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Archive for the ‘Monty Don’ Category

First we heard that Monty is taking a few weeks out from presenting BBC2’s ‘Gardeners World’ and then we hear that Monty has had a minor stroke and is stepping down from his role as lead presenter.

A statement from Monty Don himself shows the attitude which as placed him number 1 on our list of ‘celebrity gardeners’. Monty Don is a fighter. We admire how he has taken the decision to concentrate on his recovery. He will surely succeed.

“I am proud to have led GW for the past five years and have enjoyed every minute of sharing my passion with the programme’s viewers.

I intend to take some gardening leave for the rest of the summer to make a full recovery and so that I am ready to tackle new projects.”

Of course we wish him well and if you want to send him your best wishes you can email them to gwletters@bbc.co.uk. The Gardeners world site says that they will ensure that your messages are passed on to Monty.

So Gardeners World will be headed by another – i cant imagine who can fill Monty’s shoes. I find myself wandering out the room or flicking the remote when any of the other presenters come on.

Gardeners World has a tradition of having down to earth gardeners presenters – Jeff and Percy looked like they could handle a spade and did so regularly. I hope the new lead presenter is as passionate and as practically minded as the others.

We’ll check our diaries, we might have a slot on a Friday night at 8!

Best of luck to Monty

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Wilko’s has an excellent sale on seeds, 75% off!

We went yesterday, it must be a popular place with allotment folk.  We saw 3 other plot holders hanging about in wilkos whilst we were there.

They also have 75% off of seed trays.  One of the other plot holders said soon they knock all the gardening stuff down to 75% off.

We bought :  Sweet Pea Blue Velvet  44p was 1.79

                        Sweetcorn miracle  37p was 1.49

                        Exhibition onions  81p was 3.25

                        Echinecea 54p was 2.19

                        Calendula   39p was 1.59

                        Courgette   62p was 2.49

We are off up  there again today as we didnt know until we got to the till that there was 75% off.       

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Not being a religious person, nor one who celebrates Easter I spent a lot of this weekend up the allotment. It was wonderful, warm and peaceful.

One of our friends very kindly spent his good Friday loading up a big trailer of manure and met me up the allotment.

When I arrived there was nobody there. I was glad of this as I felt really guilty for having such a mountain of manure.. I wanted to quickly get in and get it on the plot.

We all have the same problem, up our allotments, crap soil and all desperately need manure.  I am very lucky to have a friend who is friends with a guy who has a large supply of manure.  We are able to get it free, just have to pick it up. We usually do this in a large builders bag. The thing is I know everybody on the allotment needs as much manure as possible. We have left the other plot holders small piles and will try to give them some each time we pick some up, but its not enough to make a difference, we all need shit loads!. I would love to be able to get them all more free manure but its a bit cheeky if I tell them I can get it as its only because my friend is good friend with this guy who has the manure. I don’t even know the guy, so can’t go asking if he would mind supplying all of us, as he usually sells it like a lot of farmers/stable owners.  Anyways what I’m saying is I very quickly shovelled the manure onto the plot and saved a load in a wooden crate that my friend had picked up, ready to give to the other plot holders. Not before two lovely ladies appeared and both commented on our lovely manure as if it was a huge chocolate cake: ooh that looks lovely, smells wonderful. I felt really greedy with my manure mountain, those two ladies are first on the list for a visit from the poo fairies in the morning.

We already have put lots of manure on our soil but it still needs loads more, we are so lucky to be able to have a free supply but I’m starting to feel a little bad for having it……Night time muck spreading is in need I reckon. And continue to leave as many piles as we can spare for others in need.

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When we are at the allotment sowing seeds, we tend to use a few from the packets and are left with the trouble of storing the ones we save.

We found the packets tend to get muddy and wet.  Whenthat happens we just dry the seeds out and pop them in these handy little seed envelopes.

You can make them by right clicking on the picture,  saving  and printing off when you need them.

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This 2006 article from the Observer Magazine entitled ‘Greener Gardens’ explains why Monty Don believes that urban gardeners/allotmenteers are at the forefront of the fight against super-market control of the food-chain. He also warns us to be cynical of the constant stream of ‘new’ plant varieties.

He reckons that we should ‘dig for sanity’ – ok I will!

Over to Monty…

We can all do our bit for the environment in 2006 … take cuttings, buy local plants, make compost and grow our own food. The battle for the earth is in your garden, says Monty Don.

It was 10 years ago that I last wrote a New Year column for New Year’s Day. Normally the pegs that we weekly columnists hang things on veer a little one side or other of publication day. But today, bull’s-eye. I guess most people will have bleary heads but I usually go to bed sober and early on New Year’s Eve and treat New Year’s Day as the first working day of the year. This is not Puritanism but relief. I use the period between Christmas and New Year to potter about, think and completely change my mindset. In that easy no-man’s-land between Boxing Day and New Year, loins are girded and mettle readied. It is time, as we voyagers bid farewell to the old year, to fare forward.
But there is an inevitable taking stock of the year that has just slipped away. I gardened less in 2005 than I have done since 1992. For every gardener there is a minimum level of engagement that is needed to sustain and develop the relationship. There is no magic figure to this and it will vary from person to person and season to season, but it is there. I need around 10 hours a week spread across no less than three days. Less than that and I lose the plot, in every sense.

It might be down to this comparative lack of private, untelevised, unpaid horticulture, but I have been less interested in plants this year and much more fascinated by stone, wood and the spaces between plants. This is influenced by the Welsh hill farm we bought in the summer, but also a slight lack of engagement has meant that I have looked more objectively, finding simplicity and natural forms equally attractive. Many gardens are hijacked by their plants and end up looking like a room overstuffed with furniture.

I have also found myself increasingly irritated by the constant celebration of ‘new’ plants, the vast majority of which are produced to try and stimulate flagging sales. Although no one figure is agreed upon, there are between 250,000 and 420,000 plant species in the world. The RHS Plant Finder (Dorling Kindersley, £12.99) quotes 72,000 named plants, most of which are bred varieties. Clearly no garden begins to use more than a tiny fraction of these. Is there really a call for more – especially when their aesthetic worth is often contentious, to say the least?

A friend of mine was at a conference recently where growers were crowing about the development of a new clematis. Its claim to fame was that it would stack and therefore be cheaper to transport and display. You can bet that the horticultural trade will launch this marvellous ‘new’ plant next spring as a vital addition to our gardens. It is junk horticulture, I’m afraid, and one is right to be deeply suspicious and cynical about it. Collect your own seeds and take your own cuttings. Swap these with friends and neighbours who have done likewise. Some ‘new’ plants will inevitably occur – for free. Growing plants offers twice the pleasure of caring for already-grown ones. And if you must buy mature plants – as sometimes we all must -buy local. Support local nurseries and buy plants that have a human connection and which you know have been raised in similar conditions to your garden.

This year will bring gardeners ever more to the front line of environmental issues. After all, the effects of climate change work most immediately in the back garden. For at least 10 years I have been trying to get television interested in doing a serious but watchable magazine programme about the environment. It has so far met with endless rebuffs. The irony is that gardening – with attendant programmes, and articles – is unavoidably moving into that territory.

There is a range of issues to consider, from sourcing local plants, not using peat, generating wind and solar power for our greenhouses, to fossil fuels used by strimmers and mowers, to composting and, most vitally of all, growing our own, local food.

This is – or damn well should be – the age of the allotment. We need to Dig for Sanity. There is, rightly, a lot of hostility to the way that supermarkets operate a food tyranny pumping out bland, uniform products with little respect for health, taste or provenance and killing local growers and shops in the process – despite the occasional cheeky young chappie brought in to sanitise their image. But small shops are growing. Farmers’ markets are particularly successful in cities, and for the first time since the war it is reckoned that vegetable seeds will outstrip flower seeds in 2006.

The importance of this is the empowerment that it gives people, however small or seemingly insignificant their gardens might be. If you can grow anything edible, be it running multiple allotments (this summer I visited a man in Nottingham who had had nine on the go at one time, but at 76 he was now restricted to three crammed with superb vegetables) or a pot by the back door, you can step off the remorseless food treadmill. It is surprising how liberating this is. A few lettuces, nectarines, spuds or artichokes suddenly free you up. You don’t have to knuckle under the brutal supermarket regime. Once you engage with the simple enough business of feeding yourself, of soil and water, weather, season and harvest, it becomes personal. It is about you, your family and friends. Food becomes an aspect of those relationships as well as your intimacy with your plot.

I prefer to garden and eat organically, but I would rather have really good non-organic food that is raised and sold locally by people I know than impeccable organic credentials raised as a cynical marketing exercise and distributed in a mass, indiscriminate way. If you know where something has come from, it suddenly has meaning. It does not have to be food, either. These mass-produced ‘new’ plants are simply a floral version of junk food; your own seeds, gathered in a brown envelope, modestly but carefully grown and shared with friends, are always going to be the real thing.

I am more convinced than ever that the way to challenge the global hegemonies is through small, local action. It makes no sense at all to put your trust in politicians of any hue, who are hopeless in these matters. Likewise, I suggest being wary of all organisations, even the seemingly good ones. They can – perhaps almost inevitably do – become corrupted. I think individual action working within a loosely linked social consensus is the way to combat the clunky global destruction that has steamrollered out unchecked over the past 50 years.

The garden is the place for this to happen. It is beautifully simple and modest. Gardens are now the front line of the environment, of climate, of food and, I would argue, of some kind of social sanity. I have no illusions that this will change much, but then again it does not have to. A lot of little change will do more to transform society than grand, but almost invariably empty, political gestures. Very small is very beautiful.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,11913,1674978,00.html

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Monty Don gave a passionate rousing call for people from all walks of life to take up the allotment life on tonight’s Gardener’s World.

Its not just old Arthur Fowler types who have allotments nowadays.

Allotments have a long history in Britain and are part of our shared social history. Allotments were heavily promoted and used during World War 2. People were encouraged to take up allotments as part of the war effort, food was becoming scarcer and rations were introduced.

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Allotmenteers have the opportunity to be part of a community, something perhaps many young (and also not so young) people in the UK would benefit from. Many allotment sites have a rich social life and take shared responsibility for decision making about the allotment sites.

Also there are many weird and wonderful veg competitions you can enter – largest carrot, longest leek, tastiest jam and all that. A slice of British life that is declining…

Allotmenteering can be fun and it is a hobby or way of life that does not have to involve huge amounts of cash. Hidden amongst our blogs are tips and demonstrations of this philosophy. For example why you must scavenge in skips and how to have a laugh when sweeping leaves.

Don’t forget benefits to mental, physical and ‘spiritual’ health.

Allotment sites are diminishing in number for various reasons including the bullying housing developers and the local authority’s need for cash, but also because WE NEED MORE ALLOTMENTEERS. Your country needs you so, what are you waiting for…..

This Habitat Action Plan for Allotments, gives a thorough discussion of why allotments are in decline, the benefits of allotments, the legislative context and an action plan for halting their decline. All argued from an organic and wildlife promoting stance. Have a read if you need more convincing or if you need more motivation (wink)…..

If not, watch tonight’s BBC Gardener’s World. It had us both jumping off the sofa, waving our fists in the air, proclaiming “Go on Monty – you tell ‘em -everyone should have an allotment!”

A factsheet for the episode can be found on the BBC Gardeners World website.

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We really like Monty Don. Here is what he says about his experience of coping with depression and of course gardening, as recalled to the Daily Telegraph

“My technique for coping with depression is shaky at best and decidedly ineffective half the time, but The first thing I do is to get outside. It doesn’t matter what weather or time of year it is, it is essential to go out of doors. Just walking is good but doing something is better. Gardening is the obvious thing, but it has to be a clearly defined, simple project, like weeding a particular bed or planting out some trays of seedlings. Whatever you do must be specific and modest in ambition. The idea is to forget about yourself and concentrate on the doing.

When things are very bad, I can’t do much but I do physically fight it. This last winter, I spent a week concentrating on keeping my head up. Sounds silly, but it took all my energy and it worked. Holding my head up made me look out, whereas everything longed just to drop forward and look down. The world makes one sad and angry, but the only cause of depression is yourself. So all the obvious things to make you like yourself do actually help. I cut my hair, take exercise, shave, make an effort to wear nice clothes. These things can be hard and appear hopelessly superficial, but they do help.

And best of all is to have someone who loves you.”

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