Yes, wolves really do change rivers

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Life / wildlife
wolf

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So wolves could be brought back to the UK.

The hope is that a natural predator will curtail Britain’s spiralling 350,000 roe deer population – even Springwatch presenter Chris Packham agrees.

This video showing the arguments for reintroducing wolves is actually pretty amazing. It shows what happened in Yellowstone National Park when wolves were brought back.

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13 ugly fruit and veg you need to eat now… and this is why

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beetroot / Brussels sprouts / cabbages / carrots / courgettes / Down the allotment / Fruit / Life / parsnips / Vegetables
odd

Did you toss aside that nobbled parsnip in the supermarket?

Probably. Picking out the best one is human nature. But the outcome of this is a lot of ugly fruit and veg going to waste each year.

The End Food Waste campaign reckons as much as 20-40% of food is chucked as a result of this, a startling figure given that 800 million are said to be hungry.

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The next generation of Boris Bikes has arrived (in Holland)

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Gardening tips
Featured Image -- 770

These recyclable cycles are made from wood. Yes, wood.

While they are currently across the pond in the land of tulips, hopefully we  shall be celebrating them soon as the next generation of environmentally-friendly Boris Bike.

What do you reckon @mayoroflondon Boris Johnson?

Green Lizard's Blog

wood you believe it?

It’s a crummy photo but there is a tree in it. Get this- there’s been a growing trend for wooden bicycles.

These particular ones are part of a bike loan scheme next to the main Dutch airport.

Bikes made of wood that you can borrow.

Many people travel a long way to work at the schipol airport from all over the country. They get to work by train but may need to make short journeys for work so the bikes are available to rent.

They don’t rust like a conventional bike. They can be biodegraded and the wheels and other metal parts reused.

That’s a cool idea.

Have you ever seen any strange materials in regular things?

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There’s a florist called ISIS

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flowers / FML / Life
flowers2

This Mother’s Day I wanted to use a local florist for my flowers.

There were a few in Orpington but most seemed to just use interflora designs – not exactly local.

So I searched a little further and found a really lovely place a mile or so away in Pett’s Wood.

Here are the flowers:

flowers

I think the blue flowers are delphinium. Pretty and a little different.

Problem was the florist was rather unfortunately called ‘ISIS’.

isis

ISIS is of course the Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and wisdom and not just the terrorist organisation.

Lovely flowers none the less.

 

Hack #2: Digging in an asparagus bed with one-year-old crowns

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Asparagus / Digging / Down the allotment / Gardening tips / Hacks / Lists / spit and bites / Vegetables
(Picture: Chaotic Gardener)

A good hack for growing asparagus is using one-year-old crowns.

This way, you can reduce the two-year wait for your first harvest in half. It is well worth the £2.49 price tag for three. Here’s an 11 stage guide for getting them in the ground.

NOTE: It was pouring with rain when I did this so apologies for the quality of some of the pictures.

1)  First get a good size area of ground

I used a 5ft wide area of ground for six crowns. I’m hoping over time these will spread into more plants. Failing that, I’ll simply plant some more later.

You’ll need to choose a nice sunny spot for them.

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The ultimate seed planting list 2015

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beetroot / Brussels sprouts / cabbages / carrots / courgettes / Fruit / Gardening tips / kale / leeks / lettuce / Lists / marrows / parsnips / peppers / Potatoes / pumpkins / red onions / rhubarb / runner beans / Spring onions / sugar snaps / tomatoes / Vegetables
plants

Are you ready for this one?

I’ve been busy with excel, some books and magazines to give you guys this ULTIMATE list of seed and sapling plant dates for vegetables and fruit.

This list takes you from January through the months to December. In terms of colour coding, blue is for planting seeds and brown in for planting saplings. Where there are two colours, it means you can do both.

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Supersize ‘Gigantomo’ tomato is the salad dish of the future

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Fruit / tomatoes
tomato

A 10-inch wide tomato is about to take the salad market by storm, apparently.

This blush red fruit, dubbed the ‘Gigantomo’, is 12 times the size of a regular tomato and can weigh up to 3lbs each.

One tomato alone can feed up to four people and a slice can fill a burger bun. And the best part is the seeds for these beasts – a variation of the beefsteak tomato – have just gone on sale in Britain ready for the summer crop.

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Listen up: Chaotic G makes a pig’s ear of a podcast. Chaos. Ha!

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FML / Gardening tips / Life
chaos

Prep is everything.

On the plot beds need a good digging in with manure, stones sieved out and the lot raked over before letting those little seeds make a home for themselves.

With prep nothing can go wrong, right?

When the Chaotic Gardener was asked to do a podcast with the fantastic Dave Ledoux for the Back To My Garden radio show in Canada, I was pretty stoked. This was going to be great fun.

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Hack #1: Using egg shells to keep seedlings warm over winter

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carrots / Down the allotment / Gardening tips / Hacks / lettuce / Spring onions / Vegetables
2014-12-07 22.16.15-1

This week I’m starting a new section of this blog looking at gardening hacks.

I’ll be recycling everyday household objects and showing you how to use them to replace expensive items from your local hardware store.

Not only is this better for the environment but you will hopefully be able to save a lot of money with these simple tricks.

So, first up is my simple egg shell hack.

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My pepper is black: Something isn’t right…

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Down the allotment / peppers / Vegetables
(Picture: Chaotic Gardener)

Apologies for the late post on this one… the pepper plant has now succumbed to the weather but I’m writing about this now as I’m still scratching my head over it.

This year my pepper plants were planted a little late, and on this particular plant this pepper started to grow black.

Now last year my pepper plants started to get a little black around the stems late on – due to phytophthora blight. This means no nutrients or water can get up the stems and eventually the plant wilted and died. An entirely normal pepper plant problem.

Also, I’ve heard that on joints the blackness could be canker caused by fungus fusarium, which can turn the fruit black and mushy.I don’t think this is the case with this beauty. This black pepper isn’t mushy and was black from the moment it formed as a tiny bud. It then just kept growing. There is also no other blackness forming on the plant.

I’m thinking of submitting this one to BBC Gardeners’ Question Time. Until then, anyone have any clues what it might be?

 

Black Friday: Best of Amazon’s early Christmas sales – gardening edition

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Digging / Down the allotment / Fashion / Gardening tips / Life / Lists / Wellington boots / Wishlist
amazon

One year a woman actually got tasered by a fellow shopper during the Black Friday sale – so we’re thinking the best way to get this year’s Christmas sale deals is to shop online.

The good news is that Amazon has already opened up its online sale – so I’ve been having a good look at some of the best things on offer for down the allotment.

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Kale and goat cheese pearl barley: Cook it for £1.52 like a true Guardianista

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kale / leeks / Recipes / red onions / Vegetables
(Picture: Chaotic Gardener)

All you quinoa Guardianistas out there – you’ll LOVE this kale, leek and goat cheese pearl barley dish.

My kale is looking pretty voluptuous at the moment so I’ve taken off a few leaves – along with one leek, an onion, a bit of thyme and some garlic – to turn it into this hearty meal, perfect for a cold winter night.

It is also pretty cheap if you are using allotment ingredients. Pearl barley – a great winter alternative to risotto – is a snip extra at 55p for 500g at Tesco, and other items are mostly larder staples. Goat cheese is – although a little more expensive – well worth it for the flavour and texture of the finished meal at £1.45 for 125g from Tesco.

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Behold the first piece of Chaotic Gardener merchandise

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Fashion / Life / Wishlist
(Picture: Zazzle)

Ladies and gents I give you this amazing new mug – rather smartly emblazoned with the chaotic gardener artwork.

Greg Becker, the wonderful artist who created the chaotic gardener artwork, added the design yesterday so fellow erratic dirt thrusters can guzzle their coffee in true style.

Get it here at Zazzle for £13.95.

I rather like the design with the green handle – definitely adding it to my Christmas wishlist this year.

And anyone curious about Greg’s work – here is his website Plot 52. He literally can do ANYTHING (specialises in allotment art obvs) so if you have a request drop him a line.

Woodchips for my fruit area: A great way to control weeds

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Down the allotment / Fruit / Gardening tips / weeds
(Picture: Chaotic Gardener)

On the plot they’ve had a good clear out of trees.

This is to make way for a brand new fence on the outer perimeter of the plot in a bid to keep the vegetable thieves well and truly OUT (carrot pinchers are a big problem at my allotment). This is being funded using a lottery grant of just under £10,000 they won this year.

The immediate upshot of this is a whole pile of woodchips – the remnants of the trees hacked down – for everyone on the allotment to use on their plots.

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Chaotic Gardener has launched a Facebook page

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Down the allotment / Life
facebook

Check out my new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thechaoticgardener

It’s all a bit work in progress but I’m hoping it will make it easier to keep up with the best of my blog posts (filter out all the mundane sh*t:-) Ha!) Hopefully if you like what you see – you’ll hit the ‘like’ button to follow my daily ramblings.

I’ve also got a Twitter page here at https://twitter.com/chaoticgardener

As usual I’m keen to hear any feedback so drop me a line on thechaoticgardener@gmail.com if you have any thoughts (or post in the comments section below).

You’ve been peeling carrots wrong your whole life: THIS is how to peel one

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carrots / Gardening tips / Life / Lists / Recipes / Vegetables
(Picture: Imgur)

Apparently we’ve all been peeling our carrots the wrong way all our lives.

If you – like myself – have always adopted the downward swipe to remove the dirty peel off your carrot you’re doing it wrong.

The way to do it properly is down AND up as you rotate the veg around.

Thinking about it logically here, I’ve always had a bit of a sore thumb when peeling carrots in the past. Probably from the pressure of pushing. Who knew you were actually meant to pull up as well?

Here is one neat five-step explainer:

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Christmas Wish List: Chaotic Gardener’s 18 BEST Wellington Boots (2014 edition)

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Digging / Down the allotment / Fashion / Life / Lists / Wellington boots / Wishlist
welly

This Christmas I’m going to be paying extra attention to my friends’ and family’s wriggling pink toes. It is the perfect Christmas gift; not only will they be excellent for down the allotment – you can also use them at festivals, hikes and splashing around in the mud and so forth.

Question is – which pair? Here’s my definitive guide to the best wellies out there at the moment.

1) Juju Wellies Parrot (top left), Duck (top right), and Juju Miller boots (bottom left and right) all around £40 each

(Picture: Juju)

(Picture: Juju)

When I was looking for the price on these I was expecting hundreds of pounds for sheer artistic genius (there is a rhino in the collection as well)… so when the price came back as a mere forty quid for the parrot boot my little heart leapt.

These boots are all limited edition from a stockist in Northampton…  I can’t wait for the next collection ♥ ♥ ♥

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Can you guess which Premier League football club just started an allotment? (BEHIND their stadium)

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Down the allotment / Life
(Picture: Aston Villa)

Love this. A FOOTBALL club has just started its own allotment.

Aston Villa has bought an acre of land behind Villa Park stadium to grow fruit and vegetables.

The idea is that players pick the produce so the club’s chefs can cook them up to keep the footballers going during training.

Younger players in the club’s academy will also get the chance to have a go in the kitchens as part of the scheme.

One of their young stars Jack Grealish has taken a particular fancy to the fresh veg.

(Picture: Flickr/ Ben Sutherland)

Jack Grealish in action (Picture: Flickr/ Ben Sutherland)

The 19-year-old has been posing with carrots, radishes and pumpkins to showoff the allotment to their fans.

Aston Villa is the first club in the Premier League to get a plot – let’s hope more follow.

First frost of the season! Excellent news for sloe gin swillers

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foraging / Fruit / Gardening tips / sloes
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Finally managed to crank on the heating last night because it was brrrrrr freezing cold.

Turns out that was because this morning we’ve woken to FROST. The tiny crystals of frozen water were everywhere at about 6.30am when I hotfooted it outside in my PJs to try and catch the binman before he zipped off (I failed).

But this isn’t just any frost… it is the first frost of the season. This means for all those gin swillers out there it is time to get out and start picking the sloe berries ready for next year batch of sloe gin.

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Make your own easy marmalade: Get those kumquats ready…

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Fruit / kumquats / marmalade / oranges / Recipes
2013-10-30 14.33.44

I scoured the shops looking for kumquats to make kumquat marmalade this year… and failed.

So I’ve made orange marmalade instead. For those who do find kumquats a) please tell me WHERE pls and b) you can substitute all the oranges in the recipe below by the same weight in kumquats and two oranges instead.

NOTE: Next year I’m definitely growing a kumquat tree… so watch this space.

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I had a fire and set my allotment alight

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Burning / Down the allotment / Gardening tips
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Today I rebuilt my fire area – because, being a complete moron, I set the last one alight.

How does one manage that? Well, let me tell you: NEVER set fire to hawthorns in a metal fire bin placed next to a huge pile of wood.

And… don’t use a nice square pallet to rest your bin on. It may look smart but it will – and did – catch alight. Luckily my neighbour had a spare watering can so I could extinguish the flames before it raged further out of control.

This, reader, was the remnants:

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Pumpkin pie: Simple dessert for the same price as a G&T

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desserts / pumpkins / Recipes
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Like deep-fried Mars bars and Turkish baklava, pumpkin pie has always been one of those baffling desserts that I’m surprised actually tastes good.

When I baked it for my brother he scoffed three-quarters of the pie in one sitting, so I think that was a pretty good endorsement – despite comparing it to ‘cold pumpkin soup’.

And with a rough cost of £2.30 in total, this recipe is one that will only set you back the price of a cheap G&T on a night out (probably cheaper actually).

The perfect dish to try with all those allotment pumpkins – simple yet different.

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Dirty fingernails: Best autumn nailpolish to cover DIRT

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Digging / Fashion / Life
(Picture: Amy Willis)

It’s digging time again and my fingernails are laden pretty much constantly with a layer of soil.

Nailbrushes and hand soap (love Wild Rose by Baylis and Harding) can only do so much so here is my tip – a thick layer of nail polish.

My favourite this autumn is Essie – Meet Me at Sunset for it’s thick red orange lacquer. Completely manages to cover the dirt and it lasts ages (minimal chipping after a good dig). It costs £7.99 from Boots.

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23 carrots acting like jerks

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carrots / Digging / Down the allotment / Lists / Vegetables
(Picture: Imgur)

WARNING: Graphic carrots

I’ve been pulling up a number of odd-shaped carrots this year because I completely failed to give my beds a proper digging to loosen up the soil.

The result? You tend to get carrots acting, well, like jerks.

The solution is to make sure you properly spit and bite dig as described at length in the upcoming book. Until then, check out this short blog post here.

Here are a few more carrots acting like arseholes.

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Recipe: Creamy pumpkin soup for under £1

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pumpkins / Recipes / red onions / Soup
amy1

With my first giant pumpkin harvested (seeds via Victoriana Nursery Gardens) it’s time for some recipes. First one this year is my creamy pumpkin soup recipe for under £1.

Homegrown pumpkins (Picture: Amy Willis)

Homegrown pumpkins (Picture: Amy Willis)

The only additional ingredients from the shop are double cream (68p for 170ml from Ocado), a flick of olive oil (£1.49 for 250ml) and some stock cubes (95p for 12). Salt and black pepper for seasoning.

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Spit and bite digging: Thrash your inner ferret

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Digging / Down the allotment / Gardening tips / Lists / spit and bites
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Rough guide to spit and bite digging. Get ready for some serious pain.

1) Decide where you want to dig. TIP: Choose something small at first – 5ft by 5ft is about right.

2) Collect your tools.Wheelbarrow, gloves, spade, fork, trowel, rake, weeding tub, kneeler pad, sieve if you have one.

3) If the area has weeds on it, fork the soil loose and gather up the weeds using your trowel, kneeler pad and weeding tub. This will save doing it as you dig later. TIP: If you have compost you’ve been rotting down, layer it on top of the bed after weeding so it gets properly dug in
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Check out today’s veggie HAUL

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beetroot / carrots / courgettes / Down the allotment / Gardening tips / marrows / pumpkins / red onions / runner beans / sugar snaps / Vegetables
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Freaking love this time of year. Here’s today’s haul:

As you can see the pumpkins have ballooned (and are still expanding), courgettes and marrows are bustin’ out, plus the runner beans and sugar snaps are ready for the plucking.

There’s also still beetroot, kale, red onions, carrots and even a bit of rhubarb if you are lucky.

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A new shed: Part one – laying a PROPER base this time

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Digging / Down the allotment / Gardening tips / Lists
My new shed (Picture: Amy Willis)

After the demise of the last rotten shed – which is still lying in a heap on my plot – it was time to take proper action.

I still didn’t want to spend a small fortune on buying one new – so I found this one on eBay for £150 plus it was £50 for a van to pick it up (and the help of my brother Jack).

First I laid the base. I opted for concrete slabs this time – which turn out to be very expensive. You could choose concrete but that to me sounds like trouble. As mentioned before wooden pallets are an option – but a poorly prepped stack of wood was partly to blame for the failure of my last shed so I avoided it this time.

Here is my rough guide:

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Dyed my hair an Autumnal shade of red

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Fashion / Life
5red5

It’s bloody freezing outside on the plot so I’m trying anything to keep warm.

Cue bright orange hair colour experiment… and I think it kind of works.

Excuse the drunkenness in the pic – my friend Betty (pictured) and her boyfriend Bone (far left) had a fleeting visit to London from Hong Kong so we had a bit of a night in the dingiest pub going (note mold top left of image).

I gave Jim on the allotment a bit of a fright with the electric orange the next day – so I hope I’ve not gone too mad with the shade. It was meant to be a light auburn like Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks but I may be edging a little too Charlie Dimmock. Hmm.

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RIP My shed: Old girl succumbs to bout of wind

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Down the allotment / Shed
(Picture: Amy Willis)

Today I mourn the lose of my shed.

This wasn’t unexpected, the poor girl had been coming apart for a while.

The door failed to attach from the start because it was too badly warped by the weather and the metal hinges wouldn’t line up.

Door was too warped to be attached (Picture: Amy Willis)

The door was too warped to be attached (Picture: Amy Willis)

Then she was ridiculed by my brother who told me the wood was rotten already and was beyond repair (I soldiered on regardless). He also laughed at my makeshift pallet platform – which I have to admit wasn’t exactly straight and was a little wobbly *sad face*.

In a bid to fix her, I attached some string across the inside (see below image). Read More