You can make your own organic, peat-free seed and potting composts using leaf mould, garden compost and loam. You can make it up as you need it, in large or small quantities. Leaf mould needs to stand for two years. Loam is basically just good garden soil. If you are bothered by weed seedlings you can pasteurise the loam at 80 degrees C for about half an hour. I just pull the weeds up.
The recipes are by volume: shovel-fulls, scoops, or whatever.
Sowing compost: 1 part sieved leaf mould + 1 part sieved loam.
Potting compost: 1 part sieved leaf mould + 1 part sieved loam + 1 part sieved garden compost.
Tomato compost: 3 parts loam + 1 part leaf mould + 1 part garden compost or manure.
Use lots of nettles or comfrey to activate and provide extra nutrient in the form of trace elements. Layers of shredded bark also aids decomposition. Intersperse with grass cuttings.
Plant just one short row of earlies as soon as conditions allow in order to get your first new potatoes of the season. Then plant maincrop and second earlies so they have a long growing season before blight strikes. Continue with the rest of the earlies, staggering the planting so not all are ready at once.
Sowing: It is necessary to sow three seeds, or plant three plants – one for the slugs, one for the weather and one for yourself. If the first two survive, they can go to the annual bring and buy sale.
Always buy twice as many as you think you will need and either plant all closely or plant half in a separate bed one inch apart. Thin out or pull when large enough to use as spring onions from late April or early May onwards. Continue using as large spring onions and young ‘green’ onions. Delicious at any size and much sweeter and juicier than fully ripened onions. Also, start using some garlic young and green in late June. This is when it is at its best.
The Nasturtium is said to have sprung from the blood of a Trojan warrior. The blossom symbolised his golden helmet and the round leaf his shield. It is a close relation of watercress, which explains why its leaves make such a tasty addition to salads. The seeds of this creeping, twining plant when pickled make a good substitute for capers.
For replacement greenhouse glass, try
401A York Road Leeds LS9 6TD
Tel. 248 8433
Yuk! Even soap and water won’t shift slug slime on your fingers. Next time try rubbing the slime with something mildly acid: rhubarb juice, gooseberry juice, lemon juice, vinegar. Magic!
Leeds City Council provide a free collection service for pesticide waste. Collections are normally arranged within a month. Call 0113 398 4760 . For information on pesticides and alternatives go to Pesticide Action Network UK
There is no need to ‘dispose’ of weeds at all. You can compost them. Even couch grass and bindweed roots can be composted if you know how. Either bury them deep (60 cm) in your compost heap or suffocate them in closed black plastic bags with a bit of water. You end up with some nice rich compost and you preserve your precious soil.