoid them.  There's plenty of organic options, like blood, fish and bone mixtures (best avoided if you have a dog!), pelleted manure - or just regular old manure.  Make sure anything you put on your plants has had a chance to rot down, otherwise it could be too rich and "scorch" your plants - that is, give them a sort of chemical burn.

If you fancy making your own plant food, there's lots of recipes for organic fertilisers out there - try the Garden Organic website for starters.  One of my favourites is comfrey tea, effective but very, very smelly.  To make it, put five good handfuls of cut up comfrey (pictured to the left) in a tub, and add ten litres of water.  After a month, it'll pong of toilets and death, but will be a ready-to-use liquid feed to boost up your plants.  Enjoy!

If you've got a special fertiliser recipe, or have advice or a question about feeding plants, let us know by adding a comment below. 

 

Start 'em young

Chris Howard Chris Howard | 12:20 UK time, Monday, 22 June 2009

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jelly_and_chris.jpgTime for that more thoughtful post that I promised about Gardeners' World Live.

Here's proof that I really do hang around with celebrities - it's Jelly and I, just after performing on the Countryfile stage at Gardener's World Live. Well, 'performance' might be a tad rich, but I certainly enjoyed getting up there and belting out the Green Balloon Club chant, much to the surprise (and probable disgust) of the Gardener's World crowd. We even made the poor Countryfile Magazine editor Cav join in. 

Although if you read his blog, he fails to mention me. I spend my life being upstaged by that green thing!

Although the term 'preaching to the converted' could have been invented for this very situation, it was amazing to hear all the kids' stories of getting out there and enjoying nature - from bug lovers to bird feeders, sunbathers to veg growers, everyone had a story to tell and enjoyed the great outdoors in their own way.

So I thought I would pull together some links to a few of my favourite (and simple) things that you can do in the garden or park with kids.  A good place to look is on the websites of the major wildlife organisations - most of them have kids' sections.

which kids can join and find events to join in with near them.
  • The RSPB youth site has loads of bird stuff, of course, but also things to do like making bird cakes - easy, messy and totally rewarding.
  • Take a look at the Buglife pages for instructions on how to make a wormery and bug hotel.  It's so important to look after the little things in life.
  • Something we all probably take for granted is water, but don't forget that ponds and water sources are vital for wildlife.  Froglife's Just Add Water campaign aims to get more ponds built. As a project, ponds are ace and will keep kids entertained year after year.
  • And you can also try to make your garden more wildlife friendly - the Wildlife Gardener website has loads of ways that you can do that.
  • amelia_in_garden.jpgBut what if you can't get the little treasures out there in the first place? For me, it is about stimulation. TV provides it inside, but there is plenty outside if you are willing to look. Even something as simple as putting a climbing frame out amongst the veg can help - Ann told me that someone had done it on her allotment and now kids clamour to come down and visit.

     From my experience, if you put the time in with them then you can always find something for kids to do. Whether it's digging a hole with their own spade or a trowel, planting seeds, weeding or watering - the important thing is getting them involved. The temptation is to shoo them off if they get in the way; but by starting with a few easy tasks they will soon learn the ropes.

      amelia_and_jelly_small.jpgAnd you never know - they might end up like the amazing Amelia (pictured above) who came to see us at Gardener's World. She's not even three years old yet, but has her own patch with courgette and okra plants, and even calls herself after Green Balloon's Lily-Rose when she is in the garden! She was a real inspiration and shows what you can do with the youngest of kids with a little effort.

     Of course, she also loved Jelly more than Nature Chris. Like I said - always upstaged...

    If you have any ideas/experiences then please share them here. I am passionate about getting kids outside and enjoy what nature has to offer, so I would love to hear what you've done to encourage that.

     

    Harvesting Fears

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    Sara Cox Sara Cox | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 19 June 2009

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    The good news is that the patch survived Lola's birthday party, and the festivities passed without any small child being impaled on my mini picket fence. The bad news is that I've developed a strange fear of actually harvesting the food I've grown. I think the lettuce has been blanched white by the hot sun, and my beetroot has been munched by slugs. I'm feeling a bit over this gardening lark... Luckily, my carrots are looking beautiful and I'm excited about picking them when they're ready. The kids both love carrots so I think it will be great to let Lola come uproot them and then help me cook them.

    The birthday girl was bought a lovely pressie of children's gardening tools and gloves, so maybe the key to reigniting my patch passion is to let Lola get more involved. I could let her plant something of her very own, if its not too late in the season. Any suggestions? 

    Finally got round to buying some string yesterday, to tie my tomato plants to the canes. I wisely popped into gardening centre on foot, rather than in the car, so couldn't be tempted by any nude statues or gazebos.


    Otherwise, not much to report, been really busy with work and mum stuff. Hope you're all well.

    [Ed. Sara was in for Jo Whiley this morning on Radio 1. You can listen again on BBC iPlayer] Last time I was in for her I got texts asking about my veg, so if I spot any tomorrow I'll give an update. 

    Tallest tomato and largest lettuce challenge

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    Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 16:04 UK time, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

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    tallest_tomato.jpgPlant envy, as I mentioned last week, is a terrible affliction.  But when you've got a lovely big plant, you'll want to show it off, so I thought it was time to encourage a bit of healthy competition amongst Dig In gardeners.  So, I'm throwing down a challenge: who's got the biggest ones? That's Dig In tomatoes and lettuces, of course!

     We want to hear how tall your tomato is and how large your lettuce.  Tell us in a comment (below), and send in a picture to our veg size challenge gallery.   Measure tomato plants from the soil to the growing tip - no including the height of the pot!  Lettuces should be measured across the middle, and pictures should show the ruler or tape measure to prove there's been no exaggerating.

    large_lettuce.jpgTo start you off, here's my prize pair - a 34cm tomato and a 16cm lettuce.  Beat that!

    Chris' veg round-up

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    Chris Howard Chris Howard | 18:52 UK time, Monday, 15 June 2009

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    I'm not long back from Gardeners' World Live and I'm completely shattered, so here's a quick round-up of the latest news from the balcony in this blog.  I'll write a more thoughtful post about the show later. Bet you can't wait.

    So, to my veg. I'll go through them all. That way, you'll know I haven't been neglecting any of them!
     
    Carrots: Apart from my disaster of a couple of weeks ago, I'm pretty happy at the moment, so hopefully they're pretty happy too. I have a lovely full pot of carrot tops, and can only imagine the goings-on under the soil. Strangely, despite being a flame-headed type (yes, ginger), I never did get the 'carrot-top' taunt. 

     

    chris_tomatoes.jpgTomatoes: I'm delighted. The three 'advance guard' plants are now about two foot high and going  great guns - although no sign of any fruits as yet. The three I cunningly held back to stagger my crop are in their brand new grow-bag home and should settle in just fine.

    Lettuce:  Turns out my lettuce box was very overcrowded, as I realised last night.  Looking a bit deeper, I saw that some of the plants in there were going mouldy. At the density I had the lettuces, the air just couldn't get round them, and the moisture built up in the soil - perfect conditions for mould.

    I hope that I haven't completely blown it, but I have done a serious thinning operation now.  Though I'm worried about the thunderstorms lashing at my window as I write - those lettuces need to dry out!
     
    Squash: Surprising! I have been cruel to them in weeks gone by, but they are suddenly flying. Three pots fully outside now and, fingers crossed, bearing up well. Although looking at the photo, one does look a bit droopy, and those white veins don't look so good.

    chris_squash.jpgOooer, did I just speak too soon, in a single paragraph?

    Beetroot: Not great. And frankly, I don't care. I never did like the stuff. Sorry, but that's the way it is!

    How are yours all bearing up? I'd love to hear - send us a comment.

    Cake, Castle, and Carrots

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    Sara Cox Sara Cox | 10:48 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

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    Been scrutinizing the weather forecasts and measuring up the lawn this week, not for an impromptu vegetable patch extension, but in readiness of my little girl Lola's birthday party on Saturday. I'm hoping that an army of five year olds thundering round the garden won't have any detrimental effect on the veg.

    carrots_sara.jpgI've already had to work out a new position for the hired bouncy castle, because I got paranoid a small child would over-bounce and hurtle through the air towards the patch. I could see me running in slow motion, shouting "Noooooooo" and trying to catch the flying child before s/he landed with a thump on the carrots.

    Speaking of which, the carrots are looking gorgeous and bright and happy, as are the lettuce (take a peek).  The three tomato plants seem fine, though I've not had chance to buy any string to tie them to the canes. I have considered alternatives, but thought shoelaces would look a bit daft. vegpatch_sara.jpgThe broccoli haven't really done anything, but Ann did warn me they take a while to grow so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be ready in time to serve as crudities at Lola's 18th.

    Such a mad-busy week I've not got much else to report from the garden, but I look forward to filling you in next time on any changes in the patch and if mashed up birthday cake and cocktail sausages do indeed make a good fertilizer when squished into the squash pots by a small toddler.

     

    A web of veg.

    Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 15:27 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

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    squash_hardeningoff.jpgAfter my visit to Sara's last Thursday, I've come down with a bad case of grower's envy.  Because of her worries about her squash, I'd expected to find a bunch of shrivelled, sad-looking sticks on her back step, not the big, beefy, happy plants that I found instead. And I definitely didn't expect them to be twice the size of mine - take a look at the picture if you don't believe me!*  And when I saw her forest of lettuce and beetroot, I felt more green-eyed than green-fingered.

    So, this week, I'm going to take a back seat, and point you to some sites full of real experts out there on the web. One of the lovely things about gardening today is that so many other people are doing it, and are so willing to share their experiences - over the garden fence, or online.  If any of you have a suggestion for a good site, then do let us know in a comment.

    GardenAction. For nice, no-nonsense advice on veg growing, often with pics, try the veg pages here.  If you're worried about pinching out the side shoots of your tomatoes, this is the place to to go.

    Allotment Growing.  I can heartily recommend this site, even if you're just growing a few veg rather than a whole allotment-full.  It's full of tips and advice, and has an especially good section called What To Do Now in the Garden, which does what it says on the tin!

    GardenOrganic. If you're interested on growing organically, you should definitely check this one out. Run by a charity dedicated to promoting organic growing, it's full of advice, especially about compost.  They're quite obsessed by it, so this is the place to go to find composting tips.  

    Self-Sufficientish.  This is a site for those who fancy taking the good life to the next level, but don't fancy moving to the middle of nowhere. Run by a pair of brothers from Bristol, it covers everything from veg growing to home brewing to keeping livestock.  It also has forums, and information about campaigns for more allotments.

    BBC Gardening.  Nearer to home, don't forget that there's a great gardening site on the BBC, and a lot of very busy messageboards, some of them even discussing Dig In!

    RHS. And finally - for the moment - you can't beat the Royal Horticultural Society's site  for finding out about plants.  They've got a good grow your own section, but where this site really comes into its own is when you want to find out just what that lovely flower you saw in your neighbour's garden was.

    * If you're wondering what that strange thing is that my plants are in, it's my "hardening-off house", made out of a plastic cage for a guinea pig or something.  I put the plants in it, then put the clear plastic lid on at night and take it off in the day.  Easier than bringing them in and out when I'm getting them used to conditions outdoors.

    Highflying Snails

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    Chris Howard Chris Howard | 16:22 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

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    Last week I reported a carrot-invader amongst my veg patch. Thanks for your ideas on this. It could well be cats, as they are a clever bunch around here, waiting for the lift with me when I leave for work. I'd assumed though, being five floors up, the closest I would get to slug problems was in my advice on this blog. Yet, when I got home yesterday I found this adventurous guest on my window box. naturechris_snail.jpg Isn't that amazing? Five stories at a snails pace! I cant bring myself to hurt it after all that effort, but what about my crops? I think lobbing it over 'a la Sara' could be a bit cruel from such a height!

    I've not had that much time with my veggies recently, as I spent my weekend up in Doncaster, having a 'Dirty Weekend' at the Wildlife Trust's Potteric Carr. An amazing place, it's found by turning off the motorway though a huge industrial estate full of DIY shops, supermarkets, and a football stadium, which conceal the largest Trust reserve in the whole of Yorkshire. It's a bizarre location for an inspiring reserve with loads to do; pond dipping, wildlife walks, year-long events, and one of the best reserve cafes I have ever come across. The highlight was being shown a pair of Black-necked Grebes with their young, one of only about 60 pairs in the whole country! Have a look at some pics

    It all got me thinking about urban wildlife, and the importance of green areas. Be it a park, garden, pond or just a scraggy clump of nettles, these places are vital for wildlife and, I think, our wellbeing. I came across this interesting article today about high-rise wildlife environments. It's great that people are thinking about this, but I can't help but agree with some of the comments that this is just an expensive replacement for trees. What do you all think?

    Final note - this weekend is Gardeners' World live at the NEC in Birmingham, packed with all things to do with gardening. So if you've been bitten by the 'G' bug, pop down and have a look. I will be there, with the ever resplendent Jelly from Cbeebies, and some of the Dig In crew. Be great to see as many of you as possible!

    Move Over Brangelina - Here Comes Squom

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    Sara Cox Sara Cox | 15:29 UK time, Friday, 5 June 2009

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    Did my first proper bit of gardening today. Since the birth of my patch I've not really had to do much other than sit back and watch, wonder, worry and wait. Apart from watering my veg and becoming a tour operator for my squash and toms (or "squom" to give them their showbiz couple moniker), my inner green goddess has been pretty dormant. The re-potting of my windowsill squom the other week doesn't count, as I now realise that wasn't so much gardening as plant abuse. They only just survived my rough handling - shoving their dry delicate roots into pots, soil flying everywhere -  like the gardening world's very own cookie monster. My poor squash bore the brunt of the massacre, ending up a bit like Michael Jackson: pale with bits threatening to fall off. The trauma of it all left me feeling a touch uninspired about this gardening lark.

    With impeccable timing, Ann landed on my doorstep at tea-time today to give me a pep-talk sarah_and_squom.jpgand some brocolli plants. The former did my confidence loads of good and the latter is now planted out in the patch. The planting out of squom unfortunately signalled the end of their relationship, as the tomatoes have now gone to live in the patch while the squash have their own place; a huge tub on the sunny side of the patio.

    Feeling inspired by a combination of Ann's encouragement, the beautiful warm summer evening and a small glass of sauvignon blanc, I spent an hour weeding the patch; adding manure, planting out and generally tidying up. My back is aching. I've scratched my arm on my picket fence. My fingernails suggest I was raised by badgers. Overall, I feel great. I loved losing myself in the green stuff.

    Also, I picked more lettuce and managed to unearth an unearthly-looking white slug that came complete with its own milky transparent sleeping bag. Came over all Sigourney Weaver as I battled the alien slugmonster and lobbed it over the fence into my neighbour's garden. Screams of terror again rang out when, after washing and bagging my salad leaves, I noticed a small black slug clinging leech-like to the inside of my wrist! Drama aside, I feel back on track and out of my dip, would love to know if you've had similar adventures with your patches, pots and plots.

     

    Send in your pictures!

    Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 14:20 UK time, Thursday, 4 June 2009

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    If you've got a pic of your prize plants or seedlings you want to share, you can upload it by clicking here to appear on the Dig In Gallery.  Take a look at the Gallery to see how other gardeners are getting on.

    Gardeners' Enemy Number 1 - Slugs

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    Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 10:48 UK time, Thursday, 4 June 2009

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    slug.jpgSlugs. I hate them. One day you're admiring your dear little plants as they peek up through the soil, the next it's devastation; leaves eaten away, stems snipped in half and everything covered in horrible snotty slime trails.

    It often happens just when rain follows a nice bit of sun. The sun brings the plants up, but once it rains, all the slugs come oozing out in their hordes to scoff that new growth. So, how to stop them? Here's a few tips.

    Barriers. Slugs hate crossing anything dry, powdery or gritty, so surrounding your plants with things like coffee grounds, wood ash, smashed eggshells and the like will put them off - but usually only until it rains heavily. Once your barrier is washed away or soaked, they'll be back munching through your plants.

    Another thing they hate crossing is copper tape, which many people swear by, and I've even seen a mini-electric fence designed for anti-slug use. Maybe good for pots, but try doing a whole garden!

    frog.jpgBiological.

    This is a fancy term for getting nature on your side. You can buy the eggs of tiny soil-living worms called nematodes (the species Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, if you want the sciencey bit) which you water onto your plot. Once there, they wriggle about, eating up baby slugs.

    Or why not encourage some wildlife onto your plot to help deal with the slugs? A small pond with some rocks to hide in will give slug-munching 

    frogs and toads somewhere to live. Wild patches and woodpiles make your garden hedgehog friendly.

    Traps. Slugs are right old alkies, and can't resist the lure of beer. Bury a tub full of old ale, and they'll queue up to drown in it. I've actually bought beer for my "slug pubs"

    , but you could try asking the landlord of a local pub for a bottle of "slops" to save money.

    Grapefruit halves also attract slugs, and if you leave one out you can return at your leisure to scrape and squash the little blighters gathered inside.

    Pellets. There are several different types of pellets on the market - cheapest are based on metaldehyde, which isn't very toxic, but can sometimes poison birds. Less toxic are ferrous phosphate pellets, which are approved for organic use, but far more expensive. Both types are little blue pellets, made mostly of a cereal bait that slugs find yummy. I've also seen bran pellets, which work by expanding inside the slug after being eaten, and popping it to death.  Any bran, or oats, will work for this.

    Oh, and don't be fooled by snails. They may look nicer, but they are just slugs with a coat on! There's more on slugs here.

    Everyone's got their own tips and tricks for dealing with the slimy blighters  - so let's have some of yours in the comments.

     

    The Great Carrot Mystery (Part Two)

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    Chris Howard Chris Howard | 15:05 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

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    Wow. I have just got back to the flat after just over a week away and I cannot believe the difference on the balcony. Gone are the weak, struggling seedlings I remember. In their place are brash, proud plants growing on their very own. This draws me to three conclusions; 1) Perhaps my girlfriend is in fact much better at gardening than I am. 2) Sometimes a little hard love is good. Four days on their own has done little harm (except a slight yellowing on the edge of the squash leaves). 3) I really have been unlucky with the weather. Rain in Arran I can accept, but to be on the beach in Italy wrapped up against the biting wind and lashing rain was a bit rich. But at least it was good for the plants!

    naturechris_carrots.jpgHowever, my return hasn't brought all good news... You may recall I reported a mysterious flattening of my carrots some weeks back. Well, that patch has just completely given up the ghost and died outright. At the time I thought a pigeon was sitting on them, but I haven't heard of a problem like this before. I pulled a few of the dead plants up and the roots looked pretty healthy - they seem to have been killed from the top. The only thing I have noticed is quite a few ants scurrying around. So, if anyone has any thoughts on this new mystery, I'm all ears! So much for being the expert...

    And on that point, I have to admit that this 'expert' did exactly the same thing with his lettuce as Sarah. I find it so hard to pull up healthy looking plants, so my lettuce box is also rammed naturechris_lettuce2.jpgto the brim. I hoped that I would thin them out by eating leaves, but of course they grow back when you do that... so i guess I am stuck with 'Take That' lettuces as well (perhaps some music therapy would help them along? Patience? Shine?). My answer is just to embrace it - and make a feature of their smallness. We could claim that they are tastier that way. Either way, have no fear, and eat away. I've been nibbling on my lettuce for weeks without any obvious side-effects.

     

    Finally, a recommendation. BBC Breathing Places is cleaning up the country with their Dirty Weekends on the 6-7 June. So if you have been bitten by the gardening bug, this is a great chance to take it a step further and get mucky for nature. I'll be up in Doncaster helping out, so if you are around do come along and say hi - there will be loads going on. So no excuses!

    Fruits of my labor

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    Sara Cox Sara Cox | 10:48 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

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    I like to think that when George Harrison penned Here Comes the Sun, he was sitting in his kitchen looking at some squash seedlings nestled on his windowsill, and the line, "little darling, the smiles returning to their faces" was in celebration of his plants perking up after a near-death experience. I'm pleased to report that my squash plants are out of intensive care and are in a serious yet stable condition; thanks to the glorious sunshine this week, while they aren't exactly smiling, the depressed grimace has definitely lifted slightly. The leaves are still pale but thanks to the odd splash of fertilizer and a few days holiday in costa del back patio they are again standing a bit more upright. Huge high 5s as ever to Ann and Chris for their advice.

    My tomatoes loved sun-bathing too, in fact my whole patch seems to have shot up...which brings me to my lettuce. I've just checked out the lettuce video on the dig-in page and realized I didn't quite follow the advice about pulling up the weaker plants to make enough space for the stronger ones to flourish into lovely big Lollo Rossa. I think I should've done this weeks ago, and so unless I can blag a go in a time-machine I'll have to be happy with my heaving, over-crowded square of miniature lettuce resembling the horticultural equivalent of the first few rows of a Take That concert. The worst thing is I provided the voice-over for the vid so I've no excuse for such a basic blunder. They seem perfectly formed, just very petite.

    Later... Here's the big news, my name is Sara Cox and last night I ate some vegetables I've grown myself. Wooo! Loved trotting down to the patch and picking a few lettuce leaves to throw into a side salad, I totally channeled my inner earth mother domestic goddess. Couldn't resist taking a few leaves to my sisters today to add to the barbeque feast she'd lovingly prepared. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my sister, her family and my life partner for feigning interest in my homegrown dwarf veg so valiantly at lunch. Took the plunge with the lettuce because they look ready to eat. Hope I've not jumped the gun. They tasted sweet enough, and no-ones died yet.

    Thanks for your tips in the comment section, I really love hearing how you're all getting on...I don't think I can use blood, bones and fish 'cos think my basset hound Snoop would struggle to resist the subtle yet heady scent of eau de meat. Loved the bronze statues recommended to me by BarneyWol though they are so beautiful I think I'd find them too depressingly gorgeous. When I get up in the morning and look out over my garden and I'm sporting dodgy pajamas and sideways hair, I want my statues less-supermodelly and more womanly; pretty but not threatening, more Winslet then Moss.

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