Tuesday, 3 September 2013

'What NOT to grow' - the perfect pitch for my debut book.

You'll be glad to hear, once I move, I've decided to write a book. I think I'll do this whilst I acclimatise to 'clement' weather and the novelty of things growing upright,  I think, I might call it
'What not to grow'.

A kind of technical manual of everything that can and often DOES actually happen when you try and grow your own food. You know a kind of 'tricks of the trade' type of thing, to get folks really in the know. No glossy images of abundant produce and me swooshing about in a frock looking ravenous. Heaven forbid, it will just be a candid catalogue of the usual disasters, sorry I mean adventures, which happen to us all when we embark on growing our own food.

The gritty gripping facts and handy hints, like......

  • Soil management and crop rotation, a holistic approach to chasing vegetables around your plots in order to keep them in tip top shape. Kinda like suduko or noughts and crosses, but for veggies.

  • Help with seed buying addictions and where to source 'unusual things' on the QT. How everybody does it, and how to effectively hide your seed mountain.

  • The best way to label absolutely everything before the writing fades from the indelible pens or your loved ones gather them up and give you them back in case you forgot/dropped them, out there in the soil.

  • How to precisely schedule growing far too many types of tasty things to fit in your plots and how to help your partner to plan your holiday just as they're all really needing attention.

  • Shallots, how to avoid growing as many ever again, whilst they're pretty, they're darn hard to peel. Buy onion sets next year or good places to find a more willing chef for your homestead.

  • How to get the best of your indeterminate tomatoes before they strangle you and turn your greenhouse into sleeping beauties palace and other impenetrable varieties recommended for the new greenhouse and polytunnel owner.

  • Dealing with over enthusiastic courgettes, from first fruit emergence to, oh no, now they're marrows. And, what to do when people don't let you in their houses with your plentiful harvests ever again.

  • Trying to capture beetroots before they bolt, the use of chicken wire and home made battery chargers to coax them into staying and growing into plump beets instead of purple string.

  • Keeping coriander alive - myth or legend, do those flat plump leaves you've heard of actually exist when feathery foliage is all your plants will produce before they rampage to seed.

  • Raising runner beans and other legumes for gastropods - snail fodder extraordinaire or the stuff of slug feasting legends. Coaxing these shy single footed gorgeous creatures into your plots forever and keeping them happy.

  • Growing a diverse variety of brassicas in order to improve the butterfly and caterpillar diversity in your patch.

  • Filling your wheelbarrow sufficiently to ensure you topple over in front of an audience. Always best done when clean and just popping out for five minutes before you leave for somewhere posh. Or with very smelly/wet (or both) stuff in the barrow for maximum effect.

  • Dealing with potatoes, a guide to the best varieties for blights, scabs, droughts and keeled slugs - what to really hope for when you decide to grow acres this noble tuber.

  • Lettuces and salad crops for the discerning rabbit and pigeon. Making sure you get it right for your fluffy and feathered friends.

  • Raising carrot fly - why umbels is the perfect fodder for anything flying below 18 inches and tips on attracting, just the right cankers.

  • Choosing the right varieties of peas for mice, voles and shrews and when to sow them as their families have just expanded to ensure a good take up of the seed bed.

  • Biomass from turnips (Swedish and traditional), how to turn these handy roots into wood fit for a biomass generator or home wood stove in three easy steps from sowing to sawing.

  • Persisting with parsnips and parsley - shy seeds or just canny germinators. Playing the perfect game of hide and seek with hard to germinate seeds, a game of steel nerves and patience.

  • Growing the perfect berries to both serrate your skin and colour your hands and the entire kitchen and all tea towels colanders and implements nearby, various shades of pink, purple and red.

  • Storing your produce and how to build walls and whole villages out of the ones which worked and you more than likely are sick of the most, post harvest.

  • How to knit with spinach and other leafy veggies - there's only so much a person can actually eat.

  • Training your dog and children and local cats to use your raised beds for dancing as a soil improving technique.

  • Swiss chard, great for home grown kids crayons, better than eating the tasty soap filled stems.

  • Setting the polarity of your greenhouse and cold frames up just right to attract balls and other low flying objects.

  • Losing tools, how best to hide your favourite items mere minutes before you need them. With an additional optional supplement on the best techniques to tangle yourself in a pea net, tying yourself up in garden twine and several handy methods to safely let your family and loved ones blunt your secateurs just before pruning fruit bushes.

  • And my personal favourite, how NOT to water. A guide to bathing yourself against your will in public with icy cold water. NB most often practised at the start of the day, to ensure full saturation and osmosis.
I really think I'm onto something. But too many chapters you think, maybe a series.........?
Obviously I'll self publish, best keep those royalties to myself.
Watch out JK.
(Or perhaps I really should hang up my teaching trowel as another semester starts, I fear I've become a little cynical.)


  1. Haha .... truly a tad cynical!!

    And I recognise those soaked jeans and shoes, I looked exactly the same yesterday :-(

    1. Sue I wore the same look today with brown cords - it really does go with anything.

      Any one veggie gardening has a fine tale to tell of the dangers of it.


  2. Lol, I can identify with quite a few of those :)
    Seriously though you should write a book, I would definitely buy it x

    1. I've informed my future betrothed I am seeking a book deal.

      He looked a little peerie wallie.

      You me dear would obviously have a free copy and a mention in the credits for all the inspiration you've given me for so many years!

  3. Cynical? Maybe but oh so ruddy true lol. We can all relate lol.

    1. Aye Linda I kept out all the wind related saga's that only northern gardeners would know so well.

      Like how to tether lettuces and the correct timber frames for kale.

  4. I'm just glad it's not only us with the Parsnip and Parsley question!

    Get writing Missus - it'd be a hit for sure I reckon! xx

    1. No Robyn, those two fiends have some kind of holding their breath contest going on.

      You've given me the working title elsewhere - its perfect!

  5. I loved this Fay, so funny and all based on TRUTH! Can't wait to start knitting up some spinach... Put me down for a signed copy of the first edition.

    1. If you run out of spinach - pop over to Janet I hear she has some experimental lettuces that might be crocheted too.

      You might be waiting a while for the first edition but I'll swap you for yours - which will surely be written and finished sooner. And, likely, more legible.

  6. Sounds good to me :) Saw this today and thought of you.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2409734/The-1-wedding-Thrifty-bride-groom-prove-Big-Day-neednt-cost-fortune.html

    1. That's a great article and puts us to shame. We have a £3k budget of which the forest (a charity) gets a fair whack of that as does our knees up venue. But we want a party so we're prepared to pick the right places and pay for them but be canny with the rest.

      I love this bit.

      'There is nothing to gain from spending a huge amount of money. The day is supposed to be about marrying the person you love and for us all that mattered was that we were becoming husband and wife. We didn’t want or need a big, fancy affair.'

      So true - we want to do ours infront of our closest chums and have a giggle too.

      My frock was £20 - which is loads more than that gorgeous one!

      :) thanks for the link Bob!

    2. You are welcome-i saw some lovely pink wellibobs on our local flog it page on fb...i think at a size 7 they maybe a tad big for you though. ;-)

  7. You can knit with spinach? Would it work with lettuce? Cos apparently I can't eat all my experimental lettuces before they bolt... Sign me up for a copy...

    1. Lettuces I think are more prone to shining as crochet but give it a bash.

      Experimental lettuces have a habit of doing that don't they.

      I grew 5 lettuces this year - in my pot by the door in with the vinca and the borage. (red oak, green oak) they worked well and enough for me. I think perhaps I eat less salad than I think.

      Perhaps a wee fence and a stern look will help the lettuces also.

      Being daisies they'll surely revert to type and stay fresh looking for you?

    2. PS sorry - of course a copy can be yours - as chief designer of the forthcoming Scottish exploits online - you're probably already co-author :)

  8. I'm laughing, I identify with so much of this. Just an hour or so ago I poured half a can of water down the front of my skirt at the allotment and into my wellies. Lovely.

    1. Ah that's my girl. I find that a soggy wellington focuses the tasks ;)

      Keep on keeping it real :)

  9. It will be a best seller, like mine, The Rules of Smallholding, or how not to smallhold, everything you cant learn from google :) like animals can always get through a hole half their body size, or one job finished creates two more to do, or tools are where you left them not where you need them, or........

    1. Tony so many of those are very true also. Maybe we'll start a rural skills series?

      You forgot the 'make sure if your animals die unexpectedly, they do it in full view of the busiest road'

  10. Hooray!!

    "Lettuces and salad crops for the discerning rabbit and pigeon. Making sure you get it right for your fluffy and feathered friends" just made me spit out my tea laughing :)

    I'm off for a bath to consider my book proposal for "outside decorating chores you can (but probably shouldn't) do in the dark". Might wait til the morning to see the result of the window painting before I submit it...

    1. I think you should, and I hear it went very well indeed. :) Sorry about the tea escaping!

  11. Just found your blog and it made me laugh and yes you should write a book lol

    1. You're very welcome and very kind. I'm glad you had a laugh. I nipped over to your lovely patch - nice to see you.

  12. Please, please please write this book! Get a chapter done, show it to a publisher and direct them to this blog, they'll be fighting for it!