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Ah, the new year. A time for contemplation, setting of targets, new goals to aspire to. A time too for review and change.

As you’ll have noticed every time you desperately clicked “refresh” seconds after you turned on your computer each morning, it’s been a little while since my last post. A few weeks off over Christmas led inexorably to introspection and then – dare I say it – apathy.

Dear reader, I couldn’t quite pull my finger out and summon up the energy to tap out a few words about the vegetables that happened to be on my mind at the time. I’m ashamed to say that I found the idea a bit of a drag.

It seems that after just a year of trotting out self-important waffle about my allotment I have lost my mojo. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about fruit and veg. As my fingers dance across the keyboard the words that appear on the screen in front of me just aren’t worth reading.

What has happened? Where have the achingly funny posts gone? The hilariously witty comments on modern allotment life? Nope, there’s nothing left. I am an empty husk.

This is not a good state of affairs. Something must be done. The last thing the digital world needs is another tedious halfwit churning out lists of the vegetables they planted and how tall their seedlings are this week. A blog should be better than that.

So I’ve decided to call it a day. A greater blogger than I might rage against the lying of the light, might see this as a challenge to raise their game and reach ever higher standards. But friends, I am no such being. I haven’t even removed the dead tomato plants from the greenhouse: really, what are the chances of me making that kind of effort?

No, it’s curtains for Drooling. It’s been fun while it lasted, and I shall miss you, my virtual friends, but you deserve better. Be free! Find new blogs! See what you’ve been missing while ploughing through this self-indulgent drivel! (You could do worse than look at the blogs mentioned on the right hand side, by the way).

And now if you’ll excuse me, I shall slip on the headphones and choose a tune one last time…

On the ipod while gently dabbing the eyes. (must have some grit in them or something). The Strokes / Is that it?

Blimey! I mean, what the ?*@$! Who’d have thought it?

Countless blogs on such controversial topics as the planting in the long border at Great Dixter, or the right way to make aubergine dip, and barely a murmur of disagreement from the millions of regular correspondents.

But a few simple observations on compost and…..wow! I stuck my metaphorical fork in the a big steaming pile of verbal compost, turned it over and struck, well, if not black gold, then certainly a rich seam of contention.

As Mal sensibly pointed out, my estimate of 17 years to make compost was a little on the long side. I stand corrected. Hyperbole has no place in the blogosphere.

Other correspondents, more committed and conscientious – dammit I’m man enough to say it – just better gardeners than me expressed disappointment at my stance. A gentle, almost parental disappointment, but still enough to make me feel as dirty as the compost I so frivolously buy instead of make.

But not Louise! The sole kindred spirit out there who owned up to having a spot of bother with the mysterious alchemy herself! I hear you, sister!

And despite all of the suggestions as to how I could improve the process, I’m still not sure how to solve the problem of volume: since last week’s post I have managed to conjure up another 2 bags of garden rubbish. That makes around 30 bags a year. Even if that turns into compost in under a year that’s still a compost heap roughly the size of….my allotment. Hmmm.

But never fear! I have come up with a fiendishly clever plan that keeps everyone happy!

  1. I have lots of compost-able stuff I don’t want
  2. You are dead keen to make lots of compost
  3. It’s the season of giving
  4. So….

…this week’s Special Offer! Just send in one stamped addressed envelope and I promise I will fill it up with lovely compost-able material and send it back. Before you know it – hey, probably before the letter even falls through your letterbox – you’ll have your very own pot full of Drooling-brand compost!

Yo! Ho! Ho!

On the ipod while feeling festive: Hot Chocolate / Everyone’s a winner. Yes, you too! Don’t delay! Send in today!

This is not a controversial blog. If you come here looking for divisive views or contentious polemic then you will, by and large, be disappointed. I’m a simple man and my only aim is to bore you with harmless tales of my vegetable growing exploits.

This week, however, I tread on slightly crumblier soil. There may even be some offence caused. But first some scene setting.

I spent this afternoon tidying up in the garden. The Magnolia in the middle of the lawn has been dropping leaves for weeks and the borders are full of things that have been slowly dying for some time.

After only an hour I had 5 bin liners full of green waste sitting on the patio. Now what do to with them? And this is where I part company with some proper gardeners. I took them to the tip.

That’s right: I threw them away! I didn’t take them to the bottom of the garden, I didn’t put all that lovely organic matter, wet leaves, stalks, plants, on to my compost heap to continue the cycle of veggie life by making my own compost.

I don’t even have a compost heap!

I have come to the conclusion that making compost is a green sham. In my own experience – unscientific, I grant you – it takes approximately 17 years for garden waste to rot down into something that is remotely usable in the garden. During which time you will generate a further 1,347 bags of garden waste.

This would require a compost heap roughly the size of Belgium, along with several labourers to turn and dig over the compost to “speed” the transformation into compost.

Or you can take it to the tip, where it gets taken to a local farm and turned into compost which is them resold (I checked!) and buy some organic compost from the garden centre to use in the meantime. And that Belgium-sized corner of your garden that is now freed up can be used to grown some more vegetables!

Brilliant, n’est ce pas?!?!?

On the ipod while…um…looking after the environment: Johnny Cash / Forty shades of green. And all of them in a bin liner in the boot of the car.

Revolting, isn't it?

 

One of the joys of growing your own organic vegetables, it is often said, is that they look more natural, less uniform; not like something that came off a factory production line but a bit more like nature intended.

Like so many things in life this is all fine and dandy in theory, but it often falls down in practice. If you need proof then look at the picture above: have you seen anything more ugly?

I mean, really. It’s quite the most revolting looking vegetable it has ever been my displeasure to grow. It is, believe it or not, a heritage parsnip, normally a vegetable fit for the Gods. Something clearly went wrong under the soil at the allotment, and what I finally dug out of the ground (after much heaving and puffing) looks like something from the Devil’s own organic veggie box.

Yes, of course it tasted delicious, and you won’t be surprised to know that it fed five family members. Several times. And there’s more in the freezer. And yet.

I don’t want to seem shallow but you can’t deny it’s not exactly easy on the eye. It looks more like something from the props table of that neglected classic Alien vs Predator rather than a gourmet vegetable. And I’m afraid that I’m not man enough to be able to put that to one side.

I set myself high standards when it comes to matters vegetable. And I have failed.

 

On the ipod while averting my eyes: Good year for the rose / Elvis Costello. Yes, but you can’t eat roses, can you Elvis?

The future's bright!

Picture the scene: Buckingham Palace around sixty years ago. Early evening, the sun sets over The Mall

HRH Queen Elizabeth: “Oh Philip! Oh Philip! I’m just heading off to bed! And I’m feeling a bit lonely…..”

Prince Philip: “Damn it gel, I’m trying to read this month’s Horse and Hound. Can’t you see I’m busy?”

HRH: “Oh come on Philly willy, you know you want to!”

Prince P: “Really Liz, I’m just not in the mood.”

HRH: (sternly) “Philip, this throne won’t succeed itself you know. If we want an heir then we’re going to have put in the hard work. Now put down that magazine and come upstairs now. I command it.”

Succession plannning, we would all agree, is important. And at Drooling Towers such things are taken just as seriously as in slightly more exalted places.

It’s particularly important this time of year, when the first crops have been pulled up and eaten, there are large empty spaces in the vegetable patch and still plenty of growing months left in the year.

Traditionally yours truly has been a little slapdash when it comes to thinking ahead, and I’ve only started thinking about how to fill the gaps once they have appeared, by which time it’s a little late.

However this year I was a bit more organised, and planted swede, fennel and cavolo nero seeds in trays about a month before the beds became free. This gave me a good headstart and, as you can see from the above, the seedlings were about 6in tall by the time they were transplanted into their new homes. Success!

Don’t, however, worry about old Drooling getting a bit too smug: the seedlings in the pic are the second batch – the first were eaten by slugs in one night flat…

On the ipod while planning for the future: The Housemartins / Me and the farmer. I tell you, if the farmer has this much trouble with slugs he won;t be in business for long.