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Category Archives: May

Weeds

An exert from Mr Middleton’s book ‘Your Garden In War-time’:

May

Now for a few jobs in the garden. May is an interesting and pleasant month but it is also a busy one, and among other evil things which come to enjoy its sunny days are the weeds. Weeds of every description, great and small, tough and tender; it’s marvellous where they all come from. Up to this year l’ve been fairy free of creeping convolvulus, or bellbine (bindweed), but now it has got into the gooseberry patch. If you want to punish anyone for being naughty, just give him an hour or two pulling bellbine out of gooseberry bushes, it should prove to be very effective.This is the time of the year to tackle weeds with a will, or rather with a hoe. Keep the Dutch hoe busy among the crops and never allow a weed to flower in the garden if you can help it. If you do, it means seeds and another crop of weeds. But unless the weather is very dry, the Dutch hoe is not very effective unless you follow it with the rake and take the weeds away. Just pushing them about with the hoe from one place to another and leaving them there, merely transplants them and they thrive on it.

He goes on to tell us that weeds growing on paths should be treated with Sodium Chlorate killing anything it touches but warns it is ‘rather combustable, so handle it carefully and avoid friction, or it may go off with a fizz‘!

I am sure l have still seen it for sale but from September 2009 Sodium Chlorate was takken off the EU approved pesticides list but maybe they have taken the ‘fizz’ out of it! Mal from Malsallotment asked me how l keep my paths clear round the veg plot. Well, l do it exactly the same way as Mr Middleton suggests. It is quite therapeutic. Much better than spraying with a fizz bang weedkiller although l do use RoundUp on the main drive,

Now we have had all of this rain it seems you only have to turn your back for two minutes and there are more weeds to pull. I might try making a salad out of a few and eat them just out of spite!

How do you keep your weeds down and does anybody have any recipes using weeds in salads?!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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‘A Brief Period Of Rejoicing’

Today, 8th May, marks Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Winston Churchill told the Commons :

We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan with her her treachery and greed, remain unsubdued.We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance Britannia.

After six long years and millions of lives lost, the war in Europe was finally over.In London over a million peoplecelebrated and crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace to cheering crowds.

“This is your hour. This is your Victory”, Churchill told the crowds. “It is not a victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole”.

The crowds burst into song singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. If there was one place l would like to have been it was there and then. The atmosphere must have been electric. Britain at its united best.

Click on this link to see a wonderful piece of film in colour of that moment in London: VE Day

Broad Beans

66 years on and my thoughts are also on my garden! We have been having tremendous thunderstorms and huge downpours with strong gusty winds.

It's raining again!

No problems with dry soil now. In fact, the garden is growing by the minute. My runner beans love the rain and are putting on some strong growth. So are my courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The spuds are looking good and so too are the peas and dwarf beans. I applied a soft soap solution on the blackfly on the Broad Beans and it seems to be working, albeit slowly. Thank you to Janet at Plantalicious for sending me a garlic spray recipe to get rid of the nasty blighters. I will use it if the soft soap solution doesn’t work.

I am also taking a chance with nature by planting out my courgettes this weekend. If a frost is forecast l will lay a fleece over them. the same with the spuds and runner beans. This hot weather has brought everything on so quickly l don’t have a choice really. If they stay in their pots their growth will be stumped and they never really fully recover.

Courgettes, squash and pumpkins ready to plant out

The Salad Bar

Everything comes up Roses in the end!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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Watering

I thought this extract from ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’ seems quite timely advice for a lot of people at the moment:

I expect some of you will wonder what on earth l am going to talk about. “Watering” may seem a strange subject, but it is a very important one, and one which is not very well understood by garden lovers. I venture to say that more mistakes are made in a garden with the watering can and the hose pipe than with anything else.Indeed, l would go a step further, and say that more than half the laborious watering that is done does a good deal more harm than good. Let us consider it in detail for a few minutes.

In the first place, l am convinced that in a well-cultivated garden very little outdoor watering is ever really necessary, even in the driest weather. During a hot, dry spell last year l took a party round a famous Surrey garden, and it was very noticeable that although the natural soil there is almost pure sand, and the surface appeared to be as dry as dust, the various flowers and plants were standing up fresh and well, and appeared to be suffering no ill effects from the dry weather. Someone remarked on the amount of watering that must be necessary on such a soil, and was surprised when the Head Gardener remarked that no watering at all had been done.

Mr Middleton goes on to explain how the ground was dug deeply in the winter leaving the soil in just the right condition for drawing up water below by what is known as capillary attraction, using a cube of sugar with just a corner dipped in a cup of tea to demonstrate how the tea is absorbed.

In solid, unbroken soil, cracks appear and allow the water to evaporate quickly, but a deeply dug and well-cultivated soil not only lifts sufficient water from below but holds it in the surface layers where it is most wanted. Moreover, in such a soil the roots of plants can descend much easier to the lower regions in search of more abundant supplies.

He talks about the virtues of mulching as a means of conserving water explaining that this is done not only to feed the roots but to keep them cool and moist in hot, dry weather. he states not to do this too early in the year and suggests using manure, hay, straw, leaves or lawn mowings.

I think i should be quite safe in saying that there are far more casualties among greenhouse plants through over-watering than from any other cause. It need not be so, because after all, watering is really a question of judgement and common sense.

My deep-beds

For many years now l have grown my vegetables using deep-beds.These are 4ft wide beds, dug deeply with lots of compost. The idea is that you never walk on them hence the soil is not compacted. The plants can be spaced closer together and develop a good root system and you can see exactly what needs mulching, watering, feeding etc. I don’t think l would ever go back to the conventional method of preparing my plot ie. digging the whole lot and then treading all over it!

So, with the watering l have moved on with technology, and last year l invested in a micro-irrigation system connected to a timer. Mr Middleton would have loved this! I place the piping around the beds, in particular, the beans and peas, salad beds, courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The rest have to take their chance. I still like to use the watering can, however. There is something very ‘hands on’ using a can and you can be more selective. What system of watering do you use?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton, The garden

 

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May Day

I have been given permission by Earthly Pursuits to use their collection of  The Allotment & Garden Guides which were first published by The Ministry of Agriculture in 1945. Just a note of caution: some of the chemicals that are suggested for use are now illegal to use and will be harmful to users, animals and the environment so please check what other methods are suitable instead.

The Enemy

The full April Allotment & Garden Guide can be found under ‘Wartime Advice’, and the information given in them is still relevant today,  but l love this page showing the difference between a Centipede and a Millipede in the form of a Centipede being a ‘fast moving friend’ and proudly showing the Union Jack flag and the Millipede being a ‘slow moving enemy’ with a Swastika! Priceless!

These leaflets are surprisingly difficult to get hold of considering they were printed in their hundreds of thousands to promote the Dig for Victory campaign. I have the odd one and l am always on the look out. Ebay is a good place to start looking but know when to stop bidding as l have seen them fetch silly amounts of money.

So, April is behind us and what a month it was! The hottest on record and l can well believe that. A lot of us had over 25c or nearly 80 f and no rain for weeks now making this month, of all months, particularly difficult in the garden. BUT, last night we had thunderstorms and it started to rain and this morning it is still raining. Thank goodness as the garden was resembling a dust bowl and l felt so sorry for all the birds trying to raise their young. This will really help bring things along and l am sure l will be seeing big differences throughout the garden over the coming days. I kept the salad bed well watered and we have been eating some really nice ‘cut and come again’ Hot & Spicy salad leaves, rocket and Mizuna. Delicious.

At least we now live in relatively peaceful times on our shores and we don’t have to worry about the Nazis invading us. 70 years ago in 1941, Hitler’s intensive bombing campaign was drawing to a close and he had to abandon ‘Operation Sealion’, the invasion of our shores. Over 40,000 civilians lost their lives during the Blitz but moral remained high, on the whole,  and everyone pulled together over the coming years  to see it through to the bitter end. It is these people and in this period that l will always remain fascinated and in total awe.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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Garden pics….

I thought l would just put a load of photos l have taken of the garden over the past few days. There just seems to be so much going on in out there at the moment, especially after the rain we had recently. I am looking forward to the coming weeks as the veg plot in June and July gives us so much. What is looking good in your garden right now?

Marmande tomato

First cucumber

Aubergine

A good crop of broad beans

ready to pod

a rogue radish from my compost!

Our wildflower meadow

The dome

Geranium

Cistus

Cerinthe

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2010 in May, The garden

 

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Please rain……

Mr Middleton says: Thin out surplus seedlings early, before the roots get tangled, or you may injure those left behind.

MAY- 3rd WEEK

1. Thinning and Planting.- There will be much thinning out in May from sowings made in April. This operation is most important and should be done before the young plants get too crowded with their roots tangled together, and by their competition with each other weaken those which are left. Plant out crops from the seed bed and frames as necessary. If frost for the year seems to be over, some of the more tender crops, such as runner beans raised in frames, can be set out.

2. How is your plan working?- The garden should be getting nice and full, but there should still be room for a few later crops. To speak of the necessity for planting and sowing at different times is to emphasise the need for a plan. When no plan is being used it is fatally easy to put in a few extra rows of cabbage, cauliflowers, turnips, or whatever it is, and to leave no room for other essential crops.

3. Plant Out Lettuce.- Cos lettuce raised under glass may now be planted out. Allow 12 in. from plant to plant. Never allow lettuce seedlings to become crowded, as they grow soft and decay early. Some people like to use the thinnings as salads, but in so doing they rarely thin out the rows in good time and consequently those left fail to make good hearts.

4. Sow Maincrop Carrots and Beet.

5. More Sowing of Spinach.

6. Fertilize and Hoe.- A light sprinkling of general fertilizer may be given to crops now well established, particularly the earlier onions. Hoe frequently amongst the crops to work in the fertilizer and to keep down weeds which begin to grow apace at this time of the year. It is most important to destroy them as their competition is felt keenly by other plants. In the later stages they do not matter quite so much, provided they are not allowed to flower and produce seed.

7. Sow peas.

8. Attend to Fruit.

I was working in the garden until gone 10.00 this evening and in a short sleeved shirt! Amazing, no wind, warm sunshine and with the birds singing it was bliss!

More bad news l am afraid. I let my girls out when l got back from work at lunchtime only for the fox to wait until my back was turned. This time is was Bridgit, a beautiful black Maran type and a good layer so now we are down to 3 girls. So, this evening, l started to build an Ark, a covered run and house which can be moved around the garden. I think its the best solution. I am on the lookout for a couple of Buff Orpington’s. We used to have these back in the UK. They are lovely hens. Either that or a couple more black Marans which are very good layers.

No real significant rain in months is making this a very difficult year for growing anything in the garden. Today the temperature is nudging 30c and the ground is baked dry. It will take about 24 hours of good rain to get the ground back to normal. Our water is metered and is expensive so l am installing a micro irrigation system in the veg plot. My potatoes were wilting and l realised they were dry as a bone under the plastic membrane. A good dousing soon got them looking healthy again.

In the greenhouse things are really going. I have a small confession to make…the cucumbers are not strictly my own…l bought them in as young plants. But look at them now!

Young cucumber

First tomato

So, l am off to do a rain dance and hope that, this time, its more than a passing shower! How is the weather affecting your gardens?



 
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Posted by on May 24, 2010 in May, The garden

 

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Some wartime memorabilia

Over the past few weeks l have successfully bid for some wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ memorabilia.  Since l have started writing this blog l have searched the internet for additional information to help me in my postings, whether that has been in the form of posters from that period, leaflets, booklets etc. Some of them have obviously become collectable items especially the Allotment & Garden Guides and Seed catalogues. I thought l had secured a seed catalogue when l placed a bid at nearly £10.00. It actually went for nearer £40.00! Remarkable. So, in my quest to build up a little bit of WW2 history and with a limited budget, l only bid on ebay on items that really take my interest. These are some of them:

Dig for Victory

This is the leaflet informing people on How To Dig. Its all good common sense stuff but l must get myself a nice trilby and a waistcoat!

How to Dig

I hope you have all noticed how the digger has stepped back with one foot!

Cropping plan

I am really pleased l got this leaflet. When l read this l have this image of the characters from The Fast Show when they were talking very matter of fact dressed as men during the war, smoking pipes, ‘Vegetables all the year round if you crop wisely Mr Chummley-Warner!’

Cropping Plan 2

Janice surprised me the other day when she got me a Dig for Victory mug! How nice is that!

Dig for Victory mug

Weather here still remains dry. We had a drop of rain last Friday but l believe Brittany is declaring itself in a state of drought! No real rain since before Easter is making the garden very dry and very difficult to work in. There is a distinct lack of growth in nearly all the seedlings despite my watering. I have set up a new irrigation system in my plot ready for worsening conditions! How are things with you?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2010 in May, The garden, Uncategorized

 

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Full steam ahead

Mr MIDDLETON says: Little and often is the golden rule with fertilizers; a little less rather than a little more.

MAY- 2nd WEEK

1. Plant out celery and celeriac.- Celery is normally planted out in trenches in single or double rows….celery being a bog plant requires an abundance of water. Dust with old soot often, to keep the celery fly away. Celeriac, which is grown for its turnip-like root, requires a rich soil and much feeding to get really good roots.

2. Thin out seedlings.- Many rows of seedlings will need thinning out from time to time. This can be done at one stage, though normal practice is to do it twice. The first time the rows are reduced and specimens left about twice as thick as is necessary. This leaves plenty to cover failures. The alternate plants are removed at the final thinning. With carrots the disturbance of the row loosens the soil and permits the carrot fly to lay its eggs near the roots of the plants, and the pungent smell attracts the pest. Immediately after thinning, the rows should be watered and naphthalene hoed in along each side of the rows.

3. Onions and Their Enemies.-

4. Plant Cucumbers.-

5.- Sow Swedes and Turnips.-

6.- Sow and Plant.- Sow maincrop beet and haricot beans. Plant out late cauilflowers and New Zealand spinach. Apply mulches to any fuit trees that need it. Protect beans outside if weather is unseasonable.

I have only just transplanted my celeriac so it is too early for me to plant outside just yet. I bought some celery plants from a new shop just opened in town selling only local produce. I’m all in favour of supporting anything like that. The plants have been slow to pick up but are putting on new growth now.

We had a drop of rain last week but with these winds the soil has soon dried out again and l am having to continue to water. Carrots are up but very slow in putting any growth on. Unlike my spuds under cover that are truly romping away.

Spuds under cover

A little pearl

A couple more weeks and we should be eating our first plate of new potatoes, with a big dollop of butter, of course!

Salad & Herbs

The salad plants are the cut and come again variety so there is no need to thin them. Of course, if you did, then the plant can also be used in a salad. I LOVE coriander leaf, especially in curries, so l tend to grow a lot of this!

Bean poles with willow

I have weaved some willow into the bean poles so that the sweet peas have something more to cling onto in their fight to get going. Even these small plants are sending out flowers already.

Me & Bertha

On a sadder note, l am afraid l have lost dear Bertha, probably to the fox. Every day l let them out into the field and it is  lovely to see them scratching about, having a dust bath, chasing off other birds but on Friday night Bertha never returned. She was a heavy girl and, as far as l know, never laid an egg in her life. She was a pet and a cuddly one at that! I will miss her.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in May, The garden, Uncategorized

 

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VE Day 65 years on

It is 65 years ago to the day that Great Britain and the rest of Europe were celebrating the end of the Second World War. A war that had gone on for 6 long years, cost millions of lives, had brought untold hardship and suffering to even more millions of people the like of which we will never know. And for those that had survived it was a time to celebrate and rejoice.

Here in France it is a National Holiday and l believe we should do the same in the UK. It seems fitting to mark this day as an entry on my blog. But as such l know l have to keep it short so l hope l can capture the spirit of the time in the following extracts.

On 4 May 1945 the German forces in north-western Europe surrendered to General Montgomery at Luneberg Heath. On 7 May the German Supreme command surrendered at Rheims. The 8 May was designated as VE-Day – Victory in Europe Day (the war against the Japanese still continued). In Britain there was a great deal of rejoicing and for the first time for many years there was floodlighting of public buildings and statues; restaurants, cinemas and theatres were fully lit up. It was said that some children were terrified by the unexpected amount of light!

The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, announced to the nation that Germany had, at last, surrendered.

There were scenes of great jubilation, Churchill appeared with the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.He announced to the crowd: “This is your victory. It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.” The crowds below cheered and sang ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ followed by three cheers for victory.

Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the King and Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth.

VE Day dawned, and for the first time in almost 6 years the weather forecast could be published in the newspapers. ‘Wind freshening; warm and sunny at first but rain can be expected later’, read the Daily Mirror. But the forecast was wrong: ‘the sudden warm snap’ did continue. By the afternoon the temperature in London had risen to 75F and the celebrating crowds sweltered in the unseasonal heat.

Nothing official had been planned to celebrate Victory in Europe. Resentment still simmered in some quarters. ‘A muddle, it was a muddle’. ‘Telling us over and over the church bells would be the signal. And then there was no signal. Just hanging around’. ‘Do ’em no good in the General Election. The way they have gone on over this. People won’t forget it. An insult that’s what it was…No bells, no All Clears. Nothing to start the people off. That’s what they were afraid of…’ J.G.

But the people did celebrate and took it upon themselves to organise street parties up and down the land. Neighbours pooled their sweet rations and made cakes and sandwiches. They tore down the black-out curtains and made them into fancy dress for the children, music was played in the streets and many had bonfires with effigies of Hitler on top of them.


The following is from a woman working at W.V.S. headquarters in London and describes the night in a letter to a friend:

We all walked to Buckingham Palace. As we got in front of it the flood-lighting flicked on. It was wonderful…magnificent and inspiring and it seemed we had never seen so beautiful a building. The crowd was everywhere and yet one could walk through it. We edged our way to a good view of the balcony, which was draped with crimson, with a yellow and gold fringe. The crowd was such that l have never seen- l was never so proud of England and our people. It was a crowd of seperate individuals. There was never any mass feeling. Everybody spoke quietly or was silent- everybody looked just relieved and glad. We waited. Coloured rockets went up behind us. Then the King and Queen and two Princessses came onto the balcony. We yelled and yelled and yelled and waved and cheered. They waved back to us. It was wonderful…then we began  to walk.We went to a huge bonfire in the park. People had joined hands and were circling round it. We walked by the lake- there were coloured lights in the trees and bushes reflected in the water. We came out of the Park by the Middlesex Guild Hall. It was floodlit in a warm yellowish light and looked medieval with flags from what looked like the battlements.

We went to Big Ben. It was floodlit and looked magnificent. I heard myself say ‘Dear Big Ben! Dear Big Ben!’ The Houses were floodlit from the river and all the lights along the Terrace. What moved us all beyond anything else was the great Union Jack on the Lords. It, alone, was floodlit by lights going straight upwards. It was a great, lovely Union Jack, flying grandly in the sky by itself…We walked to the middle of Westminster Bridge and stood there. Searchlights were all rotating and making a kaleidoscope pattern all over the sky. County Hall was lit in two colours and the training ships in the river strung with coloured lights…We walked back to Parliament Square and turn ed to face Big Ben. It was a few minutes to midnight…At one minute past, all fighting was to cease. It was absolutely silent. Big Ben struck. Just before the last stroke it had reached one minute past. A great cry went up and people clapped their hands. Something went off with a bang…The tugs in the river gave the V sign. It was unforgettable.



 
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Posted by on May 8, 2010 in May

 

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Vegetable luxuries

Another entry from Mr Middleton’s ‘Digging for Victory’.

In these critical times the wise gardener is thinking of the winter supplies, and concentrating his energies on getting plenty of the utility vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, swedes, artichokes, and winter greens are of the first importance. But it doesn’t follow that we should deny ourselves everything in the nature of a luxury, especially as some of the so-called luxury vegetables can be produced without interfering with the general Dig for Victory plans.

Variety is good for us, and the vegetable diet can become a little monotonous without the addition of an occasional novelty, just by way of a change, and to add interest to the proceedings. Apparently a good many of my listeners have been thinking along these lines, for l have had quite a lot of letters lately about such things as mushrooms, melons and pumpkin: to say nothing of asparagus, peaches, and strawberries.

Now l am not going to advocate the growing of any of these in war-time if it means neglecting the essential subject; but where they can be conveniently fitted into the scheme of things, to add variety, and make life a little more worth living, l’m all for them, in moderation, of course.

Anderson Shelter

Mr Middleton goes on to tell us how to cultivate mushrooms under some turf or in a cold frame; and to make use of every square inch in the garden by growing marrows on top of the Anderson air-raid shelter! He was way ahead of his time when he suggests after thinning out the seedlings of turnips, carrots, onions, lettuce and parsnips, not to throw them on the compost heap but to use them in a salad. I believe people today are paying a small fortune buying salads in this form!

He finishes off by adding:

‘One thing l like about war-time gardening is that l have less mowing to do; there isn’t much left to mow, so l can get on with the hoeing instead; hoeing between the vegetable rows is a much more useful occupation, and keeps the crops on the move, so don’t let the hoe go rusty.’

I couldn’t agree more! We have just had a spell of long overdue rain so it should be perfect. Have a great weekend and remember tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of VE Day.

 
 

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