Love ’em and Leave ’em Leaf Sacks – New and in stock now!

Probably the fastest sourcing of a new product ever! Less than a week after seeing these at Cologne’s Garden Trade Show – Spoga Gafa – we put an order in and here they are in stock as of today. They come from a Hampshire-based British company and are manufactured from 100% biodegradable loose-weave Jute in India. I knew we had to list them as soon as I saw them.

You simply collect up the leaves, bag them in the sack, throw the sack into the corner of the garden and wait. The leaves and then the bag itself will turn into nutritious compost for your garden. So easy! The jute weave bag itself lets the elements get to the leaves but keeps them collected allowing them to compost more quickly.

Available as a pack of 1, 3 or 6 – now is the perfect time to buy with autumn just around the corner!

I will certainly be getting a sack or 3 going in my garden this year.

Have a look and order now!

Liam

All things green: ‘Not enough space’ is not an excuse!

My Patio Growing Plot!

As my writing depends on it, I am fortunate in that I have three allotments, all shared with my girlfriend Jeannine.  Thanks to the local council’s policy of splitting plots in half (to please twice the number of gardeners) the reality is that we have three half plots – which strikes me as half a plot less than we are entitled to!  Nonetheless, allotment waiting lists in most parts of the country now seem so long that you have to sign your grandchildren up, let alone yourself, so I count myself blessed!

We aren’t all lucky enough to have allotments or a large garden, but provided you’re not set on attaining complete self-sufficiency there is plenty you can do to grow your own in even a small space – perhaps a typical terraced-house garden, or even a patio or balcony.

Last summer I tested this theory by setting up an ultra-compact patio garden outside my kitchen door (you can see it above).  The area measures something like two metres by 80cm, and I carefully arranged planters, pots and old packing boxes to make use of the space.  These were filled with good quality compost, both home-made and shop-bought, because one trick to growing in small spaces is to make sure your plants are well fed.  The quantity and diversity of the food I managed to produce really surprised me, although of course such an intensive little plot needs some looking after.  Key to my success was the use of height – low-growing crops were interplanted with taller ones, and canes and support frames allowed climbing plants to double my ‘productive volume’.  I even had some tomatoes growing in hanging baskets – although the watering regime was at times inconvenient.

Apart from growing veg, you can also include other aspects of a well-rounded garden in a smaller plot.  Beneficial plants like marigolds and nasturtiums can be squeezed in, as can a rainwater harvesting system if you look out for a compact water butt (there are many such now available).  And at the end of the garden cycle (or is it the beginning?) don’t forget a composter.  Wormeries take up the minimum amount of room and will process your kitchen and some of your garden waste faster than any other design.

Perhaps the smallest possible growing area is a kitchen windowsill and, while no doubt limited, there are quite a few possibilities here.  Herbs should be your first option, as they are so expensive to buy fresh in shops but take up relatively little room – just one pot each of rosemary, mint, coriander and basil will transform countless dishes.  Another small-space star is a trough of cut-and-come-again salad, including some fast-growing Chinese leaves and rocket.  These will re-grow several times provided you don’t harvest them too hard.

Let me know how you get on.

Paul

To pee or not to pee: National Trust say “do it”!

Excellent Compost!Found this interesting piece on the Live for Gardening website earlier today.  The National Trust have installed a ‘pee bale’ alongside their Composters at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire and the head gardner suggests male employees should relieve themselves here when the urge occurs.

The pee bale then gets added to the composter every now and then as an accelerator to speed the process up.

Urine has for a long time been master composters’ secret weapon – it really does work.  But if you’d rather not, have a look at some organic compost maker (accelerator) or Bokashi Bran instead!

Liam

The classiest kitchen compost caddies you ever did see?

As soon as I saw these classy caddies I just fell in love with them!  Apparently, yes it is possible to love a composting product this much…

You’ll see what I mean though (I hope!) :-

Clay Compost Bucket CaddyNew to Original Organics and available now from our website for the rather excellent price of £15.97! Available in Clay (pictured), String and Apple Green.

Let me know what you think.

Liam

Bokashi Composting, but ‘don’t mention the war’

Double Bokashi BucketSo Liam pops his head round the door and suggests I should write a blog about Bokashi composting. A fairly reasonable and straightforward request you might think – but it took me on a winding journey back through a bit of family and world history to achieve the simple result asked of me.

My Uncle Dennis died 7 years ago and my father 4 years later. Although brothers they were very different people. They did however share a steadfast set of values and moral beliefs summed up in the words, honesty, decency, duty, fairness and integrity. Like many sincere, caring and intelligent people both were what used to be called ‘left of centre’ politically and both served their country and more during the Second World War.

My father was a pilot and navigator with the RAF serving in coastal and bomber commands during the war and moving on to organisational development  and officer training roles from 45 to 58. My uncle served with the British army and their allies in Burma and along with too many thousands of others was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.

Of every 100 air crew officers who signed up along with my father in 1938 of those in bomber command less than 38 saw VE day. A Bomber Command crew member had a worse chance of survival than an infantry officer in World War I. I believe this experience seriously affected my father’s life thereafter – he had few close friends for the rest of his life and you don’t need a PhD in Psychology to see why.  These remarkably brave men were, of course, engaged in major purposeful aggressive action against the Axis powers.
What then of the C. 30% of prisoners of war (by definition non combatants ) who did not come through the terrible treatment  and appalling conditions of brutality, barbarism, torture and starvation imposed by their captors in the far East not to mention the illness, shortened lives and trauma for the survivors. For Dennis his eyesight was badly damaged, Malaria recurred and the hidden damage was there for all not to see (if you follow) for the rest of his life.

So from very different wartime experiences both brothers, no doubt like thousands upon thousands of others ‘chose’ the quiet, stoical, and perhaps somewhat isolating approach of internalising their experiences and of rarely discussing them even with, or perhaps particularly with close family. It was indeed at rare, unusual yet revealing and enlightening moments when I could share a brief but deep discussion about the war with my father.

BokashiAll very interesting but ‘what about the Bokashi’ Do I hear my reader cry? OK – bear with me just a little longer if you will…

When Dennis and his comrades were finally liberated in 1945 it was 11 months until he returned home to his wife. Many of the liberated prisoners were so ill, emaciated and weak that it was judged bad for civilian morale for them to return to the UK and be seen in such a ‘pathetic’ state. They needed serious medical attention and some serious rest and recuperation. So it was Blighty by way of a long stay over with our Canadian allies for thousands too ill and no doubt disinclined to complain.

Now, perhaps understandably all this lead to many survivors and their families having less than totally forgiving and friendly thoughts towards  the defeated Japanese Empire. Although anti German feelings were clearly very strong in those soon after the war years – this has dwindled and changed over the decades that followed. Today any vestiges of enmity tend to be confined to the football field. Germany has changed, faced up to its past; its atrocities and the horrendous doings of Hitler and his band of sadistic, psychopathic fascist thugs. Apologise made and repeated; bridges built; talks talked and walks walked and to their utter credit to deny the holocaust in Germany today is a criminal and imprisonable offence.

Possibly for deep historical and cultural reasons well beyond my ken, Japan took a different route. Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain as titular head of state after the war courtesy of General Mac Arthur and our American friends and there was and some might say still is, an ambivalence about their past. Japanese school history books make less than complete and accurate references to the war and war criminals are still revered by some. Actions and mistakes have perhaps not been squarely faced up to as they have elsewhere.

The saying is that history is written by the victors. Whilst in the obvious sense this is true, it is at the same time grossly over simplistic to the risk of obscuring as much as it enlightens.

Now, I am far from an expert and the deep and historically rooted cultural traditions of the Japanese peoples are no doubt honourable; and the answer to the conundrum of their post war stance may well be hidden from me within the complexity of anthropology. However in over simplistic terms it was this apparent ambivalence and above all else the lack of an open and totally unequivocal apology for war crimes that meant that during my youth, households in our extended family (and I suspect many others) went decade after decade without a Japanese car, microwave, video or other Japanese made electrical or electronic gismo.

Time heals and as the older generations die out (no chrysanthemums in the wreaths) and the newer ones grow up- memories mellow and attitudes change. This is good and right and proper – for we all have to eventually forgive although not for me to forget – that may be for future generations but I hope not, for if we don’t learn from our history we cease to learn anything and if we cease to learn we may just as well cease to be.

So this verbose attempt at relevance, succinctness and attempting to follow Basil Fawlty’s advice of not mentioning the war has manifestly failed but it brings me at last to Bokashi bins and composting, a Japanese invention which I am pleased to embrace and to extol the many virtues and benefits thereof.

Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning fermented organic matter. It is a form of intensive composting using a starter culture of effective Microorganisms (EM). The culture is a bit like making Yogurt or a ginger beer plant in that it grows and can be used and reused over and over.  It is made by inoculating a suitable medium such as wheat or rice bran (but technically any organic matter from sawdust to beer will work) with EM, water and usually some molasses to speed up the process.

Once made this Bokashi mix can be used easily to speed up the fermentation and breakdown of kitchen food waste.   The speeded up fermentation should virtually eliminate any risk of unpleasant smell and the waste is ready for the next stage within a few weeks. The next stage is simply to dig it into the garden or add it to your Wormery or garden Composter. The waste doesn’t so much rot or decompose and the product is rather different in appearance than compost. It retains more of its original shape, appearance and structure and looks as though it has been pickled. Garden soil, your Wormery or composter will soon finish the job.

Bokashi bins are sealed and have a tap to capture the excellent juice which ids a concentrated plant food in itself. Interestingly if you don’t have mains drainage and rely on a septic tank or similar then Bokashi juice will help maintain a healthy environment and improve its performance.

The EM are just natural lactic acid and phototropic bacteria and yeast whish form a microbial community within the food waste to help its rapid processing. All you have to do is intersperse layers off food waste with a sprinkling of the activated bran and nature will do the rest simply and efficiently. Moreover it will deal with cooked waste as well even bits of meat and fish.

Various propriety Bokashi bins and the inoculated bran are widely available on the web and increasingly in the shops and as you might expect we do two versions ourselves. (from just £19.56!)

So it’s a big thank you to the Japanese for devising this remarkable simple, efficient, fascinating and clean form of organic waste recycling.

Thanks for reading.

Clive

And the leaves that are green… turn to brown

(with apologies to Paul and Art)

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Well as the rather disappointing wet and wintery Summer edges into Autumn, the season may just be catching up with the weather!

Here in rural Devon the harvest is almost in and the maize is as high (as it is allegedly in Oklahoma) as an Elephants eye.  But the harvest I am looking forward to is plentiful organic, soil enriching and although not edible it is free.

In fact as is sadly often the case with what is plentiful and free it is so often ignored, neglected, wasted and unwanted by so many.  My free harvest that is simply leaves, leaves from the millions of deciduous trees which enhance our lovely island.  For with but a modican of knowledge, minimum effort and some patience nature will turn your lawn rakings, boarder clean up and path sweepings into a rather magical and special compost known as leafmould.

Turning one mans problematic waste into a truly excellent natural and organic soil enricher and conditioner arguably better, and certainly more environmentally friendly, than peat is but a small chore  and if like me you love getting down to earth in the garden then it is rather fun!

Turning your pile of leaves into leafmould is simple.  Firstly decide upon your container.  This will depend upon the quantity you have at your disposal.  A couple of large black dustbin bags with a few holes punched in them will suffice for the odd wheelbarrow load.  For larger quantities a few wooden sticks with chicken wire attached can cope with just about all you’ve got.  Proprietary leafmould makers are, of course, available on line from quality websites……..OK enough said.

I’ve written a guide to getting the best leafmould possible and was going to post it here – but Liam thought it was good enough to go on the main website so I’ll post a link to it instead :-

How to make great leafmould at home

Enjoy!

Clive Roberts

A rubbish book of great ideas!

Just a quickie to say we’re now proudly stocking the brand new book by International Downshifting Week founder, Tracey Smith. Entitled “The Book of Rubbish Ideas”, the 144 page paperback gives you an insightful room-by-room tour of the household and is full of great ideas helping you to reduce, recuse and recycle!

The Book of Rubbish Ideas

The Book of Rubbish Ideas

Tracey also recommends our Wormeries and Waterbutts in the Book, which is available now from our website priced at £6.99 (with free P&P!).

Cheerio,
Liam