A catalogue of woes (and some highs)

Jane Perrone, one of the enthusiasts behind the Observer allotment project, has some excellent advice on seed catalogues in her “Allotment Keeper’s Handbook”.

Too bad I read the advice after ordering my seeds.

I was lazy and stuck with the Dobies of Devon catalogue that accompanied the Saturday Guardian a couple of weeks ago. That Dobies is “local” partially swayed me. It was only when I received an e-mail reply from blah-blah@suttonseeds.co.uk did I realise my foolishness.

Curses! Not so local afterall.

Perrone recommends, amongst others, the Organic Gardening Catalogue. OGC has already had a wodge of my dosh over the years what with cloches, strawberry plants, tomato seeds, onions, cold frame etc.

Generally, OGC’s seeds and plants have been a mix of okay to hopeless. Nothing but weak or poor yields from the tomatoes. The onions never sprouted. Potatoes were decent croppers though not “heavy”.
As for the strawberries, they have produced about a couple of pounds of very expensive fruit for three years. I am not expecting much this, the fourth, year.

Despite constant care and attention – heating, blankets, fertiliser, propagation from runners, the best soil and vermiculite – I cannot rate the strawberries a success.

The best – if most expensive – purchase has been of two Canadian compost tumblers. The first of these was held up in customs at Southampton for over a week for some bizarre reason. That after a production delay of a few months, I seem to recall.

Worth it.
These babies produce a good compost in as little as 6 weeks during warm weather. There is three loads from last summer sitting in the shed ready for digging in to the plot.

Dump in your grass cuttings, kitchen peelings, newspaper clippings and other organic matter; tumble once every day or so; air and nature do the rest. The worms love it.

In addition to compost, the reservoir below that houses the rollers collects the liquid draining from decomposing matter in the barrel. This “tea” is a multi-use liquid fertiliser. You can dilute it to “taste”: 1 part to 10 water according to the instructions.

Nothing in Dobies catalogue matches this unique and outstanding beast. But, then Dobies products are much cheaper.

I did miss out on a local organic supplier. Perrone also recommends no-frills seed merchants Tamar Organics from the Devon side of the river. Next year.

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