May 2011


Since we converted two of our compost bins into Daleks, there has been an ongoing expectation from Little Boots that we are going to transmogrify the third and last one sometime soon.

I’m not opposed to this, but have held back as it’s a good job, for a bored day in the summer holidays.

However things have now stepped up a pace. Our local council are selling Daleks at 15 quid a go. Sorry, not Daleks, plastic compost bins. Little Boots spotted this and suggested we get several more, to add to “The Dalek Army that we are building”.

At least the suggestion that we put wheels on one has been forgotten for the moment.

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Helping build a garden at Chelsea was the fulfilment of a long-standing ambition.

It wasn’t achieved without cost.

I don’t mean the money I spent on travel, or the time taken off work.

No the cost was to my boots. My beloved Blundstones have died.

True they were getting on a bit, I bought them on a trip to New Zealand in early 2002, but I had taken a lot of care of them and didn‘t even wear them as work boots for a number of years. I reckon it was the corrugated steel roadway that helped shred the soles, but I’m sure they would’ve given up the ghost sooner or later – it just happened a bit suddenly, that’s all.

To make matters worse they’re a model (Blundstone 140s) that you can’t get in the UK. What am I going to wear to Hampton Court?

There’s a piece in today’s Guardian about things that gardeners have brought back from Chelsea Flower show be it inspiration, or something physical.

I’ve helped out at a few garden shows and have always come home with something that reminds me of each experience. The object I that came back from this year’s Chelsea is part of an old clay pipe.

At home I’ve a few pieces of stem that have cropped up from the garden or allotment, but no bowl sections.

So this year’s memento has a dual purpose. It reminds me of digging the hole in the brick-hard ground (I can’t call it soil) where it came out with the spoil and it has allowed me to demonstrate to Little Boots what the little white tubes I have in a box of garden relics are part of.

We now have two Daleks in the garden.

Little Boots claims to have built the second one, which is not entirely true, but has made a reasonable amount of it, under close supervision, with various bits of drilling, sawing, spraying & hand-painting being nearly as exciting as the finished item.

Undoubtedly the little person success of last year, possibly of all time, was the discovery of mouse melons. They’re the fruit of cucurbit and are also known as Mexican cucumber, Cucamelon and Mexican miniature watermelon. Their Latin name is Melothria scabra and we bought some seeds from Suttons seeds where they are part of Eden Project range.

One thing that became apparent last summer was that the plants are better off if grown up and over something, rather than being allowed to scrabble around on the ground – here they are like melons proper, rather than say marrows.

I couldn’t readily find any seeds this year and so when we found the seeds left from last season, I was relieved as Little Boots had requested we grow them. Since they are cucurbits I was pretty sure they’d have retained their viability and would grow OK and so began to give some thought about what to grow them up. Sticks and poles seemed like a no-no as did peasticks and string-lines. I reckoned that some kind of netting type affair was the best option. But netting in the garden is at best functional and at worst naff and always something of an eyesore. Then I recalled something I had made in the garden when LB was a toddler and which had been a definite success. Much as I would like to say I invented this, I did not, but having said that I have no idea where I picked the idea up from.

The answer’s obvious I thought – a big spider’s web.

This is a fairly simple thing to make, though does take a little while to construct. First make a square frame, it doesn’t have to be bamboo but that’s what I’ve used. Stick two uprights in the ground and then tie in top and bottom cross pieces. Next tie a series of lengths of string along the top bar and the top half of the uprights.

(TIP = To make a knot that doesn’t slip wind the string three times around the bamboo before tying your knot.)

Start by tying one of the strings to the bottom bar in a diagonal line. Then start tying the other strings in, making sure to tie a knot where they cross the first string. After the first couple the string pattern is stable and you should tie the strings off irregularly and not in straight lines. You should end up with something that looks like this:

The final stage is to start with a small ball of string. Tie it somewhere in the middle, and then move outwards in a spiral, tying it off everytime it crosses another string. I like to make this pattern irregular and also to keep a fair bit of tension in the strings. neither is vital, but tying tight knots that don’t slip is. Because of the number of knots involved this last phase can seem to last forever, but it’s worth persevering, because the end result is, if I say it myself pretty groovy.