Friday, 28 September 2007

Not just a pretty face

Worm in soilLet me introduce a force for good in my life: worms. They’re brilliant. These cheerful fellas leave little tunnels in the soil as they tour the land. “So what?” you may ask. Well, said passages bring much needed air and drainage to my leaden soil.

That alone would be cause for celebration, but worms have a few more tricks up their sleeve. For example, they eat organic stuff. An old allotment ruse is to leave manure on top of the soil over winter; the worms will eat it, mixing it with the soil, and it’ll all be gone by spring. Great soil, no digging required (thank God).

Mr Worm’s appetite is one of the driving forces of compost. He eats your rubbish, and turns it into free nutrients with which you can replenish your plants. What a helpful chap.

Daughter likes worms too. She’ll glimpse them from afar with an exuberant cry: “Wiggly worm! Wiggly worm!” Unfortunately, handling them requires dexterity she has yet to acquire. The worms die a torturous death, bludgeoned by her affection. I’m left rather queasy, with the feeling I’ve betrayed a friend.

(Photo from flickr - taken by blugeoner86 and made available under Creative Commons license)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Lovable rogue

He’s quite a looker. His smooth leaves and emerald hues evoke a rich, shady world. So I cut him some slack. The rest of the plot was dishevelled; he was a pretty face.

But now, he’s overstepped the mark. He’s got fat on my affections: he’s become a shrub. He dwarfs the other plants, empowered by his position beside the manure heap. It’s time to end this doomed relationship. Before it’s too late.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Making a comeback

They're back. Three months after they vanished, Len and Alison are working their plot as if nothing ever happened. When we spoke, they made reference to the lack of success they'd had this year. Perhaps this was a subtle nod to their absence.

I wonder what happened. I'll probably never know.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


It's amazing what comes in handy at the allotment. Cut grass becomes a blanket to suppress rebellious weeds; shredded paper, a tonic to heal my compost. Even the humble margarine tub finds new service: as a trap for predatory slugs.

I'm well aware that you can buy slug traps from the garden centre, along with plastic sheeting to keep weeds at bay, and all manner of compost-enhancing chemicals. But that’s too easy. There's a wonderful satisfaction to be found in re-purposing waste. Each piece of litter presents a puzzle, a money-saving opportunity with an environmental pay off.

A few months back, I had an embarrassing problem with my compost. Too many 'greens', not enough 'browns'. The compost was coming out mushy instead of crumbly. Meanwhile, my neighbour was throwing out his rabbit bedding each week, oblivious to its value as a 'brown'. Now, he sends half a bag less rubbish to the landfill, and my compost is redeemed. FantasticHow strange, that in modern, consumerist, Britain, I've got my eye on the rubbish. I feel like a bit of a freak. Shouldn't I be loading up my credit card?

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The out-of-towners

Picture a cauliflower, if you will. Can you see the white florets, encased in a muted green wrapper? Can you visualise them cooked, nestling alongside the peas on your plate? A familiar sight, isn't it?

Now let me introduce you to cauliflower's fast-living cousin from out-of-town. You'll notice that he's purple. Try not to stare, it's rude.

Don't see many of those in the supermarket, do you? How about his friend courgette? No, not the sombre green one: the vivid yellow variety. And have you met their stay-at-home cousin, golden raspberry? You don't see her around much, but she's the looker of the family.

I pity the stereotypical varieties that populate the supermarkets. Who wants to grow run-of-the-mill white cauliflowers, when their purple relatives are within reach? Not me.