When hoarding comes in useful

By Richard Wright

Friday, March 21, 2014


When hoarding comes in useful

Brian White with one of his mystery eggs. Picture by Jennifer Burton.


TATE and Lyle’s Golden Syrup slogan, complete with a rotting lion and bees making a hive from the corpse, tells us: "Out of the strong came forth sweetness."

Well, I can tell you "out of the tin came forth usefulness" or, alternatively, "out of weakness came forth usefulness" — much more sensible slogans than Victorian silliness borne from an Old Testament tale.

The tin may contain a substance for which I have a weakness but the container is, of course, a useful and attractive vessel for storing nuts, bolts and gardening bits and bobs.

In my workshop, the tins hold the larger fixings and fastenings, standing alongside a rack of baby food tins which hold the smaller items.

But, from one of my other weaknesses comes other useful gardening objects.

Large portions of my days are stolen by things I have to do, so I do admit to buying the odd ready meal and very occasionally following the main course with the sweetness of one of those soft ice cream confections with the clear bubble top.

Now, both the main and dessert courses just recently made excellent little garden helpers.

During this early mildness, contrasting so radically with the snow we had during the same week last year, I turned my hand to using the simplest of windowsill propagators.

As a hoarder, and being from a generation born of wartime parents, I have been programmed to save things which may have a use and those containers with clear plastic tops certainly do.

Probably the most useful is a spaghetti bolognese bowl from a certain very large supermarket.

It serves as a useful adjunct to my cheap eBay plug-in propagator, which is useful for germinating and bringing-on plants, such as chillies, which appreciate warmer temperatures.

The windowsill propagator need not have drainage holes, which obviates the need for placing it on a plate or somesuch. A layer of gravel placed in it before the compost should prevent over-enthusiastic watering inundating the growing medium and encouraging rot.

Should you feel the need for drainage or ventilation holes, I find the best method to employ, although perhaps not the most environmentally friendly, is a red-hot 4ins nail — taken from my handy Tate and Lyle storage tin.

Clasped with mulgrips, the nail can be employed to melt holes through the plastic much more effectively than piercing.

Its an especially useful technique on the thin plastic cups from the office vending machine, which are so useful for my tomato plants — they are much less likely to split if the holes are burned through — and several can be done at one go.

Coupled with the paper pots made with my little machine given to me a few Christmases ago, which recycles this column among other things, I reckon I re-use more than most before I recycle.

One thing I really hate throwing away is unused seeds.

It is remarkable how long some of the larger seeds remain useable although germination success diminishes quite quickly.

I now have literally scores of packets of flower, fruit and veg seeds of many kinds, but can I find my little cache of Natsuhikari cucumbers — the one packet I really wanted to? Can I heck…

But, at least one way of giving old seeds at least a bit of a chance — if you have a bit of spare ground — is to simply broadcast them in a few weeks’ time when the soil remains moist but has warmed up a bit.

If you want to buy them, for a quick and easy colourful summer feature, sow hardy annual seed outdoors where you want them to flower. There are dozens of types to choose from including Calendula (pot marigolds), Eschscholzia (Californian poppies), Limnanthes, Lobularia and Nemophila.

Marking out irregularly shaped seedbeds and broadcasting drifts of different varieties over the soil gives a natural look. You may find it better to sow in rows in these shaped areas, as it is easier to distinguish between flower and weed seedlings, as you will know where the flowers have been sown.

For a really simple way of creating colourful annual flower borders, you could consider using Miracle-Gro Flower Magic.

It is a three-in-one mixture of premium flower seeds, slow-release Miracle-Gro plant food that feeds the plants for up to four months and coir compost.

The compost takes care of the seeds and seedlings as they grow. It absorbs water like a sponge when wetted, expanding instantly to surround the seeds in a moist, protective layer.

It then continues to care for the seedlings, providing them with water and nutrients, so they produce strong plants.

All you have to do is keep the compost moist during the germination and early growth of the seedlings and then when the established plants need further watering during the summer.

The compost changes colour when it dries out, so it is easy to see when the seedlings need watering.

The weird and the wonderful

I HAVE come across a couple of strange and unexpected tales from the garden.

Brian White, from Lushington Hill, contacted me, wondering just what he had found in his garden a few weeks ago.

Brian unearthed, just below the surface, what he thought to be duck eggs — but they were eggs without any trace of shell.

By complete co-incidence, a few days ago I was talking to a friend who kept chickens and mentioned the phenomenon to her.

It is apparently not uncommon for birds to lay shell-less eggs, which can be as a result of diet deficiency, infection or immaturity. Most commonly it is immature layers, which have not had enough calcium in their diets.

One interesting bit of trivia I remember from my youth is shells can also be dissolved in vinegar, should you wish to experiment.

But my memories of eggs and vinegar are not pretty ones. Together with the gritty cockle, I reckon pickled eggs, which used to stand on bar counters across the land, were daylight rubbery.

The second unusual occurrence is last week’s tomato 'harvest’.

Now it won’t go down as the biggest in history, but for tomatoes to survive over winter and still be edible in March in my greenhouse is not an every year occurrence. I have a to say, they tasted good and the texture was fine too.

l I am always interested to hear tips for and tales from, the garden and expecially keen to hear of new recycling ideas.

I can be reached at richryde@tiscali.co.uk or at the County Press, Brannon House, 123 Pyle Street, Newport, PO3O 1ST.

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