ScrapHappy May 2019

In keeping with my recent activities, this month’s ScrapHappy is in the garden.

It’s a busy time of year for a gardener. Sowing seeds, potting up, transplanting and preparing beds for planting all seem to need to be done at the same time. If you visit your local garden centre, you are led to believe that you must buy all sorts of items to ensure that your garden grows, but there are also many scrappy solutions and I thought I’d share a few with you.

Many items, such as plant pots and labels can be used time and again, but when they finally come to the end of their life, there are alternatives. Recently I have used a couple of plastic buckets (that originally contained fat balls for the wild birds) to plant courgettes in, having punched some holes in the bottom for drainage. I cut up old plastic milk cartons to use for plant labels and these last for years – I write on them with a marker pen and clean them off each year with a bit of methylated spirit. My lettuce is planted in an old fish box that a neighbour found washed up on the beach and the pots containing my young pepper plants are currently sitting in an old polystyrene insulated mailing box that keeps them warm and acts as a water tray. I look at all moulded plastic packaging to see if part of it is the right shape for a pot holder and cut out the useful bit if it is. Punnets that have had fruit in (grapes or strawberries, perhaps) make ideal little seed trays, and they usually have holes in the bottom already; the ones with integral lids can even act as a tiny greenhouse when you are germinating seeds. And squirty bottles containing cleaning products can be thoroughly washed out and used as small garden sprayers, for things like foliar feed.

All these items are the sort of thing that gets thrown away on a daily basis, and even if they could be recycled, reuse is always a better option.

These are just a few examples of scrappy re-use in my garden; there are plenty of others involving pallets (see Mr Snail’s blog for an abundance of these), an old rotary clothes drier, electrical cables, mushroom trays and more. Do you have any scrappy gardening solutions?

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue (who I have just persuaded to join in)

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Three Things Thursday: 11 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, tomato futures. The limery provides such great growing conditions that my first tomatoes are appearing already. I see lots of passata in my future!

Heritage tomato: Veepro Paste

Second, potting-up. Every day now I am spending a bit of time potting up plants: lemongrass, peppers, melons and summer purple sprouting broccoli in the past few days. There are also seeds to be planted and surplus plants to be given away.

Third, working from home. Almost all my work these days is done from home. It means there’s no commute and no dress code, but best of all, it means I can intersperse my day with coffee, homemade biscuits and crochet in the limery.

IMGP2834

So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

Start a revolution…

Several people have asked over the past few days about what constitutes craftivism. Basically, it’s any crafted item that gets a message across – whether personal or political. Many people feel more comfortable with gentle ways to encourage change rather than being confrontational, and what better way to get your message across and gain attention than via a unique item rather than a letter? Send a felt bumblebee to your MP to make your point about conserving pollinators and they are certainly more likely to remember it than if you send them an e-mail.

Over the past few days I have been working on a message that is close to my heart. Here is my latest creation, made for our craftivism exhibition:

IMGP2347

Do you have a message you’d like to share with the world? Perhaps you can make your voice heard more effectively than simply shouting.

JULY 2017: This piece is now available for sale in my etsy shop.

Spring has been cancelled

Well, we seem to have transitioned directly from winter to summer in less than a week. I’m sure it won’t last but whilst the sun is shining I have been planting and sowing and potting up. The runner beans are in the soil, I have sown peas, potted up peppers and tomatoes and transplanted herbs… too busy to write much, but I have pictures…

I hope your weekend has been as productive as mine – oh, I did my accounts too!

Bags, beans and ebay

IMGP8143

A repair like a carrot!

I realise a whole week has gone by without a post… a combination of being busy and having a computer problem. The latter was related to an overheating power input, which was rectified with a new cable with replacement plug secured with Sugru – a cheap and simple solution, but one that took a little time because of the logistics of finding the replacement and then having to wait 24 hours for the Sugru to dry. The current obsession with excessively replacing electronic equipment is a real issue environmentally, and so I’m delighted with any solution that allows me to keep using my computer… I fully support the Restart Code, which you can check out here.

Away from the computer, the declutter continues, with five successful sales on ebay this week. I find the whole process of sorting out online auctions somewhat tedious, but it’s a good way to make sure unwanted items go to homes where they will get some use, so every now and then I grit my teeth and do a few listings. This time I sold five out of six items listed, which seems like quite a success to me.

IMGP8135

Drawstring bags for vegetables

Reducing clutter is also taking the form of turning some of the “I’m keeping this because it might be useful” things into things that really are useful.So, I spent a while cutting up an old sheet to make cleaning cloths (more on this in a later post when I’ve finished experimenting). In addition, I made four drawstring bags from off-cuts of very thin curtain fabric to use when we go shopping. We always take our own shopping bags, but rarely remember to take individual bags to put vegetables in. I used scrap fabric and some cotton tape that had been around some clothes I bought (rather than plastic packaging), so the resulting bags really are something for nothing. So far I’ve made two large ones and two small ones, but I’ll dig out some more fabric soon and make a few more. I’ve also been working on a crochet bag using yarn oddments… more on that when it’s finished.

And then there has been the garden. Two of our raised beds have been mulched over the winter, but the other day we took the mulch (Mypex) up from one of them, netted it and sent the chickens in to clear our any pests and weed seeds.

They spent a few hours in there on two days and then the bed was ready for planting… just a few roots of docks, dandelions and buttercups had to be dug out first. This afternoon I planted it up with broadbeans and potatoes… fingers crossed for a good harvest.

IMGP8142

Plants in – scarlet-flowered runner beans and potatoes

Seedy Saturday

Some of today's work

Some of today’s work

Today I’ve been sowing… I love putting seeds into compost, knowing that such tiny things will transform into the huge variety of vegetables that we’ll be eating later on in the year. Today I planted squashes, pumpkins, courgettes, melons, tomatoes, ground cherry, runner beans and maize. Tomorrow I’ll be focusing on leafy things and starting off some mange tout. Already in the ground are garlic, shallots and some potatoes and there will be more of the latter going in soon. And, having fumigated the greenhouse earlier in the week, I’ve now transferred the peppers and chillis out there to carry on growing.

Beans in root trainers on the left and the propagator lid on for double insulation of the more sensitive seeds

Beans in root trainers on the left and the propagator lid on for double insulation of the more sensitive seeds (it’s not plugged in)

This year I’m trying to focus on using up resources that I already have. In the pictures you can see that most of my curcurbits are planted in coir pots… I bought loads of these years ago and I think that these are the last of the batch. I’ve also done some more planting in toilet roll middles and the beans are planted in some very old root trainers, which are just about holding together… I’m very reluctant to replace them as they are quiet expensive.

What a lovely time of the year… fingers crossed everything germinates.

 

Ends and beginnings

Finally, we have come to the end of last year’s potato harvest… not bad for such a small space. This is all that’s left:

Just a few little Mira and Milva in the bottom of the last box

Just a few little Mira and Milva in the bottom of the last box

I think I might plant them and see what they can produce!

Thank you farmers!

Thank you farmers!

Of course, having money and living where we do, the end of our own crop does not mean that we have nothing left to eat: a trip to our local organic shop replenished our stock of potatoes. It does make me think, though, of people who do have to be self-reliant and the challenges they must face in providing for their families throughout the year. Big thanks to our local farmers for ensuring that we can continue to eat. The gap between now and our own new potatoes being ready to eat is only a few months, but it would be long enough to starve in.

Ready for potting up

Ready for potting up

Today, however, is also a day for moving another crop forwards. The peppers and chillies are now ready to be potted up and moved out of the propagator. Tomorrow, we will take some of them over to my sister for her to grow on in her lovely new garden, complete with greenhouse. We’ll also be taking her some chitted potatoes so that she can plant them out in her newly prepared beds. I do love this time of year for its new beginnings.

Trees and sunshine

A day of sunshine… and there has been no rain for 34 hours so far!!

This respite in the weather has meant that we could get on with some outdoor activities today. We walk the dogs almost every day, just avoiding the very worst of the weather, but today’s walk took much longer than usual, because so many other people were out too. In our community that means stopping for a chat… and getting given sweeties by the wife of one of our local farmers!

A bit of a wallow

A bit of a wallow

Once home, we were able to allow the hens into a part of the garden that has simply been too wet for them recently. We want them to clear and fertilise some of the vegetable beds in anticipation of the growing season. Of course, as soon as the soil dries out a bit, they want to have a dust bath… I think it was more of a wallow today, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway.

The chicken patch at Station Road

The chicken patch at Station Road (chickens are hiding!)

Whilst they were busy on the vegetable beds, I was able to plant two trees that have been awaiting my attention. In the chicken’s main patch, I want to create a more woodland-like habitat (after all they are descended from jungle fowl) and I was inspired by the area in which Wade Muggleton keeps his chickens at Station Road, which has fruit trees. We do not have ground vegetation at present because of having to raise the level of the soil to stop the waterlogging, but now that we have solved that problem, I wanted to get started with a Kentish Cob and an apple tree.

Cob nut in the foreground with the apple and chickens behind.

Cob nut in the foreground with the chickens foraging behind.

The Cob (a variety of hazel) has been in a pot for a couple of years, because it originally arrived at a time when the soil was frozen so solid that we couldn’t plant it. The apple, however, came very recently from my dear friends Janta and Merav at Karuna – the variety is Ashmead’s Kernel and it’s grafted onto a dwarf rootstock, so should be perfect for our little garden. Both are now planted and will hopefully provide a great habitat for the hens and a harvest for us. Don’t be fooled by the woodchip on the surface in the pictures, it’s lovely and fertile underneath from the chicken droppings that have been slowly incorporated into the soil over several years.

The start f a little jungle for the hens

Happy hens with ‘their’ apple tree

Shopping (yes, me)

It’s now the time of year when I do a big shop. No. I’m not talking about stocking up for gluttony over the festive season, I’m talking about seeds.

Tea and seed-shopping - a lovely combination on a winter's evening

Tea and seed-shopping – a lovely combination on a winter’s evening

This time of dark evenings and rain (here in west Wales at least) is ideal for settling down and choosing what I’m going to grow next year. I used to use paper catalogues, but these days I sit down with my laptop and a mug of tea (or possibly a glass of wine) and browse some of my favourite seed suppliers… The Real Seed Catalogue, Chiltern Seeds, The Organic Gardening Catalogue…

I think about the successes and failures of the past year. What do I want to repeat? What worked well? What was a disaster? And I look to the future – always trying something new each year. I find the idea of a new growing season particularly uplifting. It’s not many weeks now, in fact, until I need to start planting chillies and peppers, which benefit from a very early start, even though we are still harvesting fresh chillies from both of this year’s varieties: Lemon Drop and Alberto’s Locoto (both of these are on the list to grow next year).

In 2014 I’m also definitely going to grow Yellow-podded Mangetout, Lipstick Pepper, Lady Godiva Pumpkins, Lady Godiva Sunflowers, Mira and Colleen Potatoes and Mizuna. What about you? Or if you are in the southern hemisphere, what’s doing well for you now?

For every season

There are many reasons to eat local and seasonal – reducing food miles, accessing really fresh produce, the anticipation of a certain food becoming available, supporting local growers, growing your own…

Of course, growing your own food is likely to be associated with ups and downs: hungry gaps and gluts. This means that a gardener needs to be thoughtful about supplying food throughout the year and careful to store crops for later use. For example, I’ve previously mentioned that it’s been a good year for courgettes (we’ve harvested over 10kg from our small plot so far and there are more growing), so we have eaten them more often than if I hadn’t grown them; but knowing that we like to eat soup, I have converted many of them into soup for the freezer. Our glut will help to fill a hungry gap later in the year.

If you Google a phrase like ‘seasonal eating’, you will be presented with thousands of web sites, telling what to eat when. For example, if you are in the UK, you could look at ‘Eat the Seasons‘ and find that this week, the vegetables in season are:

artichoke, aubergine, beetroot, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, celeriac, celery, chillies, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, french beans, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce & salad leaves, mangetout, marrow, onions, pak choi, peppers, potatoes (maincrop), radishes, rocket, runner beans, spring onions, sweetcorn, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, wild mushrooms

a helpful list if you are off to your local shop. But beware – just because things are in season at the moment does not mean that the versions for sale are from a local source. I am appalled when I see apples from all over the world available in supermarkets in the UK in October… and apples rotting on the ground around trees because no one has bothered to pick them.

Immature Boston squash in September... it's never going to get the chance to develop a hard skin for storage

Immature Boston squash in September… it’s never going to get the chance to develop a hard skin for storage

However, if you have a garden you can, to a certain extent, beat the seasons. Be a little bit daring with your planting times, or make use of a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame, or even your kitchen windowsill, and you can extend seasons, or even crop completely out of season. Big commercial growers can’t afford to take risks – they need an income – but you can. Try planting at a different time, or bringing plants indoors and you may get an out-of-season crop that provides a real treat. With home growing, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get the size or quantity of produce that you might at other times of the year and it can add much sought-after variety. In some cases, a plant starts producing at an unfortunate time; this often happens with pumpkins and winter squashes, when fruit sets late in the season so there will not be time for it to mature. In this case it’s possible to be creative – just harvest them and use them immature like you would a summer squash or courgette.

September strawberries in the greenhouse... I think we'll have Eton mess

September strawberries in the greenhouse… I think we’ll have Eton mess when these are ripe

Sometimes, an out-of-season crop can be a fortuitous accident… take my strawberries for example. I have two hanging baskets of strawberries (the idea was to keep them away from slugs and chickens). They produced quite well in their season (around June), but then I moved them to a location where slugs found their way to them and the leaves started to get severely eaten. Not wanting to lose all the plants, I hung the baskets in a convenient location to keep an eye on them… inside the greenhouse. Once there, they perked up and started flowering again. This is why we are now enjoying a second small strawberry crop… and most delicious they are too!

%d bloggers like this: