Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Well, not JUST taters. More: Vegetables in general. It is that time of year when my thoughts turn to my allotment. Oh, how it gives me balance when I look down from an aeroplane at 37000 feet, in that artificial world of plastic, aluminium and superficiality, to think of the soil in my garden.
I am a believer that many of the world's problems could be helped with compost. So much is thrown away that could rot down to something lovely and useful. Compost fascinates me.
And sub saharan soils could so benefit from this, instead of goats eating everything and the dung being dried and burned as fuel. No wonder the topsoil blows away! I saw this program where they went to an African village and the whole village dug a series of beds 10 by 4 feet (as all mne are) and taking out all the soil, they put in leaves and paper and any dung they could find, anything that would rot or hold mositure. And growing beans the first year (for crop rotation really is essential. I remembered that from history and Turnip Townsend) to cope with the reduction in nitrogen than carbon breakdown initially brings, they grew wondrous crops for ever more, as long as they put good stuff back in the soil.

And here too, ploughing will change, i think, as people realise it isnt the best way to maintain good soil structure.

I am not organic. I use glyphosphate and slug pellets, as 20 years of gardening has shown me that the methods espoused by more idealistic gardeners just plain don't work. You can't dig up bindweed or marestails (which have after all been around since the jurassic so they are survivors). Slugs sneer at beer traps, hedgehogs and toads do no have sufficient work ethic and so, yes, I use some chemicals.
Organic farming, anyway, is not the same as sustainable agriculture. The two are very different.

That said, i do get marvellous crops on which I never use sprays, just mesh to keep the pests off. Even so, leek moth has been doing for my alliums and I have had decimated onion beds for four years in a row now, despite my best efforts. It is very disheartening sometimes.

But taters: Now that must surely be the nearest thing to magic! You dig a hole take a tuber and, as I made my wife laugh with in my earliest gardening attempts by saying "you bury it in some mud", or rather plant it in the soil. Then you come back a few weeks later and dig it up and lo! A small clump of the most beautiful white egg-sized potatoes. All from soil and air!!! From ground to plate in 20 mins and no food could be finer.

And how much pleasure is that? How much did it cost? Evaluating pleasure, I think this is a disproportionate return on investment. You can keep your xboxes and your plasma tellies and all the other detritus of modern life that we are told we really, really need in order to be valuable and happy human members of society.

As me old grandad said (and he was admittedly not given to feats of intelligence so this nugget was retained): A rich man has the same pleasure sensors as you in his brain. It just costs him more to tickle them.

Yes. Indeed.


Rob Hopcott said...

Our compost bins are a heaving mass of wriggly worms and it is a pleasure feeding them yet another container full of vegetable leftovers from the kitchen.

The only thing I don't like is the flies that fly out at you when the compost bin top is lifted.

The compost when ready is spread around the garden to nourish the flowers and a few more vegetables.

It all makes so much sense.

Agreed about potatoes. They are a miracle.

BTW. I was glad to see your son survived intact, if a little damaged around the edges. It must have been totally terrifying for you.

Thesaurus Rex said...

Aaargh! I've been duly reminded that it's time to screw my back up "burying things in mud"
I don't grow veg any more but perhaps I could start with an easy thing like rhubarb which has a tremendous air of self motivation and needs no encouragement to provide lazy bastards like me stuff to put in a crumble.
Or can I eat grape hyacinth bulbs, I've got billions of those.

PerlNumquist said...

Rob: Those are no ordinary worms! Those are brandling worms! And I never thought I would wax lyrical of woms but, arent they striking! All those stripes and dark coloration! They doa lot of good and I think it was old Darwin himself who first recognised the worm's contribution to ecology.
My only confusion about worms is why they set off on odysses across tarmac when it rains where surely perils lie in the form of birds, feet and bike wheels await.
Flies too are part of the process. Introduce some spiders for a better ecological conscience :-)

Rex: I am mystified! Surely everyone is aware of the indolence of rhubarb! Indeed, it must be FORCED! I have two rhubarbs. One I inherited which is green stringy and removes tooth enamel. One me thievin old dad pinched of what he though was an abandoned allotment (the bloke was just a bit tardy and hadnt been for a week or two). It is pink, expensive and delicious.

I bought a bag of dried chillies for 2 quid from the chinese supermarket. They were full of seeds so I planted 20 or so. They all germinated. This is the new germline to replace the ones that last years dismal summer did for.

Lets hear it for chlorophyll!

Rob Hopcott said...

Hurrah, hurrah for chlorophyll!

Yes, couldn't somebody tell the wormies not to crawl across our tennis courts after rain.

It takes such a long time picking them up and tossing them (gently) in the hedge before we play.

Pete, I've been looking up your great idea about introducing spiders into the compost bin in a catalog.

It all looks very confusing ...

Should I go for a tarantula?

Magdalene said...

I think you'll like this Pete. It's one of my favourite songs and featured on an earlier post of mine called 'Vegetables Are My Friends.'

Enjoy :-)


PerlNumquist said...

Maude, dear! I LOVE it! I have a new perspective on Sesame Street Characters since i saw Avenue Q. Marvellous! Thank you!