Stirrup Hoes

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Utter Frustration

Posted by stirruphoe on June 5, 2017 at 5:35 AM Comments comments (2)

Several attempts to post on here have come to nothing.  Security checks

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and controls just keep binning what I post.  Unlike our subject, not-so-

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clever human beings have devised ways to frustrate me...

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This attempt seems to have been successful, so I'll make hay while the

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 sun shines and say something, 'cos making hay and saying something

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 really is what our subject is about...

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Everything, on the plot, is proceeding as it should.  No frustration.  After

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nearly 30 years I see a pattern emerging.  Stuff just grows, every year.

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You yourself don't need to wait 30 years to see the pattern.  It just grows

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anyhow.  No frustration.  Leave the frustration to human systems.......

Flat-Leaf Parsley

Posted by stirruphoe on March 20, 2017 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

It's not my inclination to foist on you my personal preferences when it

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comes to deciding what to grow - the choices are almost limitless and

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our personal preferences differ, so, as always, you decide.....

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--

I cite now FLP because a stand of it was planted last October, from Big

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Transplants, and it's successfully over-wintered. In mid-winter it looked

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very sad, flattened by frost, but now, mid-March, it's pulling away strong.

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From which we learn that frost-hardy crops, planted as immature plants

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in Autumn, will bide their time over Winter and go on to provide us with

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something edible when we haven't yet got anything edible from this

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season's planting.....

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That's not to deny that had the winter been hard I may've lost those

FLP's. The relative hardiness of our crops is hard to define - except in-

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the case of, say, tomatoes, which definitely are not hardy at all - so

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there's always an element of luck or chance when we try these things...

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Their success has also had a profound effect on what I will eat in the

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future. Instead of growing much the same as I buy from the

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supermarket, in small quantities every week or so, I'll set out to grow

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relatively large quantities of just a few crops, which I happen to value.

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I'll eat much more of those than I would buy from a supermarket, either

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because of cost, or availability, or because of their superior quality...

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FLP has a reputation for being a flavour-enhancer, complementing and

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lifting anything with which it's eaten - celeb chefs big it up all the time.

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It takes the place of salt, which we're urged to restrict on health grounds,

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and must, by being fresh and green, provide more nutrition than do

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mushrooms, also a flavour-enhancer, but of negligible nutritional value..

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Eaten in relatively large quantities, it becomes more than a flavour-

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enhancer too, and much more than a garnish for presentation.  It

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becomes one of your five-a-day.  A food staple.

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So being an organic grower lets us think outside the box and come up

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fresh ideas. Staying alive to alternative lines of thought makes

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you challenge your own conventional wisdom, and your preferences.

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No-one who is an organic grower stays the same for ever. You become

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yourself organic.....

 

 

Potatoes: Er, umm.....

Posted by stirruphoe on March 17, 2017 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

 

-Posting now some thoughts and observations about growing potatoes.

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Potato tubers saved from last season I've now planted (mid-March). 

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-They were 'chitting' strong a month ago, stored in an outbuilding.  I

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rubbed off the shoots, to slow growth down, but they came straight back.

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I did not want to weaken them further by rubbing them off again....

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Without the environmental controls of seed potato suppliers, and

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chemical growth retardant(?), my own stored seed tubers always start

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growing before shop-bought ones, and at a time when I'd rather not plant

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them.  Potatoes, hailing from Peru as they do, are confused.....

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So my tubers went into cold, wet ground.  Not Peruvian.  But wait! 

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Potatoes accidentally left in the ground last season still come up this

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season, so why can't those I've planted early this season do the same?

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No reason why not.  But wait again!  The 'volunteers' from last season

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are lying in deeply cultivated ground - forking up a potato crop

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makes  for  an open, free-draining soil, whereas the soil I've planted into

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this season is less so.  That hasn't prevented early-planted tubers in the

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past from growing, even in heavy clay, so I attach no importance to talk

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of tubers rotting in the ground, Peruvian though they are....

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There's even more talk of the dangers of using your own, saved seed

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potatoes, instead of using shop-bought 'certified' ones.  Carrying forward

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disease from one crop to the next is the argument for always starting

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with 'certified' (i.e. controlled and checked) tubers.

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Inasmuch as I throw away any tubers which don't look healthy, and

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which don't chit strong, and inasmuch as I always lift my crop before the

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Blight strikes, and that if any tubers were infected with blight they'd show

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up in store as rotting stinking non-starters, I've no reason to believe

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that my own saved tubers are infected with anything.

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Other penny-pinching ways of growing potatoes include using shop-

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bought potatoes intended for eating, and cutting them in half. ( This

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practice derives from the advice to plant potatoes the size of a hen's

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egg.)  Whenever I've done this I've got a poor crop.  Similarly, whenever

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I've left 'volunteers' to grow on for another season I've got a poor crop.

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Don't ask me why.  I don't know.

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In the case of Charlotte potatoes it's becoming very debatable whether

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to save seed at all.  They don't store well (they shrivel) and even though

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they eventually chit there's a nagging doubt that they've lost vigour,

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particularly if we have to 'knock them back' by rubbing off shoots....

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A more compelling argument for not saving Charlottes is that a hen's

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 egg size is ideal for eating fresh (unpeeled) whereas a maincrop

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potato eg Desiree,  of the same size, needing peeling, is not.  Why save

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a fresh Charlotte, the like of which money can't buy, the like of which is

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supplied to Royalty, only to watch it shrivel up????

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Er, umm there are no easy answers.  Except in the case that where all

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this analysing and head-scratching leaves you no better off than where

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you started your best bet is to get some potatoes, stick them in the

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ground and wait to see what comes up.  But you know that

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already.   You always did.....

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ps:  Got some shop-bought seed potatoes.  Half of them were smaller

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than the size of a hen's egg.  One was the size of a football.

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Putting aside my sense of outrage (how could they palm off on me

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'seed' potatoes so not fit for purpose?) we learn from this:

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1.  That The World is full of trickery - buyer beware

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2.  That it's false economy to plant 'dodgy' plants and material so throw

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them away

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3.  That to trust only yourself is a safe policy so save your own seed....

Buy 'Em In

Posted by stirruphoe on June 24, 2016 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

Garden Centres are full of vegetable plants, transplants, right now, and

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are practically giving them away....

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The season moves on - the longest day is past - and there comes with it

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 an increased sense of urgency, before we run out of season, before

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 plant growth slows, daylength shortens and temperatures fall.....

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Garden Centre vegetable plants are typically NSBT's.  In small pots

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and shallow trays they're better than our own sowing now, 'cos they're

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 a few weeks advanced, but still they're relatively puny...

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Tomato plants scarcely more than seedlings.  Carrot(!) scarcely more

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than just-germinated seed.  Still, look for short, stocky tomato plants,

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 like little trees, short and stout, in individual pots, rather than those

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 leggy and tall....  Still, germinated carrot seed is better than the hit-and

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-miss of repeated sowings of seed yourself (carrot seed is notorious for

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its failure to germinate, or, just as likely, for being mowed down as it

- germinates by a hungry slug).

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Ludicrous it is to plant weak plants out.  Implied is the need to grow them

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on first (although not carrot, which needs moving on right away).  But

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 you don't want the faff?  Stick 'em in and hope for the best....  Growing

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 conditions are now optimum.  Overnight temperatures above 10C. Slug

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population now reducing (?).  Soil surface now dry and inhibiting

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- the marauding movement of those slugs which remain (?).  Protect

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such plants from the vicious sun and dessicating wind.  You're in with a

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chance.  The Season is on your side.  Barring a wet and cool Summer

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growth will gush.  Now.

Allotments

Posted by stirruphoe on April 19, 2016 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

Not so very long ago there weren't allotments. Some people, now long-

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dead, unknown, unremembered, argued for the provision of a plot of

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land, for a tiny share in the landmass of the country, so that Everyone

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may grow if they wanted to, and at the time, needed to....

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Those people, agitators, have left behind a legacy we know as the

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Allotment Movement.  It's now enshrined in Law that, where demand

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exists, provision will be made, as of right, to those who want access to

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land on which to grow..

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Those people had different motives then than we have today for wanting

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land on which to grow.  'Growing Your Own' was a way of supplementing

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your income, if not feeding the family.  The Welfare State wasn't around

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and a roof over your head and food on the table focussed everyone's

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minds...

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The Allotment Movement also came to symbolise a place where

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the retired spent their twilight years.  Pit ponies put out to grass.  No

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good for anything else.  Northern folk, flat caps and small dogs called

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whippets.  With others' increasing wealth they became an object of

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ridicule, left behind to quietly die...

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When I took up an allotment 30 years ago the last of the old boys were

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my mentors.  While they had taken up chemical-based growing, and I

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never did, I've come to realise that they had more affinity with

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growing, more under their fingernails, than I will ever have. They were

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the last of the line for whom growing equated with Life Itself. 

 

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Still, it's still in our genes.  We're not motivated the same, we have many

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more options than the old boys did, and we may come to see it all as

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just a bit of fun.  There are those who even view our growing cabbages

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as a bit naff.  But hold your newly-cut cabbage up to the sky.  A bit naff? 

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There's no such thing as a naff cabbage you've grown yourself.  It's

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still a celebration of Life Itself.  We've come full circle.  It never really

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went away....

 

 

 

Handles

Posted by stirruphoe on April 19, 2016 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

You're considering getting a Stirrup Hoe.  They're offered on ebay as

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'Head Only', without a handle.  How to also get the handle?

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The first option is to recycle a wooden handle from an old tool.

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Cannabilise the old tool for its handle.

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The second option is to go buy a wooden broom handle from a hardware

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store like B&Q.  You'll need to shape the end to fit the taper of the

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tool head.  (Cost about £4).

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The third option is to box clever.  Many garden equipment suppliers

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on ebay and on-line offer cheap, pressed steel Dutch Hoes complete

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with wooden (preferably Ash) handle for about £12, delivered.   Buy

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one of those and cannabilise the handle for your Stirrup Hoe head.

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They can supply at that price 'cos they operate a warehouse, and are

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shipping hundreds of items a day.  Postal services compete for such

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high-volume business, and charge a much lower postal rate than for the

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small, specialist ebay seller. 

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So you have options.  The ideal would be to get a Stirrup Hoe complete

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with quality handle for nuppence.  That's not an option.  Nope.  Sorry.

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We do our best, but there's a limit.... 

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Plastic Tents

Posted by stirruphoe on April 11, 2016 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I refer to simple structures intended for the bringing-on

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and growing-on of seedlings and transplants.

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At this stage in the season I can't fault their value in

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protecting frost-tender plants like tomatoes.  If, as I

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maintain, that the provision of good conditions is funda

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mental to Organic Culture, then these structures tick

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all the right boxes.....

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As the season moves on (please pay attention to the

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march of the season!) these structures become more

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of a curse than a blessing.  In short, they get too hot,

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way, way too hot.  If you site them in the sun...

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The science tells us that light waves generate heat,

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and that passing through plastic they generate more

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heat than if they passed through glass, and even more

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than if they passed through air alone - polytunnels are

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notorious for becoming a cauldron.  Vast sums of

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money are spent, later in the season, to keep them

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cool.  Light intensity, and therefore heat, is greatest

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in Summer....

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Some plastic tents come with a ribbed plastic, a mesh

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of re-inforcement which also serves to shade the

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inside, and so reduce light/heat levels.  Choose one

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of these if you intend to plonk it on a hot patio, in the

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mistaken belief that the more direct sun the better, and

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that those who prefer shaded locations are wussies.

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If you live in a flat/apartment, with only a balcony

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receiving full-on sun for part of the day, choose a clear

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plastic sheet without ribbing.  There's shade enough.

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Either option implies close attention to watering. 

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Small plants in small containers dry out quickly. 

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Within an hour in full sun under plastic.  

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Phew!  A small sub-subject such as plastic tents

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requires your attention to detail.  Decisions, decisions.

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Fortunately, you're intuitively equipped to take those

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decisions.  You come from a long line of organic

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growers.  Your ancestors, including your

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grandparents, all grew organically (it's only since

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the 1950's that anyone didn't).  It's in your genes. It's

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meant to be.  You don't need advice from me or

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anyone else.  You were born to grow, though you may

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not yet know it.  It's crying to get out.  Unleash the

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you in you.....

Not-So-Big Transplants

Posted by stirruphoe on January 23, 2016 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

If Big Transplants are those defined as growing in

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200ml-capacity pots, and which when planted out are

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15-20cms tall, then Not-So-Big Transplants (NSBTs)

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are grown in about 100ml, and achieve about half the

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size.  Transplants grown in module trays, filled with

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Multi-Purpose Compromise, are typical NSBTs.

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- NSBTs imply a bit more care when it comes to

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planting out:

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-  A loose soil such as a sandy one, or one forked-over

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and broken down to a fine 'crumb'.

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- a dry soil surface (low slug activity) because the

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transplant's natural defences are not developed.

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- Protection against wind and direct sun because

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- NSBTs have few reserves in the rootball compost to

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- fall back on under adverse conditions

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It's common to produce NSBTs instead of BTs.  I think

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that it's considered 'normal'.  Is it also normal to accept

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their limitations and take extra steps to ensure their

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survival?  I wonder.

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ps:  NSBT's also mean that they're not developed

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enough for us to distinguish between the genetically

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strong and the genetically feeble.  They're just not

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big enough for us to sort the wheat from the chaff.  So

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we plant them all out as equals.  Only to find that

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some are less equal than others.  Ruthlessly throwing

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out the weak is the Organic way, before wasting your

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time planting them....

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So it was that a trial planting of NSBT flat-leaf parsley

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resulted in some surviving, and some not.  It's

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impossible for me to believe that the slugs got fed up

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with the taste of FLP and decided to go for a

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McDonalds instead, by way of a change.  And so left

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some of the crop alone.  Nope, the genetically strong

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p*ssed the slugs off so much that they decided to

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leave them alone..... 

 

1/7th

Posted by stirruphoe on May 17, 2015 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Is an interesting fraction because not much is measured in fractions of

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one seventh.

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Someone suggested to me that over the course of a lifetime there's a

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good chance that we'll achieve only 1/7 of what we're capable.  Seems

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hard to believe...... until we consider why it may be so:

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- You could've worked harder at school than you did.  Academic

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qualifications carry more weight than they deserve.  Because you're

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not a graduate does not mean that you're a numpty, yet people think

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like that...

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- You weren't born on the lucky side of The Social Divide.  As a child

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while you were left kicking about the street other children went on ski-ing

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holidays.  They had more chance to develop than you did (but you did

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develop in other ways).

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- Your boss at work doesn't want to expand your role.  He/she likes to

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 keep you where you are.  You're kept down because that suits your

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boss...

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- You're not a Pretty Young Thing with a Hollywood Smile.  In our

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culture doors open for them and not for you.  Even worse if you speak

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with a regional accent as well....

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We do not live in a meritocracy.  It's not what you know it's who you

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know.  And how much you walk the walk and talk the talk.  Being

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capable of actually doing the job is desirable, but not essential....

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- Finally, no-one ever said Life was fair, and often it isn't.  Witness the

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starving millions and the over-weight billions.  There's enough to

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go round.  It just don't go around...

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But you want to be an Organic Grower.  Suddenly, reasons for not

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achieving fall away:

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- You don't need a lot of knowledge.  You don't need to like reading

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books....

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- There's no boss telling you that you can't grow...

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- You don't need to be Pretty.  Just think it through.

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There's still a few strings being pulled for you, though.  Rain, sunshine,

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soil life (The Force) prop you up all the way.

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When you lose some crops to slugs the chances are that the other guy

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has too.  Even the guy who's read all the books and been doing it for

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years.  Now that's fair...No favourites, no elite.  We're all the same...

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So the principle of 1/7th doesn't apply to our subject.  We're talking

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about The Natural World.  Not a man-made society.

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Along the way you put some effort in.  You pay attention to detail.  You

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don't waste time.  You get things done.  You expect nothing for nothing.

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You take your losses on the chin.  And bounce back.  You're a rounded

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individual.  With your feet on the ground.  People like you.  In the wider

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world you're better equipped now than you were before.  

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Everyone is bigger than they think they are.  Including The

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Learning Disabled, The Unemployed and Young Offenders, with

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whom I've worked, all of them are bigger than they can imagine, 

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disadvantaged, marginalised and disaffected though they be. 

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Our subject takes everyone there.  Achieve more than 1/7th of what

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you're capable.  Be not limited by others and circumstances.  The

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Natural World is on your side.  Move on upwards.   Please  move on

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upwards.

Wipe-Out

Posted by stirruphoe on May 10, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Thank you, Mr Slug, for your depredations.  I thought that you'd have a

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go at my transplant lettuce, and you haven't let me down....

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I took the trouble to protect them from pigeon-pecking, but I was really

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relying on you, Mr Slug, to wipe them out....

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Now I can be smug in my knowing how life works.  I've got my finger

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on the pulse, and with uncanny accuracy I can predict my failures.

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Every season, early on, I lose lettuce to slugs, but get lettuce a little

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later.  It still doesn't stop me from trying to get an early crop, but I've

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always got replacements, so, apart from causing me to utter a rude

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word when I discover the wipe-out, it doesn't matter.... 

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And the wipe-out causes me to celebrate the eventual victory even

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more.  Bringing on a crop of lettuce to maturity then gives a mindlessly

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disproportionate sense of achievement.  I might just as well've won

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Wimbledon, or scored the winning goal in a World Cup Final.....

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And I owe it all to you, Mr Slug, and your early-season munching....

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ps:  It's because lettuce are annuals that they don't store reserves in

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their roots like biennials/perennials.  So they can't bounce back once

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munched down...


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