Friday, 16 May 2008

I’m Still Here (in London)

Circumstances prevent me from being able to go to my favourite event of the year, which starts tomorrow. The Smallholders and Garden Festival at the Royal Welsh Showground near Builth Wells is the most comprehensive and friendliest event of its kind. It's been going for a good twenty years or so, and I've been to the past three. The more times I go, the more people I get to know. And the more people I know to stop and talk to, I get to see less of the show. Mind you, I do spend most of my free time there wandering through the goat showing area, as the goat kids are just old enough to be allowed out, and it's so easy to lose a few hours playing with the little sweethearts - especially the Golden Guernsey kids.

As with most other years, further attractions include a dog show, green building / living exhibition and talks on smallholding related topics. Sadly, Wonderwool, the show for all forms of wool craft, has grown too big and has its own date at the showground. I wouldn't have minded seeing the butter making competition planned for this Sunday. Never mind, there's always next year. And there are a few good shows closer to home over the next few months.

Next week also sees the Chelsea Flower Show. I hope this year good sense prevails, and the judges award medals to gardens with plants in, not glorified patios and barbecue areas. I doubt it will, but it would be good if the Daylesford Organics garden won best in show.

Haven't been the the Chelsea show for a couple of years now. Aside of the obvious downsides - crowds, no plants on sale, high catering prices and getting shoved around to allow for TV filming, coming immediately after the Smallholders show, I was able to compare and contrast the two events. Despite living in London, only having an allotment and not yet able to speak Welsh, I felt far more at home in Builth.

Last weekend, we took advantage of the good weather and put a small area of decking up in the back garden. A bit too urban and not at all frugal you may think, but the area we decked had little topsoil (just builders waste) and sloped down in two directions. It is also and area that gets direct sun only until around 9am at the best of times - little use for growing plants. The deck itself was almost entirely reclaimed from skips - even the breeze blocks used to level the worst of the slope were second hand. The only new items involved were part of a roll of weed blocking membrane and the screw and nails to fasten the planks - all this amounted to about 75p in cost.

We put the deck to use during the hot weather, eating breakfast and dinner there from Sunday until Wednesday. I put some plants in containers in front of the table, including strawberries and Lemon Balm (made tea from the leaves Sunday afternoon). Hopefully we'll have some more warm weather soon and we can sit out there again.

Hopefully the rains toward the end of this week will have penetrated the soil enough for some more serious allotment work to take place this weekend. I hope to put the old shed in place at the new allotment soon, but getting plants in the ground has to take prioriry.

The instructions for this weekend in The Wartime Weekend Gardener signal that Summer is just around the corner - it's time to sow the Runner Beans. I usually sow two varieties - old stalwarts Scarlet Emperor and Czar, and white flowered and seeded variety. When dried, seeds from Czar beans are a fair substitute for butter beans.

Other tasks include sowing another batch of Savoy Cabbage, and another sowing of lettuce (& other salad leaves) and radishes.

Next week is another Bank Holiday, and a local event which often serves as a pointer to the rest of the Summer. But more of that later.

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