I spent all morning building this – my master piece, or masterheap – basically a new compost heap.
It may look relatively simple but it took ages because first I had to select the right pallets from my collection of pallets and then I had to repair one of them and then I had to level off the ground and then nail the thing together. All in all I am pleased with it. It will be a shame to ruin it with compost.
It’s been a very exciting day today because not only did I complete my masterheap but when I got back from the allotment I found the schedule for my local produce show had arrived. I immediately turned to the flower-arranging section to find out what kind of displays I will have to come up with this year in order to retain my silver cup and remain the champion. The categories are: On The Seashore (accessories allowed), All Green (green plant material only) and Let There Be Light (an arrangement featuring a candle). This is all very thrilling. I can’t wait to win again.
I have also been busy rehearsing songs because Dan and I are on tour again – this time with a ukulele-based cabaret show hosted by our friend Tricity Vogue. It’s annoying because Dan plays the ukulele in it and that is MY instrument. We’re doing shows in Leicesterhsire on Friday and Saturday but don’t worry, we are still doing Can You Dig It? too. Our next show is in my home town of Harrow, north west London, on March 19. You can book tickets here.
I have just got back from a short trip to Germany where I visited Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg. It’s basically the world’s biggest train set, which features many mini mountains and mini towns as well as mini gardens and mini allotments like the one above. There was even a mini garden centre.
You can’t see it in this shot but one customer has foolishly overloaded their trolley with pots and other gardening items and it has toppled over in the car park. Nearby someone else has just been hit in the face with a plank, which is comedy law if someone is carrying a plank. Having said that, the inhabitants of Miniatur Wunderland do appear to be more accident prone than normal folk. Another one of my favourite tableaux featured some kind of flower/garden festival where the immaculate lawn had been ruined by a mole. The hapless mini mole is shown being arrested by the police with a mini tear running down his cheek. This made me feel sorry for the mini mole.
DG has sent us a Christmas card! It’s like getting a card from Christ himself. It’s a lovely picture of a sparkly tree. I have begged DG to te a NEW Expert book but he writes: “Leave while you are winning they say. The New Veg and Herb Expert tops the gardening book list this year so I am retiring while I’m still winning. But don’t you retire – keep spreading the word.” We will!
If you are a fan of just me then you can come and see me do some songs – including a couple from the show – at a FREE gig at Seeds of Italy in Harrow, north west London, on Thursday, December 4. The event also features a talk about gardening by Seeds of Italy’s charismatic owner Paolo, a glass of FREE sparkling wine and the chance to buy seeds and other gardening-related gifts (including our CD) in the run-up to Christms. This is ahead of us doing a boutique version of the Can You Dig It? at Seeds of Italy in March. Dan will be there for that.
You can reserve places for the FREE December event here. Or you can book tickets to the show in March here.
The NEW allotment rules arrived in the post the other day. There has been much debate about them as our local council was proposing to ban bonfires entirely. Thankfully they have agreed to allow plotholders to have bonfires between October 1 and March 31. “Always have a hot, quick fire,” say the accompanying guidelines. “Only burn on your own plot, do not light fires for others.” The rules also make it clear that we cannot “keep any animals, bees or livestock of any kind” without written consent. I hope this does not apply to the one bee that occasionally lives in my bee box.
This is Dan and the successful carrot slide whistle he made for BBC Radio Surrey when we went on the station last week to promote our forthcoming show at The Arc in Caterham on Saturday, November 15. Look at the mess he has made on the desk! The carrot slide whistle was a bit of a miracle given the quality of the carrots Dan had to work with. We got them at some kind of corner shop on the way to the radio station and they were very thin and weak – not the fat, sturdy kind of carrots that make the best carrot instruments.
We’re very much looking forward to performing the whole show in Caterham, which reminds me that I must do some urgent repairs to my morris dancing wellies.
My lovely friend Anna unearthed these early works by gardening God – and friend of the show – Dr DG Hessayon and has very kindly presented them to me. The image on the front of Be Your Own Gardening Expert is how I picture our beloved DG in my head. By the time this edition was published the booklet had already sold a million copies, as the blurb on the cover proudly states. It is very exciting because it comes with a square of soil test paper so you can test your soil and, as you’d expect with a book by DG, is crammed with useful advice. “Correct digging is an art,” he explains.
The other title Be Your Own House Plant Expert has a stark message for would-be indoor gardeners. “House plants are now more popular than ever,” it says. “Millions of them, however, die every year due to failure to follow the simple rules of selection and care.” I am quite keen on the idea of getting both these treasured volumes framed but am torn because that would mean I couldn’t read them.
This is a very special carrot recorder, fashioned out of an organic carrot grown at RHS Wisley. Normally we are forced to rely on shop-bought carrots for our carr0t recorder workshops but we were thrilled to be given a crate of rustic veg when we went to RHS London’s Harvest Home event earlier this week. Our antics with Surrey-grown carrots even attracted the attention of local news site GetSurrey. Read all about it here.
The event itself was a veritable paradise for veg lovers and Dan and I were in awe of the impressive produce on show – onions the size of human heads, carrots as thick as arms and humungous pumpkins that could comfortably house a family of four. Although I have won prizes for my veg, my efforts paled in comparison to the perfection on show. How on earth do you get leeks as clean and straight as these, for example?
As well as goggling at the veg, we met lots of splendid gardeners including Cocktail Gardener Lottie Green the woman behind one of my favourite gardens in London right on the roof of the Brunel Museum. All in all it was very inspiring. Maybe one day I will dare to enter some of my allotment produce but I would be a bit scared of the judges, who were very sniffy about these beans and their numerous faults. Eek!
Look at these beautiful onions! Just some of the impressive produce from the beautiful walled veg garden at Preston Park Museum. Dan and I had a great time performing at the museum’s Harvest Home event on Saturday, which featured many vegetable-related activities. These onions, for example, are not just onions but a thrilling game where you pick an onion and see if you have won a prize. Meanwhile the collection of fruit and veg below is actually a musical instrument. If you squeezed the leek it made an unearthly sound. If you caressed the carrots they also produced haunting notes.
I think Dan has been trying to make something similar out off melons. However, I doubt it will be as good as this. Note the sprout bottom right. Sprouts! Sprouts! Sprouts! Sprouts!
I had a good old chinwag with the head gardener at Preston Park who has been experimenting with biodynamic gardening and working with the cycles of the moon. He’s had particular success with salad crops such as pak choi, red mustard and mizuna and has inspired me to try growing some new leaves. I don’t know whether I can be bothered to pay too much attention to the moon though.
Can I dig it? Yes. Will I dig it? No. I am experimenting with using the No Dig Method on my allotment and have even bought a book by one of the UK’s leading exponents of No Dig – Charles Dowding. I surely can’t be the only person to notice that an anagram of Dowding is Wd no dig. Anyway, here is a picture of Charles showing off all the crops has has harvested by doing no digging.
Apparently, by doing no digging you not only preserve the natural structure of soil but also get less weeds. However, you do have to do lots of hoe-ing and spread much compost so there is work involved. I plan to do exactly what Charles says, starting from next year.
In the meantime Dan and I are limbering up for a couple of exciting harvest festival events. This Saturday (October 4) we will be making carrot recorders and playing songs at the Harvest Home event at Preston Park Museum in Stockton-on-Tees. On Tuesday next week (October 7) we will be popping up at the RHS London Harvest Festival Late event. Do come and see us if you can!