making hay

We’re stuck in a time warp and the World is moving on around us. A covenant, agreed when Lord Zetland handed over the land to the people of Redcar, appears now, to be a little outdated. A set of rules, forbidding any structure above 4′ high, no lighting of fires …

brimming with broccoli

We’ve been at the allotment again on Saturday – clearing the last of the weeds left from 3yrs of neglect. We didn’t do this clearing the easy way – with a strimmer; oh no, muggins here had to do it by hand with a pair of shears and secateurs and …

cold frames – a poor man’s greenhouse

A quick look at the diary and we can see that we’re 18 weeks in, in our journey on Plot 36. It doesn’t seem so long to be honest, given the volume of the weeds removed and compost and manure brought onto site. I mustn’t forget the pallets either. The site resembles …

extreme composting – turning up the heat

Those of you interested in the concept of no-dig gardening, will have no doubt read, or at least heard of the work of Charles Dowding. Charles has written a number of extremely informative books on the subject and has a website which is an absolute mine of information, for those interested …

Recent Articles:

Organic Gardening – The natural no-dig way

February 11, 2013 Books, Charles Dowding Comments Off

We’ve been very fortunate to get our manure-ingrained hands on a copy of the latest book from the Charles Dowding collection.

Entitled ‘Organic Gardening – The Natural No-Dig Way’, it is a new full colour edition of the original, the first (2007) of Charles’ many books on organic gardening using the no-dig approach.


Those of you who follow us on Twitter or have read of our exploits on this site, will know that we are dedicated devotees to the no-dig approach and never miss an opportunity to tell others of the benefits. We have Charles to thank for our conversion to this method, I recall fondly reading how these simple methods benefitted the soil, in his book ‘How to grow Winter Vegetables’. It all made so much sense and we were converted.



In 2012, Charles published another book ‘Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Course’ which turned out to be even more delightful with clear descriptions of the method and how to practise it. We were conversant with the methods by then and soaked up the advice.



I’m grateful that we discovered these books in the order that we did. In the first chapter of this latest edition, Charles appears to change his approach explaining - in what felt a most laboured way –  the damage that cultivation can do to a soil. Yes, it makes sense to us and I do feel his pain that so many people can’t see it too, but the first chapter simply doesn’t work. An established ‘digger’ is probably already hooked on the endorphin rush of sweaty labour and will be receiving great solace in digging down to the suburbs of Sydney, where the climate is a tad more friendly.

“Please don’t dig” cries Charles. Yes, we feel your pain. Some folks might never grasp it, but glorious photos of row upon row of  ’posh’ veg, growing happily in a wet English summer, will certainly chip away at their morale.

The rest of the book is a delight. The attention to detail, the recording of information from many years of the trialling and testing of both methods – digging and not-digging - is a tribute to Charles’ dedication to the methods described. This is still pioneering work, and the author draws on 3 decades of experience.

We are treated to chapter after chapter of information, where to grow, when to grow, distance to space, care and harvesting advice for most vegetables, herbs and fruit. The concept of double harvests is clearly described and this will entice many to attempt the no-dig approach. These no-dig methods produce soils which drain well, are warmer and more fertile than traditionally dug beds, making double harvests an easily achievable reality.

This book will undoubtedly become the ‘no-dig’ bible, as was its predecessor.

“The answer is in the soil”, says Charles and of course, we would have to agree.

Organic Gardening – the Natural No-Dig Way is available now from the publishers – Green Books




Wordless Wednesday

January 29, 2013 Wordless Wednesday Comments Off
the allotment - courtesy of Liam O'Farrell Copyright 2012

the allotment – courtesy of Liam O’Farrell Copyright 2012


Peashoots – the cure for frustrated gardeners

January 26, 2013 Mark Willis 1 Comment

Most parts of the UK have been severely affected by snow and/or rain for weeks now, and the prospect of being able to sow any seeds is a distant one for most gardeners. I expect this leaves many of you (like me) frustrated and impatient to get on and DO SOMETHING!  Well, here’s a little something that you can do to stave off that frustration, and at the same time give you something nice to eat: sow some indoor-grown peashoots.


I have not had a lot of luck with growing peas in my garden. For some reason the conditions just don’t seem to suit them. They are never very productive and often fall victim to Powdery Mildew, even when I grow so-called Mildew Resistant varieties (last year I tried “Boogie” but they were still no better). Because of this I have decided not to try growing peas any more. This left me with a few part-used packets of seed, so I thought I would use them rather than just throw them away, and I have set them to sprout on an indoor windowsill.


My method is very simple (I have used it before, so I know it works). You put a few layers of moist kitchen paper in the bottom of a small plastic cotainer and just sprinkle the peas on top. You then put the container in a warm light place, e.g. a windowsill above a radiator, and wait for them to sprout, which will take roughly 4 or 5 days. Ensure that the paper never dries out.


After a few days green shoots will emerge. Cut these just above a leaf-joint when they are 3 or 4 inches tall and have several small leaves. They are a delicious salad ingredient, with an amazingly intense pea flavour. What’s more they will re-sprout a couple more times if you cut them carefully.

Naturally, this method does not have to use “proper” pea seeds. You can also use a packet of dried peas from the supermarket, which will be a lot cheaper (though you won’t get a named variety!)

Since it’s not really gardening weather, I have recently been devoting a lot more time to cooking. Come along to my blog and see what I’ve been up to…

stuck between a rock and a hard frozen place

January 23, 2013 Gotalottie 1 Comment

There’s been a distinct lack of personal blogging these last few weeks.

Christmas was good, New Year and Russian Christmas too, it’s our time to unwind, to relax and to shut down mentally. The rest of the year is busy, often fraught and it’s rare that we can take any holiday whatsoever, except at this time. We don’t broadcast the fact, but we have a software business with NHS clients and it’s unacceptable to be absent; Christmas is our quiet period and the NHS ticks over during that time also - at least ours does.


Ded Moroz bears gifts

I had some gardening-related gifts, some books of course; Vegetable Course by Charles Dowding, a firm favourite of ours; 2 gardening books from my daughter – Minding my Peas and Cucumbers, Quirky tales of allotment life by Kay Sexton and One man and his dig by Valentine Low.

I’m reading the latter at the moment, a fast read and humorous, my kind of book and ever so slightly less taxing than War and Peace by Tolstoy which was last years choice.


What else? Oh yes, totally unknown to me was a surprise gift of a Luxury Gardeners Gift Box from Hill and Sons, the last hand-made beechwood sieve and riddle manufacturers in the UK. More of them later, as we’ve been talking to Damian at Hill and Sons and they’ve promised us a couple of goodies for later this year – as competition prizes. Anyway, thanks Tanya, I’m now handsomely kitted out in the dibbing department.


I even managed to get down to the allotment a couple of times and did some serious digging! But you’re no-dig gardeners I hear you shout; Yes we are, but it was necessary to do some serious couch-busting in an area which was the old path on the plot. I dug approximately 18m length by a metre wide and turned it all over to make sure that the roots received a good blast from the North East winter.

Then it arrived! Some called it snowmageddan I believe, we call it winter. At this point the music stops, like some grand church organ that suddenly ran out of puff, sorry – wind!


sat nav required to get around these raised beds

sat nav required to get around these raised beds


Not much I can do in this of course. I did, though, I cleared that pile of rotting weeds from the back, that pile that the council promised to clear back in October. It’s not so much of a pile now, it’s slumped because of the weight of its own festering mass and some decomposition; these weeds have dropped their lethal seed-filled payload. It was cold, my fingers were numb, I was pee’d off with the council and now they’re piled up somewhere else to continue festering, but not on our plot.

It still looks like a building site, but as in all worthy tales, the baddie receives the boot and the bear gets the honey in the end.

We have most of our seeds and the potatoes are on order. Sarpo UK have promised us some Blue Danube too, a good roaster apparently and a second early, they’ll be here in March sometime - a pleasant surprise gift – thank you!

It’s still snowing and the ground frozen, but the bear has his paw in the jar now - the evenings are getting lighter.



Wordless Wednesday – frosty plots

January 16, 2013 Wordless Wednesday 2 Comments
photo courtesy of Julia Stanley

photo courtesy of Julia Stanley






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