Monthly Archives: July 2012

Digging for Victory Update

Digging For Victory Veg Box. Contains seed, pot and compost to start onions, turnip and cabbage.

I found this in a charity shop today, having had to reluctantly leave the garden to sort out my bank. Obviously I’m not the only one to have had my thoughts about being victorious over the economy, quality of food and food shortages!

I’d better get back out there, then. Before I set off this morning to the bank, I did manage to make a wormery. I had an old wheelie bin, so we’ve put a water barrel tap at the bottom of it and used a wire basket, upturned, to make a shelf inside it into which cardboard layers followed by wet newspaper and old compost have been placed. This provides, I hope, top class accommodation for my new pets, the tiger worms. I’ve fished those out of the compost heap and hope to breed them to make my own liquid concentrated plant food. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Digging for Victory. Back of the box.

 

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I’m Digging For Victory

They did it before I was born. The Germany army was the reason back then. But the concept is relevant now. We have bigger problems than an advancing army. Looming food shortages, a financial catastrophe leaving lots of people cash-strapped, carbon miles piling up with imported food that isn’t fresh and last but not least, health. So despite my aching back, exhaustion and advancing years, I’m digging for victory. My garden, I’m even more determined now, is to be the source of as much of our food as is possible. I can’t raise meat or fish, but I can grow lots and lots of veg if I keep at it. So could you. Small space or large, we can all make a difference.

Dig for Victory! The source of my inspiration. Lime Tree Farm, Yorkshire

We can all make a difference to the wildlife, too. The system has to work in harmony. We need the birds, frogs, toads, newts, worms and other creatures that make our gardens their home. They eat the pests, make the eco system work properly and even help make compost and put nutrients into the soil that will end up in our plants and therefore our food.

I was away on a yearly pagan camp last weekend. I met up with old, like-minded friends and spent a damp weekend in a field dedicated to conservation by a farmer of forty acres who has turn his whole life and farm into a conservation project. We helped him build a stone circle there over ten years ago, and he has, with the help of volunteers, installed a roundhouse, dug wildlife ponds, built a hide and viewing station for badgers, had specialist groups in to monitor progress and developement. On his farm they have found eighteen of our twenty odd species of ladybirds. Marvelous, and just shows what can be done in a few short years.

digging for victory

Lime Tree Farm’s Stone Circle (the gatestones aren’t on this pic)

My conversations with Pete, the unsung hero farmer, about standard food production hardened my resolve, which was weak given the calamatous weather for veg growers this year. Did you know that your five a day isn’t as healthy as it should be? The factory farming of food using chemical fetilisers makes the plants grow even and good looking, but lacks the trace elements and some of the vitaims we NEED to be healthy. The land has not been replenished properly, so we aren’t either. It stands to reason if you can grow your own that food will be fresh, so contain more vitaims. And gardening organically ensures the existence of those trace elements we need. So, I’ve come home and finished digging over my second border, which in the spirit of the late gardener Geof Hamilton, is going to be mixed planting of perennials, annuals and veg. Tomorrow I can start planting. Now I’ve got air back into this tired land, incorporated some compost and cleared the weeds, the soil is starting to dry out. Fortunately, we’re on good, deep soil with a low water table, so as long as the jet stream does stay where it should be for this time of year, I hope we can now grow food!

I’m already getting plans ready for next year, which will be my first full growing year in this home. Not for me are the plastic-packed Kenyan French beans, Egyptian potatoes and other such carbon gobbling, vitamin destroying, far away supermarket veg. I did a little experiment. I bought some radish. If they are anything to go by, it’s all been rinsed in bleach or something. The radish came in plastic and have been in my fridge two months, yet are still LOOKING fresh! Bah humbug to that idea, hello digging for victory!

OK, Slugs. Do I have to buy a BB gun?

New garden and home. Lots of hope for a new life. So slugs, when are you going to let something grow? I know it’s wet, but the ravages at the moment are destroying basil in the greenhouse, dahlias, and my second lot of runner beans. Torches, slug collections, copper tape, collars smeared in vaseline, nothing seems to work. I’m sure I can’t be the only one. So I’m frustrated enough to have remarked, while buying a white Agapanthus, that I was off to buy a BB gun. Do you blame me? Only joking of course, but really, wildlife should leave my runners alone. They can nibble at other things, but I need to eat, too!

Container with bee friendly plants. Marguerite, lobelia and verbena (still in bud)

Soooo, I’ve relented and used a FEW slug pellets in the greenhouse where I can gleefully collect dead bodies before hedgehogs get anywhere near them. Thankfully I’ve found frogs and toads in the garden, but even they couldn’t manage the slug I found earlier this week. It had a body the size of a mouse!

On the plus side, I’ve now got tomatoes ripeningĀ  and peppers growing quite strongly inside the greenhouse. I also had room for a couple of courgette plants in a grow bag, so I’ve kept them in there this year. Normally I’d expect to have them outside, but the weather or slugs would prevent a decent crop and I’m taking no chances.

Sweet Williams and Snapdragons in the new border

Containers on the patio are now starting to flower, I’ve had visits from bees and the new border is beginning to come to life. So despite the slugs, some progress is being made. We have three rain barrels up and running (overflowing this summer) so there’s been no need to run the tap for the greenhouse and I don’t have to carry heavy cans down to it. My partner did a nifty connection to the greenhouse barrel, as we couldn’t source the correct connection. He siliconed into the gutter a pipe which is fashioned to feed the water straight into the barrel, and overnight it was half full.

Herbs are doing well, too. I can now make a full bouquet garni fresh whenever I want one. Parsley, sage rosemary, thyme and bay are all growing strongly. Too tasty and astringent for slugs! I’ve added some wildflowers and good bee plants to the borders, including Jacob’s Ladder, doronicum and Welsh poppies. The bees seem to like the tiny flowers of my dark purple heuchera and the large-flowered blue clematis, too! I’ve spotted white-tailed bumble bees, honey bees, buff tailed bumblebees and a couple of other species I don’t know the names of. This summer, I’m glad to see them at all. Naturally, there haven’t been many butterflies around, but when I have seen any, they’ve been small common blues, a cabbage white and a fritillary. Birds have been grateful for feeding them, and have made extensive use of the food I put out, especially when the rain has been heavy.

Newly planted alpine trough

It’s not all about conservation. I’ve also been renovating my alpine sinks. I’ve turned old Belfast sinks and polystyrene boxes into troughs for them, as I’ve always adored them. Now I have space for more! There have to be some things in this garden that are just purely for pleasure, and these are one of my indulgencies. What do you indulge yourself with in the garden?