Creating Oyster Mushroom Seed Bombs

If you google fungiculture, you are most unlikely to be rewarded with this, the earthwoman guide to growing marvellous oyster mushrooms. You will more likely be bamboozled by hugely scientific case studies that involve sterilisation of straw bales, along with temperature and humidity controlled apparatus.

Having spent 3 years in advanced scientific endeavours, beavering away in a dark lab, meticulously recording my every move, I have to say I can no longer be fagged with real science. I prefer my experiments to be random and uncontrolled.

Besides, I also recently heard on Gardeners Question Time that oyster mushrooms were dead easy to grow and didn’t require precision cultivation techniques. I think the suggestion was that you could sprinkle spores on the compost heap and wait for the bounteous harvest to follow.

Mushroom seed bombsSo with this in mind I created my own recipe and mixed up the non-sterilised concoction scavenged from the compost caddy and the wormery. I tossed it all in one of Lynn’s old t-shirts and now I’m hoping for the best.

I’ve popped one on the top shelf of the wormery, the other in the leaf mould bin and the final one in the edge of the big compost heap.

If you want to follow my tried and untested approach to oyster mushroom cultivation. Here’s the recipe and how-to video.

Making oyster mushroom bombs for the compost heap. #mushroomgrowing #seedbombs #spawnbombs #compost #wormery #allotment

A video posted by Angela Wolff (@earthwomanblog) on

Good luck.

Post to Twitter

Ignoring the Old Timers

Two successive weekends on the plot and I can officially declare the allotment season open. This weekend was particularly glorious and I may have even acquired a little sunburn.

I always get over excited at the first sign of spring sun and despite the old timers warning me that the soil is still too cold, I scatter my seeds and tubers with gay abandon.

Last weekend we dragged out the M1 Gardener and rotovated two of the cleared beds, planted a couple of rows of spuds and set up the seed bed with leeks and cabbage.

This weekend was much warmer but I found it far too easy to sit on the bench, basking in the sun, and passing out instruction as Lynn continued with the digging and planted another 4 rows of spuds. My only contribution was a little raking and the planting of 100 onion sets.

As ever I’ve ordered far too many potatoes and I could easily fill the entire plot if we weren’t interested in any other crops.

I was sent a copy of The Allotment Source Book by Caroline Foley a few months ago. With my new found gardening enthusiasm I’ve been tempted to pull it off the shelf and turn through the pages. It’s a massive tome at 384 pages and quite unlike the usual vegetable gardening books on my bookcase. Although it does have a monthly what to do guide and an A-Z veg guide, I would say that at least half of the book is given over to inspiring ideas of the veg growing variety.

It has a scrap book feel to it and the most fabulous photos. I’ve enjoyed flicking through the book – it has left me feeling as though I’ve been on a reconnaissance tour through a series of allotment sites and I’ve picked up tips for new structures and swanky pea supports.

I was very impressed to see the step by step guide to making nettle rope. I’ve had a go at this on one of my foraging trips and the demonstration looks very thorough.

The Allotment Source Book by Caroline Foley is available from New Holland Publishers.
Enter the discount code warrior at the checkout to receive 20% off and free P&P. (Offer valid until 31st March 2011.)

Post to Twitter

Putting Down Roots

I must feel settled here.

I spent the afternoon preparing a permanent bed, with manure, trenches and finely sieved soil, all for a crop that won’t be harvested for about 4 years.

It’s an incredibly high maintenance crop, at least at the outset, and it only produces edible shoots for a couple of weeks. Hardly seems worth it but Lidl lured me with it’s offering of heavily discounted asparagus crowns.

I managed to lay out this bed with £8 worth of spidery aliens – bargain.

I was ready to wipe off the idea of Christmas potatoes when we arrived. The spuds we planted back in summer had all collapsed with the blight and with only a couple months worth of growth I didn’t think we stood a chance of harvesting anything bigger than a smartie.

Lynn managed to uncover a remarkably impressive array of delicate skinned tubers from the two diseased rows and we headed home to run a taste test on the three varieties – Bambino, Vivaldi and Maris Peer.

Post to Twitter

Growing, or at least Planting Sweet Potatoes

I reached into the veg basket this morning hoping to find a selection of ingredients for a wholesome veggie curry and pulled out this whopping sweet potato – a little past it’s best I’d say.

It seemed a shame to cook it, so although it is way too late in the season I decided it might be worth planting.

I had a sense that sweet potatoes are a right faff in the UK and although Bob Flowerdew grows them successfully I didn’t stand a cat in hells chance.

I’ve done a bit more research now and I’m beginning to hope that it rots in situ. Here’s a quote from one site on How To Grow Sweet Potatoes:

In fact, the question is not how to grow sweet potatoes, it’s rather how to stop sweet potato vines from taking over the whole garden! Sweet potato is a very invasive creeper…

Sounds like I might have inadvertently attempted to cultivate a persistent weed on the allotment. Great.

Sweet Potatoes are usually cultivated from slips which I think are the shoots that you can see on my sweet potato photo. They can be potted up and grown on before planting out in May but I imagine they will still grow ok if you chuck the whole tuber in. This one will never be harvested though, they need about 4 to 6 months of sunshine to mature and I don’t expect we’ll have a lot of that between November and February.

I’ll be sure to let you know if anything outstanding happens.

Post to Twitter

Tea on the Plot

We took a mid-week opportunity to visit the plot to tend to the runner beans that have been causing me some anxiety. For some reason our beans are turning crinkly and growing in an ugly branched fashion. I initially thought they had been caught by a cold spell but I’ve been growing them in succession and every little seedling that pops up proves to be a disappointment.

Not quite every seedling – some shine.

I planted two varieties of seed, a hand me down from Lynn’s dad that has been in existence for decades and a saved variety from the Sheen plot which is probably a version of Wisley Wonder. One of them seems to produce half way decent plants and the other doesn’t.

I’ve planted loads more seed and now can only hope for the best, or perhaps try and buy some plants in from the garden centre.

Lynn in the meantime was down on her hands and knees trying to capture the wonder of the onions with her phone.

It’s hard to do justice and this photo just doesn’t evoke the same sense of pride.

Lynn has claimed the onions as her own, along with the other plot success – peas. The plot failure on the other hand is always referred to as “Angela’s carrots”.

Hardly fair.

The peas are pretty wondrous though. The plants are vigorous and healthy and the peas are a delight.

A lovely sweet pea must be about the best thing to come out of an allotment (maybe second to purple sprouting broccoli?), and they cook up marvelously with a handful of Arran Pilot, prepared in the garden shed trangia and eaten on the plot while surveying our land.

Post to Twitter

Spud Dispute

We barely made it to the plot at all in March but just as the month was turning, the sun arrived. We grabbed our seed potatoes and ran to the plot clutching a days supply of delicately cut sandwiches and flasks of hot drinks.

Four hours later, stripped to our t-shirts, we would have happily discarded the flasks in favour of a few tinnies.

We worked ferociously planting spuds and sowing seeds. Lynn would of course argue that she worked the hardest as she planted 7 rows of spuds while I weeded the seed bed and prepared some labels with my Brother P Touch – pah!

Weeding that seed bed was the devils own job. We’d planted onions, lettuce and assorted brassicas under the glazed area some weeks back but pretty much the only thing that had germinated was a field of weeds. After half an hour of dabbling around with a tweezer to uncover 1 lettuce and 3 brassica seedlings it occurred to me that it would be a far better idea to blitz the lot with a hoe and start again.

Our potato planting led to some interesting debates. I’m relying on C. H. Middleton with his Dig for Victory advice from 1945, topped up with a modern infusion from Joy Larkcom, while Lynn is regularly in contact with her Dad – a potato farmer by profession.

I’m a big fan of books and so would usually disregard 50 years of practical experience for something that could be gleaned by a quick scan from the comfort of a bath. We opted for the Dig your Own method: 1/2 spade depth furrow, place in spud and then cover with soil and a sprinkling of manure. No earthing up until the foliage starts to poke through.

The experienced voice tells us to dig a trench, place in manure with spuds on top and then earth up enough to allow the rain to run off and prevent rotting. I know it sounds sensible and was in fact my method of old, but its hard work and in clay, I’m all for short cuts. I do hope the buggers don’t rot though, I’ll never hear the end of it.

We have set ourselves a challenge to excel at two crops this year – peas and leeks. Of course we want all our crops to be prizewinners but these two have proved to be challenging in the past.

I wouldn’t waste time with the autumn sown peas – horrible dry things, but I think a hot day at the end of March might be perfect for the sweet summer variety. We prepared two drills and I started laying out the seeds in a perfect arrangement – square layout with a centre pea, then had a flashback to last years germination rate and walked back along my row scattering the rest of the packet.

Here’s Lynn proudly constructing the mesh cloche over the sowings.

We also had time to set the uber cheap summer bulbs (care of Lidl) by the rhubarb patch and get in a few rows of carrots and parsnips. I’ve gone mad with carrots again, so along with the standard Nantes varieties I’ve got some Red Samurai and Purple Haze, so with my usual carrot success rate these are all set to be mighty expensive tubers again.

Post to Twitter

Out With The Old

We’ve dabbled a little bit on the old plot at North Sheen, pulling parsnips and leeks but have finally decided the time has come to hand it over to the next budding gardener on the list.

I went over to see Sam to hand in my notice and nearly came away blubbing. It felt very hard handing over my lovely little corner plot that turned from a bindweed monstrosity into a moderately productive little haven in the space of a season. We emptied the shed and carted the trammel and another blackberry bush over to the new plot and rapidly felt at ease again.

We are lucky to be able to start over again, making plans and building stuff, and this new plot is sooo tidy!

It’s rapidly approaching the end of February and yet this was our first visit of the year to the Norbury plot. It’s been so wet and claggy and the snow still hasn’t declared for the season so we haven’t been able to dig or sow. My allotment task list is covered in red overdue stars though so we decided time had come to brave inclement conditions, ignore gardening sense and plant the cabbages anyway.

We knocked up this cold frame top for the seed bed in a downpour and I planted greyhound cabbage, cauliflower, onions and lettuce while Lynn started on the compost bin construction. I don’t hold out much hope for the seeds but that compost heap is a thing of beauty.

Post to Twitter

Parental Visitation

The weekend was scheduled for the installation of the guttering and water butt, a task I’d handed over to Lynn but not before I had passed on the benefit of my huge and heroically unsuccessful experiences. I’ve been spouting tales of woe for the last week, predicting DIY disasters of monumental proportions and just to add to the pressure I thought I’d invite my parents down to witness the whole event.

Of course my parents are renowned troopers in the allotment world so I might also have hoped to benefit a little from their digging prowess and work ethic as well.

Kinky Boots

This shot nicely captures Lynn’s fear as she spots the kinky boots I bought my mum a couple of Christmases ago, I like to think she’s wondering desperately how she can backtrack and remove wellington boots from the xmas wishlist she left me with.

Too late though I’m afraid.

I’ve been revisiting an old book “Companion Planting” by Gertrud Franck and it triggered a little obsession with the mass planting of spinach seeds. I sourced a bulk supplier, Seeds By Size, awaited delivery of my 25,000 spinach seeds and then waited for the general mocking and guffawing from the children to die down, before sitting down myself and wondering if I’d gone ever so slightly nuts.

I am reasonably content that the mocking will die down when they find plate-fulls of slimey green stuff turning up day after to day but between then and now there is a lot of planting to do.

Spinach Sowing

Luckily my Dad was quite prepared to get stuck in there and start me off with the first row.

I think the general idea with the spinach planting is to cut and leave in-situ as a mulch or green manure but I’ll worry about the specifics later.

water butt

Heading back to the water butt, I’m afraid there is very little left to say.

It was disappointingly uneventful.

The guttering was erected in moments, Lynn and my mum sorted the trajectory without recourse to swearing and the whole thing was dressed up like a work of art before I had chance to get my hands dirty.

Sync Dig

My hands may have remained relatively clean but I didn’t let my folks get away with anything easy.

All in all they transplanted two fruit trees, dug the grotty front patch, planted a rhubarb crown, transplanted a row of spring cabbage, commenced the sowing of the 25,000 and demonstrated a bit of synchronised digging.

I did give them a cup of tea though.

Post to Twitter