Just as I was despairing it was gone forever, my gardening mojo came stealthily creeping up on me.

I never saw it coming and despite feeling myself to be horticulturally bereft, suddenly found I was dunking seeds prior to sowing them in the heated propagator. This was all so out of the blue that I didn’t have all the equipment needed and was scratching around for something suitable for making holes in the compost.

Remembering that I’d put a pair of give-away chopsticks in my rigger boots by the back door, I set off downstairs.

(By way of explanation any small-ish items en route to the garden/greenhouse end up in the boots to ensure they end up outside. Mostly I remember to check before putting my feet in).

Passing through the living room, I was challenged by the OH who was sitting in front of the goggle box. The exchange went something like this:

“Do you know why they’re showing repeats of Gardeners’ World?”

“They aren’t – Monty Don’s back doing it.”

“So where’s this?”

“His garden.”

“So what happened to that new place?”

“Binned, I guess.”

“They must’ve spent tens of thousands on that.”

“At least.”

“Of taxpayers’ money.”

“BBC’s money.”

“That’s our money. The license fee is a tax. That’s a disgrace. Someone should be sacked for that. And where’s Alys?”

(OH likes Alys).

“No idea.”

“And why have they got these two numpties back?”

At this point Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame were helping an old lady spread a thin layer of partially decomposed sticks, purporting to be home-made compost around her plants.

“Ah, it’s the End of Days. Ragnarok. Twilight of the Gods. Time is folding in on itself and has started running backwards.”

“You do talk rubbish.”

“Beats watching it.”

“You’re right” said the OH changing channels.

“Tune back in in a couple of months. Maybe they’ll have Chris Beardshaw back.” I quipped, disappearing back upstairs.


If my horticultural mojo is currently absent, my recycling one isn’t.

I need to get Project Potshack under way once more because it ground to a halt in September owing to a lack of materials. Clearly I need to do some wombling around to scavenge some more materials. It might even be that there is some in the garage, which is full of all sorts of rubbish. At one point it was so full of junk that it was virtually impossible to get into the building. Mind you that was really in large part down to the fact that I’d blocked the doorway by opening it and slinging a mountain of logs in.

This is a pointer to another must-do job – a log store. With a green roof.

Over the last months we’ve been doing a lot of tidying and sorting here at Boot Hall.

And for me part of that is making use of some of the clutter that’s been amassed with some future use in mind.

Last summer I got hold of a hardwood framed, double glazed window unit, that I thought would make a good lid for a cold frame. Once I’ve fixed a rotten corner. Now I come to use it I’m not so sure. Partly because it’s so bloody heavy and this means the body of the frame will need to be suitable beefy to prevent a plant flattening collapse, which means it’s less easy to move. And partly because I’m wondering if the double-glazed nature of the thing will affect the light getting through. I think it’ll be OK. Even if it’s no use for seedlings it’ll be great for over-wintering, once I’ve built in insulation to the sides.

Which reminds me, what did I do with those sheets of polystyrene I thought would come in useful one day?

Mostly I try not to go to my local chain-store garden centre, because, well let’s just settle for because, as I really can’t be bothered to get into all that. Overpriced and non-gardening tat. ‘Nuff said?
But yesterday I was passing on the way back home from an errand, when I realised I was starving. This may have been a Pavlovian response owing to the knowledge that the adjacent café does a full English breakfast that is reasonable in both cost and quality.

I was also looking forward to reading Mark D’s 5 page article in the Sunday magazine, and knew that this was unlikely to happen at home until much later in the day, due to LB-inspired bedlam.

Needless to say the obvious happened, and I was just unlocking the car, feeling sated in both body and mind when I thought “Oh, I need some mache”.

I know that calling Valerianella locusta, by it’s French name makes me sound a bit poncey, but I’d rather that than call it lamb’s lettuce, which is far too twee, or corn salad, which makes it sound wholly unappetising.

So I gingerly traipsed across the car park into the chain-store garden centre, partly expecting that they would not have any.

“Oh Bugger!” I thought realising that they had taken away all their displays of seeds – no doubt to make way for an orgy of what I can only describe as “Christmassy shite”. But then I noticed to one side they had a couple of tables set up with wooden tubs on top brimming with seed packets for 50p each.

At first I didn’t think I was going to find any mache. But I did. Although by that time I had a fistful of packets of other stuff.

“Proper job!” as they say down Otter Farm way.

Whenever I read about somebody growing something different (especially to eat) I get a bit excited.

Actually excited, is probably too strong a word and makes me seem a bit odd. Curious is probably a better word. No, not strong enough. Actively curious? No, that’s no good – it makes me sound like a category in some kind of psychometric test, or pollster’s demographic.

Anyway, I hope you get my drift, so I’ll get to the point.

I was reading in a book, some old boy talking about one of his fellow allotment plot holders, who was Asian, growing a plant called Mehti, for the edible leaves. I immediately looked this up and found that the crop concerned is best known in the UK as fenugreek. “Oh I know fenugreek,” I said to myself, “I must try it” and made a mental note to get some.

So, earlier this week, when I saw a large packet of seed marked down to 50p I picked it up as a bargain.

The thing is that the packet was for ‘sprouting seeds’ which meant that there were no instructions on how to grow the things in soil. At this point it dawned on me that my comment “I know fenugreek” was actually a load of rubbish and that I knew just one thing about fenugreek – it’s a herb. Or a spice. In fact I don’t know anything about it. 

So I looked it up in my herb books and found . . . that it was popular for ‘sprouting seeds’. And no more.

Then I consulted some wider-ranging books about growing. And found . . . . more on ‘sprouting seeds’.

More scholarly tomes told me that it was ‘popular for ‘sprouting seeds’

I was still at a loss as how to cultivate it, and whilst of course there are general principles that apply to any seeds in terms of planting depth etc, I wanted to be sure that there weren’t any specific requirements that would make the difference between success and failure.

I asked a colleague who knew what it was and was able to give me some advice on cooking with it, but she’d never grown it.

So I’m just going to have to suck it and see. Or should that be chuck it and seed?

 Saving seeds is something I do quite often, some from my own garden, but also others I come across in my travels. Usually they end up in a folded piece of paper, or tissue even, and only discovered weeks/months later.   Recently I have been much better – partly because I’ve made a small supply of suitable seed-saving envelopes.

First take one return postage envelope – it does not need to be from the RHS, I’m just being posh, normally I use credit card ones.

Then seal it up. You will have to add some extra glue to the area cross-hatched in green, or small seeds will escape.

Cut it in half, and then fold over the cut edge to a depth of about an inch/3cm.

Make two diagonal cuts from the botton of the open side, towards the folded corner (see photo), making two flaps and  then fold back the top one.

Cut off the bottom one, et voila, a neat little envelope for saving your seeds in.

Don’t forget to seal it, wither with a pritt stick (not wet glue) or a strip of tape, and remember to label it with the contents (add the date too).

Along with sweet peas, and beans, I always soak the seeds of Morning Glory overnight. My choice of variety in the past has sometimes been the pale Heavenly Blue, and often the intense purpley blue Star of Yelta, but this year I picked up a packet of Hazelwood Blues, which have traditional purpley flowers along with white ones, that have lines of purple shading, although in truth the latter look a lot like bindweed. The seeds themselves are a mix of black and white, so you could select one colour or other I guess.

Trying something new wasn’t the sole reason I bought them – 25p from each packet goes to Thrive the horticultural therapy charity.

Last weekend I put a dozen seeds in to soak. And then forgot about them till today. When I remembered them I was expecting the worst, but then found that they had actually sprouted and were growing healthy roots, as you can see.

So I’d better get on and plant them.

If you are one of the select group of people who read this blog, you may recall my Magic Beans post.

Well I planted some of the beans. I had been able, through some low-level mithering, to establish that they were yard-long type beans and so after checking with Joy Larcom’s Oriental Veg book and finding that they needed quite a bit of heat to get them going, stuck them in the heated ‘poppa-grator’.

Planted on Monday evening, the seed leaves broke the surface of the compost on Thursday. Overnight the first true leaves emerged and the thing grew to two inches tall inside ten hours, so that they went from the above to this……

With such an astounding rate of growth I ‘m wondering if  they might be magic beans after all. I’ve got a quite a few left – maybe I can swap them for a cow.

Boring botany bits

  • Seeds germinated and emerged from the soil surface within 72 hours
  • Epigeal germination – cotyledons above the soil
  • Cotyledons grew to around 3 times the size of the planted seed within this period and seeds were not soaked prior to sowing