I’ve had over 800 visitors to the blog this month. My best yet. Thanks to you all, especially the person who was trying to locate the first American to play golf on the moon, and the one who wanted the Karate expert from Lancashire. I hope you come back! I’ll be bringing you more news about my garden over the coming months. I seem to have spent a lot of time moving things, tidying up, digging, shifting and straining – not necessarily the most interesting things to read about.But yesterday I was sitting reading Geoff Hamilton and Jennifer Owen’s book The Living Garden (the best introduction to natural gardening I’ve read by the way) when I noticed my first bumblebee of the year. It flew around the area looking for a nest, went into the back of the rubble wall seat (see previous blog) and then, when I thought it would stay in there forever, shot out through the front. I didn’t even know there was a route through but it obviously found it. Anyway I took it as a sign that I’m doing the right thing, of spring and of lots more gardening to come. Hope you can join me here and in Garden News throughout the year.Best wishesAllan
CPL Distribution are now delivering a range of FSC, recycled and peat free composts and soil improvers straight to your door. For car free people like me a great service. You can already get mail order compost from www.organiccatalog.com/catalog/ and www.wigglywigglers.co.uk, amongst others, but its good to have another supplier. CPL sell solid fuel normally and will be using existing fleet and delivery runs to supply the compost. I guess being a solid fuel supplier it must be pretty hard to claw back your carbon emissions but this is one positive way of doing it. Orders can be placed at www.creativegardenideas.co.uk.
As you know I’ve been writing articles for Garden News magazine. This is Article Number Six – about using coppiced products in the garden. Over the next few weeks I’ll post the others up here too with photos of what I’ve been doing in the garden. I’m attempting to make a zero carbon garden, using locally available sustainable materials wherever possible. You can see my recycled rubble wall below. The kitchen garden space I’m working on is only 5 m by 3.5 m so this I’m hoping is inspiration for anyone with a small space, to show you can grow plenty of home grown veg and have a beautiful space to enjoy.
Garden News Article Six – The Pleasures of Sticks
Simple Skills for Simple People: this is what green woodworking organisation Allotment Forestry promise me when I log onto their website for a nose around. Even as I ponder the existential question am I simple, I find myself drawn in. Perhaps it’s their refreshing approach to garden wood work projects – one that will suit anyone who hasn’t touched a hammer since 3rd grade CDT. Or the passion they show for that underrated, humble yet essential garden accessory – the stick.
The stick was once the most important non living feature in all gardens; used to make fencing, gates, furniture, tools, bed edging, terracing, trellis, arbours and numerous other useful garden objects. It created a direct link between garden, gardener and woodland: a useful way for people like us to see beyond the garden gate and take note of the wider environment. Gardeners relied on woodland and woodsmen to provide the tools of the trade: without them gardening would have been impossible. It was a tradition that lasted hundreds of years. Even mid way through the first half of the twentieth century the stick trade formed a valuable part of the local economy.
But it was all swept away in the rush to use modern materials. And as a result we lost something valuable from the craft of gardening: the skill of using those materials that are most readily available to us. We have also lost something of the soul of gardening too. Each stick has its own unique shape, colour and texture. And although you may be only vaguely aware of the difference when you’re sitting or working in your garden there is something about this biodiversity that gives your plot an extra dimension. Like the way a good frame sets off a picture. Non stick gardens just don’t have the same atmosphere. It’s a romantic notion I suppose but deep down I think humans like being in contact with and surrounded by wood.
Now that we can buy any product from any part of the world its hard to see the value in something as ordinary as a stick but the Allotment Forestry website reminds us that no matter which new material or product happens to be in fashion to prop up our peas and beans and provide the infrastructure for our gardens, sticks are a constant. They will always be there for us – as will the ancient skills that enable us to put them to use. I think it’s time to reclaim our heritage and rediscover some of the wisdoms and pleasures that all previous generations of gardeners knew. Join me next time for some simple ideas to get you started.
Green woodworking is the craft of using unseasoned wood cut from hedgerows or coppiced woodlands. It’s perfect for gardeners not keen on carpentry but wishing to work with wood. I found a great plan for a wattle wall and seat on the allotment forestry website that was my second plan B if the dry rubble wall hadn’t worked out (http://www.allotmentforestry.com/fact/rwattle.htm). The Centre for Alternative Technology (<a href=”http://www.cat.org.uk“>www.cat.org.uk – 01654 705981) is running a coppiced products course from the 7th-11th April. Compost Lover has secured a special discount of 10% for anybody who quotes compost lover when they book. They’ll also be running a series of organic and sustainable gardening courses later in the year so check out the website. Try www.greenwoodcentre.org.uk (01952 432769) too.
Compost Lover Tip
Sticks can also be chipped to use as a mulch to suppress weeds or to make a footpath or even added to a normal compost heap (though as it is a carbon rich material you’ll need to put in twice as much nitrogen rich materials to keep your compost heap well balanced). As most domestic power tools are used on average for less than fifteen minutes in their lifetime it makes more ecological sense to hire one for a weekend and prune and chip in one go. Try www.brandontoolhire.co.uk (0870 514 3391) www.jewson.co.uk (0800 539 766) or your local Yellow Pages.
The Green Woodworking Pattern Book by Ray Tabor.
WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) has introduced a new logo on bags of New Horizon Organic and Peat Free composts to show its made from recycled materials. New Horizon Organic and Peat Free Grow Bag was the only peat free compost deemed a best buy for growing on young plants in the recent Which study (see previous blog).
The results of the annual RSPB Garden Birdwatch are in. Go to www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/results/ for more and see below.
With an average of 3.60 seen per garden, the house sparrow retained its top spot with starlings coming in second and blackbirds completing the top three.
Overall, the average number of birds seen in each garden has declined by a fifth since 2004, and house sparrows have decreased by almost two thirds since 1979, and starlings by three quarters over the same period.
Despite this, however, four species of finch, which spend the winter in the UK, were seen in increased numbers.
Good news on Yalding. John Tate left this message on the blog (see comments below for the whole message).
“There is some hope, inasmuch as the Congelow Trust (the owners of the Yalding site) has been working hard to find a new operator for the site. Talks are apparently going well, and they are hopeful that the gardens will be open in some form, later in the season.
I am running an unofficial and informal news e-mailing list, from the embryo website http://www.saveyaldingorganicgardens.co.uk – please feel free to sign-up! (There is though, little to say at the moment!)”
Thanks John. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
CAT Mail Order www.cat.org.uk/shopping are currently offering a pack of my little books for £10 plus postage. This is a 50% saving if you bought the four books individually. Offer includes The Little Book of Slugs, The Little Book of Garden Heroes, The Little Book of Villains and How to Make Soil and Save Earth. Go the website and click on the sale button.
It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that Yalding Organic Gardens in Kent will not open for business this year. Chloe Ward, co-author on The Organic Garden, worked there for three years, and the gardens influenced the book greatly and provided many of the photographs. The gardens are run by Garden Organic and according to executives is no longer financially viable. Its a tragedy. The gardens are very beautiful and interesting. A shining example of how good organic gardens can be. Good luck to all the staff and thank you for inspiring all those people who visited over the years. www.gardenorganic.org.uk for more details.
Biochar is a charchoal product added to the soil to increase fertility and lock carbon into the soil. It could help us to tackle climate change. If you want to find out about it go to www.biochar-international.org.
400,000 tyres are scrapped each year – a huge waste problem. Garden product company Dunweedin has come up with an answer. They’ve produced a range of coloured chipped mulches from the tyres, great for paths, children’s play areas and sports gounds. Get them from B&Q and Focus or from www.dunweedin.co.uk. 01928 735555.