Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Beetroot Day

“Husband been knocking you about?” asks Bernard, not unreasonably since I am sporting an impressive black eye.

“Freak handbag accident,” I explain briefly. To Bernard’s evident confusion.

I try, perhaps for the millionth time this week, to explain about Janice’s evil red satchel and a hapless visit to Lydiard Park, but he just looks perplexed. Frankly, I think it might be simpler to blame it on the husband.

* * *

The big Beetroot Day has finally arrived, and John and I have been liaising via email following detailed consultations with my Moon book. Gardening according the phases of the moon is helluva complicated, but I think I’ve finally worked it out, and it seems that the 7th, 8th and the morning of the 9th are ideal for sowing root crops with the moon ascending in the constellation of Taurus. It's a particularly fortuitous time for planting root crops apparantly, Taurus being an earth sign as well as the sign of the Moon's exaltation.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. Apparently, despite being about forty miles from the coast, it’s important to plant the seeds when on the tide is receding too, to balance the effect of the ascending moon. I have forgotten to tell John this, but hopefully this will not hamper the growth of his beetroot too much. Unfortunately I have missed this morning’s receding tide and will now have to wait until 9pm this evening. More importantly, I realise, I have forgotten to actually buy any beetroot seed.

Never mind, if I leg it down to the shop now, I should be able to get my seeds ready and soaked in time for tomorrow’s receding tide at 9.45. Unfortunately, tomorrow is exactly the day I have to wait in for the delivery of a shower part from Screwfix. If I don’t manage to get my beetroot seeds in by lunchtime, I may have to wait until midnight tomorrow for the next tide, which will be pushing it a bit with the moon stuff – did the ancients have all these problems to contend with, I wonder? At least a midnight planting, I suppose, will avoid searching questions about my black eye and give a certain resonance to the theory of moon planting. Although with a waning moon there won’t be much light, and I may find myself either A) planting them in the wrong allotment, or B) tripping over one of the other John’s many garden implements, thus risking the chance of a second black eye.

If the worst comes to the worst, I suppose, I could always chuck them in anyway and call it a control sample.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Compost Queen

Friday night and the lights are low
Wond’ring if there’s time to go
Down to the allotment, need to do a bit of digging
I need to fill that bin

Anything you want to throw in?
Teabags, socks and cardboard, that last splash of gin...
Gotta lotta peelings, piled right up to the ceiling
I’m in the mood for weeds

And when I get the chance…
I am a compost queen,
Young and sweet, only forty-three

(well, give or take a year or two… I’m sure I could pass for forty-three on a dusky night with a following wind, if you weren't looking too closely…)

* * *

“If I was something in the garden, what would I be?” I made the mistake of asking my husband a couple of years ago, angling desparately for a rare compliment and hoping he would come up with something flattering along the lines of a fragrant rosebush, an exotic pot plant or a pretty spray of honeysuckle.

“A compost heap,” was his reply. “Just chuck everything on, give it a good turn now an again and Bob’s your uncle.”

I have to say I was not best pleased. Well, honestly – who would like to be compared to a large pile of rotting vegetation? Romance has never really been my other half’s strongest suit.

However, I’ve since changed my view (that’s not to say I’ve stopped sulking, though). A compost heap is actually a wonderful thing. You chuck all your grass clippings onto it, your old apple cores and potato peelings and eggboxes and banana skins – even old T-shirts, holey socks and mankey old bits of carboard box... and in the fullness of time everything is magically transformed into a wonderfully fertile, nutritious, odour-free growing medium.

It’s so easy, even I can do it. Everything that’s ever lived can go into compost – admittedly if it’s meat or dairy or if it’s been cooked like bread, you do need something called a garden digester (if you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me – I can point you in the direction of something small and discreet enough for any type of garden, and at a very reasonable cost…).

Yes, having completed my training, I am now officially a compost ambassador for Wiltshire, dispensing weeds and wisdom to all whether they like it or not, on the subject of composting and decomposing vegetative material.

Of course, in the olden days, they didn’t need compost heaps or digesters – there was something called the Wiltshire pig. All your peelings, leftovers, mouldy crusts, old deformed bits of veg went in one end and perfectly balanced garden fertiliser came out the other.

‘Pig’ by the incredibly talented stone carver and artist Judith Verity of Startley, who drew this in about 45 seconds

...Feel that heat, watch that steam, I'm having the time of my life (well, I don't get out much)
Oooooooh, See those peas, clock those beans, I am a Compost Queen