This blog has been neglected while I've been battling to keep up with the weeding, seed- sowing, planting out and watering at the gardener's busiest time of year. The drifting around with a trug picking courgettes and beans part comes later - much later - if at all. Now it's all about back-breaking attempts to create something resembling soil out of the lumps of clay in our gardens...
I wrote before about Alys Fowler's "lasagne gardening" where she puts layers of cardboard and organic matter over areas of perennial weeds and the weeds die and lovely crumbly soil is left behind... well, although it looks messy I'm still convinced you need old plastic sacks on top of the card to stop it drying out and blowing around. I did this on one patch over the winter,
and when I uncovered it and re-homed 5 toads there was some promising looking soil underneath
I know the toads look a bit unhappy, but they were fine - I just moved them to underneath another scruffy patch of card and plastic sacks. In fact toads are my main excuse for having such an untidy garden -they like to live under messy heaps of sacks (and of course they eat small slugs so they're very welcome)
I decided to put runner beans into this patch, but to keep a bit of cardboard in the middle as mulch (and to stop things looking too neat and tidy).
Another idea I've tried this year is something I saw in Errol's organic garden in the Caribbean. Lack of water and high temperatures there mean that using a lot of mulch and making sure that water gets to the plant rather than just wetting the soil are essential. Errol dug planting holes, lined them with newspaper or dry leaves to hold water in the hole, filled the hole with compost and then planted in that.
This photo isn't much good, but behind the tomatoes you can see young aubergine plants in their individual planting holes. The soil in between the plants looked so dry and dusty you'd never have thought anything could grow in it, but the plants were really flourishing
So, I dug a large hole, lined it with newspaper, filled it with compost and planted young cucumber plants in it
The sticks are for the cucumbers to scramble up as they grow and I've also put lots more sticks in around the plants to deter cats and foxes from digging in the compost, which is very likely to happen and very annoying. The stuff around the side is comfrey used as mulch (to retain moisture in the soil) and to distract slugs and snails which are heading for the plants.
Comfrey is a great plant - bees love it, it makes an excellent mulch and you can make a foul smelling- but very effective- plant food by putting cut stems in a bucket of water (I put a brick on top to keep the comfrey under the water) and after a couple of weeks you strain off the liquid into old milk containers or similar and use diluted (about one part comfrey tea to eight parts water) as a plant food.
The other good thing about comfrey is that you can cut it down about 2 or 3 times each season and it grows back. It has a very deep root. And guess what! In a spare moment you can make comfrey fritters. I just knew Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would have done this - oyster and comfrey fritters with chilli dipping sauce.