For someone who is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle I have a guilty secret. I have a terrible track record for plastic bag hording. It was a great move by the Irish Government when we lived in Dublin to charge 15c for each plastic bag and they should do the same here in Northern Ireland. But because I am the most disorganized waster in the world (and they’re free as well) we come back from the shop with a couple of plastic bags from each trip.
The plastic bags sit in the corner condemning me as I past, pointing their fingers and taunting me about my lack of sustainable skills. So I feel the need to do something good with them. A few weeks ago (until I lost the blue plastic needle I was using) I decided to melt the plastic bags together to strengthen them and turn them into mini grow bags. Then I misplaced the needle and growbag production stopped. But yesterday I found the needle and finished one off.
I’m not sure if it will work. Did I put enough compost in?Will the plastic let in too much light that will mess up the roots?But it’s eased my conscience a bit.
This morning I sat in a coffee shop on Botanic Avenue and tried to work out a plan for growing rocket and other salads. Even using a very rough calculation it would be worth my while to spend a day thinking about this.
I would say on average we spend £1.50 on salad at St George’s Market or the Co-Op. Then most weeks the rocket or oriental salad is half eaten and thrown in the brown bin.
If we take £1.50 x 52 weeks that equals £78 a year on salad.
Which if you earned £7 an hour would be nearly 11hrs of work.
Plus the plastic packaging that is thrown out, and the salad that is thrown out.
But alas, there are a few problems that I need to iron out if I want to grow some salad.
1. Our garden and yard is shade central. It’s a narrow garden, with a high fence, with big trees behind that fence, and facing the wrong way finally finished off by a our house which blocks the sun for most of the day.
Basically there are only a few places that would be sheltered from the wind and sunny.
2 We rent a house that has garden with big shrubs and bushes planted in those parts of the garden you would like to plant beetroot or kale in. As we’re only going to be renting for a few more years at most I don’t think it would be right to ask to dig up the bushes for the sake of a few kale or beetroot.
3 I have little desire for the yearly slug fight. We need to build some type of slug fortress or else the slugs can have my rocket.
4 I am basically full of good intentions, but don’t want to exert maximum effort to obtain results. The salad growing operation needs to be easy.
5 We have a lack of decent soil.
6 I can not get a handle on sowing every few weeks to make sure that there is a constant supply of salad. Usually there is a one morning in April sowing and that is it. So I need to make it easy to get into the pattern of planting.
So basically I have sketched out an idea that I think might work involving a black plastic bin that I have been using for compost and an idea I saw a few years back at Greenbelt. The charity Send-a-Cow had bag garden kits. I was wondering it I could do it with my black plastic bin, provided it is strong enough to hold soil while full of holes. That is a job for tomorrow sorted out then
I’m trying to grow some winter salad for the first time so yesterday afternoon in almost perfect gardening conditions (not hot, not cold, not windy) I filled pots with compost and went sowing winter purslane, corn Salad, Bergamo lettuce and rocket.
I reckon I might have left it too late but we’ll see how we get on. Sure its only an experiment.
Flat leaf parsley (pictured above) and Tom Thumb lettuce are happy at the moment after a summer in which neither rocket or lettuce wanted to grow.
A combination of extreme disorganistion from yours truly, crap compost and of course the resident slug population who appeared only to happy to eat my seedlings contributed to this lack of salad production. Slugs have already taken out my first sowing of winter purslane with deadly precision, an attack I knew would come but still made no effort to prevent.
Its time to face facts. I want to grow as much produce at home as I can yet I don’t have the inclination to fight slugs. So what am I to do?
I think the trick will be to have the plants where no slug can reach. Slugs can’t fly so it will have to be up some type of tower that they can’t reach. Also slugs don’t like copper so perhaps that could be used in the battle of the slug. Slugs don’t like sharp, pointy things so it will be on something they don’t like crawling over.
Its time to construct an anti slug fortress…
The garden has been a bit of a failure, but I take comfort in the fact that it was an experimental year to see what could be grown. One thing I wanted to try and grow is tomatoes, preferably outdoor tomatoes. I bought two varieties, Roma and Principe Borghese. The Roma fell by the wayside long ago but the six Pricipe Borghese are still hanging in there and over the last few weeks tomatoes have been forming.Hopefully they’ll make it.
The plan is to try and make some jars of sun-dried tomatoes, which should be a right laugh what with the sun taking its annual trip overseas – but we’re still on course
Meanwhile in the wild patch over the fence blackberries are ripening and there seems to be a lot of them this year hanging over the fence, ready for the taking. Think I’ll take them in small batches as they appear and freeze for the winter months.
Thats the sweetest type of food in my opinion, the ‘free from nature without any work from you’ type of food.