Tuesday 29 March 2022

Son of the Secret Gardener


Most of us have read the book or have seen one of the four films made based on the children's classic novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

It's beautiful story about friendship, secrets, and the human spirit, The Secret Garden tells the story of the courage of two unhappy and withering children who become determined to make their lives, and the lives of others around them, more joyful. 

Orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live in her uncle's house on the Yorkshire moors, and the house is an unhappy one. 

Miserable and lonely, Mary starts to explore the house's gardens and she discovers a key to the secret garden.

Burnett based the story on her own beautiful and extensive garden at Maytham Hall (in Rolvenden, Kent). Burnett’s Head Gardener at the time was Trevor Millum’s grandfather, George Owen Millum (the inspiration for the gardener in the novel, Ben Weatherstaff). 

When Trevor Millum discovered the diaries of his father, the Son of the Secret Gardener, he decided to make them available to everyone and, in the process, to tell the story of his green-fingered father and grandfather. 

The result is this engaging book – destined to become much-loved bedtime reading for gardeners and nature lovers. This is an absorbing and entertaining read for all – especially those interested in the lives of workers on the country estates during the 1930s, the war years and in post-war Britain. 

The book is packed with fascinating details for gardeners and horticulturalists. It is illustrated with photos from the time, photos of the diary pages and charming drawings by Twink Addison. 

 A treasure trove of trugs & trowels, spuddling & shrubberies, pruning & potting, and weeding in all weathers! Yep Spuddling is a real word! page 38 explains it's origin, I looked it up before I found page 38.   

A window into a bygone world of great houses, serviced by a host of servants. Fascinating reading for all those who love historic houses and gardens – and a great gift for any garden-lover.

The Secret Garden is my eldest daughters favourite book and then when she saw the 1993 film (The third film version) and loved that as much as the book, and I ended up buying her the DVD and we watched it many times as she grew up. 

I also love reading historical books, and period publications about gardening and allotments like Your Garden in War-Time by C.H.Middlrton and Diggers Diary Tales from the Allotment by Victor Osborne and The Victorian Kitchen Garden by Jennifer Davies. So if you are anything like me you are going to love this book. 

Son of the Secret Gardener comes out on 4th April 

ISBN: 978 1 86151 971 9 Paperback 120 pages RRP: £11.50 April 2022 Quadrant Books is an imprint of the Memoirs Group www.quadrant-books.com Available through: the publisher, internet booksellers and all good bookshops.

Sunday 27 March 2022

Mothers Day On The Plot


Hose unwound, water due to be turned on tomorrow and corner cleared of timber and weed membrane and rubber matting over the area to be dug weeded and covered in woodchips when they finally arrive. Adi the plot holder of plot 2 next door as cut all the grass and weeds down ready for the 2022 season.

Patio cleared of the rubber mats which were a little bit of a trip hazard to be honest.

Malling Juno (early) Raspberries from the D.T.Brown - Long Cropping Raspberry Collection looking lush.

There I was worried about the raspberry canes growing last year and this year I have 5 runners of Malling Juno (early) Raspberries from the D.T.Brown - Long Cropping Raspberry Collection coming up in the path to deal with.

Rhubarb Livingstone from D.T.Brown. looking good, the middle one is catching up slowly.

Corner of the plot has a tidy the timbers are now stacked on the wood pile, the square flower buckets of soil grouped together near the Dalek. Weed membrane and rubber mats cover the area in front of the last two Daleks on the Dalek Army line.

The plan is to erect a 1.8m x 1.8m (6ft x 6ft) Greenhouse frame and clad it with the mesh panels that are currently leaning up against the scaffold tubes in the Raspberry beds to make a structure I can grow climbing vegetables up and perhaps lettuce inside one the vegetables on the 3 sides and roof give some shade. 

Cupido sets in modules in the Plot 1A Greenhouse.

Using some of the white hoops I inherited on the plot to make a mini hoop house over the high level planter with radishes.

Saturday 26 March 2022

4x4 Chalk Quarry Driving Experience

I had a great day out with Emma Wooldridge today as a belated birthday gift at True Grip Off Road for a Birthday 4x4 chalk quarry driving experience. We have done a lot of quad biking at True Grip in the past and it has always been a great experience no matter the time of year or weather conditions. The 4x4 Experience was awesome, driving a 4x4 in a quarry when one minute you are looking up in the sky through the windscreen and then next you are over the ridge and looking down into the quarry and the gears are controlling you decent is mind blowing to begin with.

We had breakfast on the way to Ashford in Kent, and as we arrived early, we visited Dobbies which I have to say I was not impressed with and then Longacres Bybrook Barn which was a much nicer garden centre, and had a better feel about it.

I have been looking for westland Gro Sure Seed and Cutting Compost which is my normal go too compost for starting off my seedlings, Usually TESCO has westland composts from the start of march, but no where locally appears to have it not even the local Blue Diamond who will be selling 3 sacks for £12 when it finally arrives. I have book marked it and asked for an email when it comes into stock.

I have emailed the public relations and marketing contacts for westlands to try and find out why Gro Sure is in such short supply, but as with most marketing people one discovers they are poor communicators, which is a little counter intuitive but found to be true, so I'm not holding my breath for an answer anytime soon, if at all to be honest.

What I did find at
Longacres Bybrook Barn was the westland Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes at 2 sacks for £6.

Now I did not have great results using the new Westland New Horizon Tomato Compost with BIO3 last year in fact an experiment growing between westland New Horizon Tomato Compost with BIO3 V Dalefoots showed just how poor the results were with the New BIO3 were, but I'm willing to give this a try as it has added John Innes for my seedlings as I can't get Gro Sure. and I can pot them on into something healthier as I can still get peat based compost this year.

I paid for my compost purchase using an HTA eVoucher, which the cashier wanted to take and I explained that I needed it back because it was a £30 gift I had been given by my sister-in-law for my birthday and there should be £18 still on it.

We checked on line whilst waiting for the 4x4 experience and found the eVoucher had zero balance. So after the experience we went back to Longacres Bybrook Barn to explain and it appears that the particular member of staff was not normally on the till, but was on because it was Mothers Day weekend and they were short staffed, and had somehow cleared the remaining £18 balance. Customer services at Longacres Bybrook Barn were excellent and just gave me another HTA Gift card to the value of £18 after looking into the matter.

So just be careful when using HTA paper, card of eVouchers in garden centres that you do get your change. the FAQ at HTA state that not all outlets give change of balance to paper vouchers, but eVoucher's should retain a balance the same as cards.

Quite by accident Emma had booked us into the Harvester opposite Longacres Bybrook Barn for an early evening meal to round off the day.

Friday 25 March 2022

I Hour Dash ....


Emma and I did the one hour dash to the allotment to drop off a couple of sacks loads of Clover Multipurpose Peat based compost. I know I know, its not good for the environment. blar blar blar ... but it is good for my seedlings and plants and I can add some coir to pad it out a little. There is a note at the bottom of the sack that says "Peat in this product has not been harvested from areas of scientific interest" and that's good enough for me. 

Clover Multi-Purpose Compost 
promotes healthy plant growth from seed to full bloom. It has a rich natural finest Irish Moss Peat base with the perfect balance of lime and plant fertilisers. For Seeds: consistency has been specially blended to suit delicate flower and vegetable seeds.

Last year I paid £5.50 a sack and this year it's worked out at £7.00 a sack and the next delivery the local trading hut gets will be £7.50 a sack. 

Basically the cost of compost has been going through the roof since the pandemic and the increase in interest in gardening and Grow Your Own food. I have to say having trialed a few peat free varieties they are well how can it put this nicely .... shit,  and I don't mean manure, they would be better off if they had some of that in them like the Equigrow compost have.

I like a Dalefoot compost range but it's just so darn expensive to have delivered and I can't find anyone local selling it at a reasonable cost. This company actually works a recreating peat bogs! 

Getting back to what happened today, the Clover Compost has gone into my plastic store to keep it away from the foxes and to be there for the next square foot gardening bed which is unlikely to appear until next year now. 

I set about clearing out the Plot 1A greenhouse so that I can at least get into it to put a couple of trays of first earlies on the racking and free up space in the Space Saver Greenhouse at home. Emma bless her weeded the walking onion beds and around the other beds where I have not yet replaced the wood chips.

The Radishes that I sowed on the 18th March 7 days ago are showing already, I gave them a water and put the cover back on, but I need to make a cage as a cat or squirrel has dug in the high level planter in the past.  

Aubergine Sown

Sown lunch time 13 Black Beauty from Seed Parade average 200 seeds for 99p plus P&P 

Sown 12  Aubergine Long Purple Kings Seeds came with a copy of Kitchen Garden.

Sown 11 Seeds as that's what was in the packet - Aubergine Jewel Marble F1 -  10 Seeds - Was £2.49 Now £1 - Mr Fothergilll's .

An exciting variety producing high yields of versatile small fruits, which are highly attractive, with striped skins. Fruits are great tasting, having a firm flesh.

Plants are compact and bushy – making them ideal for pots and containers. Can be grown in a sunny sheltered location outdoors.

Sow January - April  Harvest August - October 

Thursday 24 March 2022

Square Foot Planting Plan Updated



Here is the plan for the Square Foot Gardening Beds at the moment, now I need to start off some of the plants I want to grow in them that can't be sown direct or can be but I want to get a head start.

 1 Gherkin (2) + Radish (8)

 2 Gherkin (2) + Radish (8) or Possibly Spring Onions ?

 3 Cucumber (2) + Radish (8) - Cucumbers sow end April for early May 

 4 Cucumber (2) + Radish (8) or Possibly Spring Onions ?

 5 Aubergine (1) Black Beauty - Sown, Transplant May + Radish (12)

 6 Pepper (1) – Sweet Lunchbox + Radish (12) or Possibly Spring Onions ?

 7 Aubergine (1) – Long Purple Sown, Transplant May + Radish (12)

 8 Pepper (1) - Summer Salad + Radish (12) or Possibly Spring Onions?

 9 Carrots (16) – Snowman F1 (White Carrots) - D.T.Brown

10 Chard (4) – Fordhook Giant

11 Carrots (16) – Rainbow Mix - Thompson & Morgan 

12 Chard (4) – Bright Lights

13 Lettuce (4) – Little Gem

14 Beetroot (16) - Beetroot Kornett - Mr Fothergill's

15 Lettuce (4) – Amaze - D.T.Brown 

16 Beetroot (16) – Moneta

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Water Melon Update

On the 14th March I sowed 12 Watermelons:- 

Yesterday the 22nd March when I looked in the propagator I noticed some green through the water droplets on the lid. The clear winner in the Germination race is 2 out of 3 of the Amarillo Oro from Happy Green Shop

Congratulations Happy Green Shop, I will be visiting and buying from you again in the future.

I have now transferred to the propagator to the Space Saver Greenhouse as it's very warm in there during the day, between 24.4C to 37.5C at 9:44 am when in the sunlight, with the door half open. 

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Monday 21 March 2022

Hydrating More Coco Coir

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Kelly was working form home, and could keep an eye on Jen, so I took the opportunity to get a couple of hours in on the allotment late this afternoon, hydrating Coco Boost Coir, bagging it up and storing away in a storage bin ready for the planting my potatoes.

1 Litre Kettle of hot water followed by 4 litres of cold water whilst the kettle boiled the water again, then scoop up the soft stuff into empty compost sacks.

Coco Grow Pure Coir Compost with added Nutrients, I got mine from D.T.Brown      

Fortified with added nutrients which would feed the plants for 8 weeks. NPK: 20:20:20 plus essential trace elements.

Natural and 100% PEAT FREE - made from 100% Natural Coconut husks, after harvesting, it is stored, ground, washed, dried, and compressed. Coco Coir is a natural by-product of the coconut farming industry and causes minimal impact on the environment and it is the most environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.

Coco Grow can be used in soil-less potting mixes or mixed with soil. Perfect growing medium for plants. Ideal to use in greenhouses, pots & containers, outdoors and for indoor growing pot plants. Good for potting up, planting and rooting.

Natural Coco Grow makes a great bedding material for worm bins & Reptiles and it increases worm growth by 25%. Coco Grow increases the porosity of the potting mix which helps to keep the soil loose and airy helping in better root growth. Better root growth results in better plant growth and higher yield. Coco Coir improves soil structure, water holding capacity, improves nutrient retention and feeds the microorganisms which are responsible for digesting the organic matter and releasing enzymes that promote plant growth. The presence of organic compounds in Coco Grow results in strong root growth compared with other growing media.

How to Use It:

Simply put your compressed Coco Coir Peat brick in a container, add 25 litres of water and let it sit until the water is absorbed (approx. 20min). Fluff it up and you are ready to use it. After adding water, the block expands in to 75ltr of compost.

Key Benefits:
- NPK: 20:20:20 plus essential trace elements
- 100% peat-free
- pH and nutrient balanced
- Sustainable and environmentally friendly, from natural renewable sources, biodegradable
- Easy to handle, uniform in composition, odourless
- Better water retention, long lasting
- Provides good drainage / good aeration
- Free of bacteria and weed seeds
- Absorbs water readily and re-wets easily, reducing the need for wetting agents
- Can be reused repeatedly

Size: 30 x 13 x 30cm when compressed. Add 25 litres of water and it will expand to 75ltr of Peat Free Coco Coir Compost Boost - pH value 5.5 -6.8

There is no water on the site at the moment so I have been taking 2 litre pop and water bottles of water down with me and storing them in the potting table behind the greenhouse

Collection of sacks once the block was completely hydrated

The sacks of hydrated Coir were put in the coir storage bin, the locking handles are not very good and I have lost the lid in the wind or storms in the past, so a couple of half concrete paving blocks were in order.

I spent some time sorting out the flower buckets and forming drainage holes in those that don't have them. Picked up a load of grass cuttings from the paths and added to a Dalek and watered them in. Then it was time to make my way home for my evening meal.

Sunday 20 March 2022

More Work on the Square Foot Garden Beds

As Kelly was on Mum watch duties I managed to get on the Allotment from 8 - 10 am this morning working on getting the two Square Foot Gardening Beds completed. I say working on because I made great headway but there is still some items to do.

I got the second 100 Litre sack of Vermiculite that had been stored in the plot 1A greenhouse. I Purchased both sacks from Marshalls last year. As the first sack it had been double wrapped in paper sacks for protection it during delivery.

I opened and tipped out the contents in the bed that already had half a sack of both the Westland New Horizon All Plant Compost and Westland New Horizon BIO3 All Vegetable Peat Free Compost and a sack of Miracle Gro Peat Free Premium Fruit and Vegetable Compost and Clover Multi-Purpose Peat Based Compost. 

Vermiculite is incredibly light weight and I was a little worried when I first used it yesterday that the wind might take it, but it stayed there long enough to be mixed into the compost.

Square foot gardening bed has had the Coco Coir in there since last year when I hydrated the block, the cardboard had more or less rotted away so a new layer of cardboard was added yesterday together with a sack of Miracle Gro Peat Free Premium Fruit and Vegetable Compost and Clover Multi-Purpose Peat Based Compost. 

The volume in SFG Bed two is greater than SFG Bed 1 done yesterday, so I added two sacks of Equigrow Soil Conditioner on top of the mix I have used in Bed 1. It will be interesting to see any difference in performance between the two beds.

Two Sacks worth of Equigrow Soil Conditioner on top of the Mix.

Two Sacks worth of Equigrow Soil Conditioner on top of the mix raked out

Then worked into the mix using the Claw that was bought for me 24 years ago on my 40th Birthday by Auntie Dawn who must have known that one day I would need it! I didn't really garden in those days other than cutting grass and hedges. 

You can see that I've worked the Equigrow Soil Conditioner in on the left side, but have not yet done the right side in this photo.

The bed once the Equigrow Soil Conditioner was worked into the whole bed. The level is still down from the surrounding frame so it was time to add something else.

Happy Compost Enriched Top Soil. I only have the one bag so I divided it up and spread it on both of the Square Foot gardening Beds.

Second Square Foot Gardening Bed once the Happy Compost Enriched Top Soil had been sprinkled over the two Square Foot Gardening Beds, still not taking the fill to the top of the frame on the second bed which is deeper than the first

Time to add some Willy Wormcasts from D.T.Brown to the mix

Willy Wormcasts up close and personal

Bed once the Willy Wormcasts were sprinkled over the Happy Compost Enriched Top Soil

View of both the the Square Foot Gardening Beds

View of the second Square Foot Gardening Bed once the Willy Wormcasts and Happy Compost Enriched Top Soil had been worked into the top of the mix.

Both Square Foot gardening Beds after working in the Willy Wormcasts and the Happy Enriched Top Soil into both beds

Fox protection put back in place

I still need to sort out the vertical climbing frame to the back of the second bed and install the two water pipe hoops, then cut a length of debris netting big enough to cover and protect from the foxes.