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Allotment reloaded - Revenge of the Frankencarrots

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With the year end approaching, it’s time to reflect on what went well and what went badly in the allotment in the last season, try to learn from your mistakes and do better next year. Programmes featuring celebrity gardeners like Alan Titchmarsh make gardening appear easy, and you might think that all fruit and vegetables turn out perfectly as planned. The reality is that gardening, especially edible gardening, is hard work and there are lots of mistakes and failures along the way. In this blog I’m going to concentrate mostly on the failures and see what we can learn from them. I’ve divided this year’s plantings into five categories: Turned out perfectly with minimal effort Turned out well but could do even better next year The jury’s still out; too soon to say Turned out badly but may be salvageable next year if I do things differently; Complete waste of time: don’t bother even trying that again Turned out perfectly with minimal effort Onions, potatoes, rhubarb a

The care and use of toxic plants

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First an important announcement: DO NOT TRY ANY OF THESE TECHNIQUES AT HOME, OR ANYWHERE ELSE. YOU WILL PROBABLY END UP DEAD. IN FACT, TO BE ABSOLUTELY SAFE, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER. That’s the legal stuff taken care of, so now I’d like to explain what this post is about and why I’m writing it. It’s not about herbal medicine in the conventional sense. Most reputable herbalists wouldn’t touch most of these plants with a proverbial barge pole because they’re too toxic and/or illegal. I suspect that a lot of mainstream herbal medicine works by a combination of counselling and aromatherapy, and before I get a lot of angry emails from herbalists, I want to make it clear that I’m not being disparaging. Many of my patients in my family medical practice come to me because they are stressed, anxious or depressed. The best thing for them would probably be a sympathetic ear and a harmless but nice smelling herbal concoction. However, I am afraid I am terribly bad at this sort of thing. (“Wife left

Internet addiction

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  By Michael Mandiberg – Addicted to the Internet, CC BY-SA 2.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79520362 You may have noticed that my posts here have been a bit light recently – only four in the last 12 months – and to explain why, I would like to tell you about a surreal online experience I had about a year ago. I was on a mainstream news website when a moderately interesting article caught my eye and I posted a brief comment about it. I can’t remember what either the article or my comment were about, except that neither of them were particularly important. The point is, it drew a swift and angry response from another poster who I will call Angry Woman. I was puzzled by this because I thought my post was quite innocuous, so out of interest I looked up Angry Woman’s profile to see what I had done to annoy her. Her profile indicated that she had posted 37,000 comments on that website alone (by comparison, I had posted about eight). My jaw literally dropped. 37,000? Rea

Allotment Reloaded - The Mistakes Edition

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Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I acquired an allotment this time last year – a 30×100 foot plot of land rented from a local farmer for the purpose of growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. You will also know that one reason I decided to do this – apart from the fact that it’s enjoyable for its own sake – is because I can foresee food shortages in the years ahead, so learning how to grow your own food is a sort of insurance policy. So I’m trying to prove to myself and my family that it is possible to grow a significant proportion of your own food yourself. Or maybe I’ll prove that it’s not possible, depending on how things work out. If you are going to try growing food, now is the time to start, because you are going to make lots of mistakes to begin with, and it’s better to get your mistakes out of the way while they don’t matter than to depend on a food crop for survival and then have it fail because of something simple you did wrong. I made a ton of mis

Predictions for 2020 (and beyond)

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Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister for the next five years As the winter solstice and the season of Yule approach, bloggers like me start to peer into the murky waters of the future and try to make predictions for the year ahead, so here are mine for 2020 (and beyond). To start with, as per my predictions this time last year, we live in an unstable world at which anything could happen at any time to upset the status quo.  It would only take one mentally unstable head of state to start lobbing missiles at another, and to be honest, I don’t have any particular head of state in mind because there are too many potential candidates in the field.  Just choose your least favourite deranged head of state and let your imagination do the rest. But assuming that doesn’t happen in the next 12 months, we can get some insight into the way things are going by looking at the outcome of the British general election which took place on 12 November this year.  As you may know, the result was a landsli