Monday, 30 June 2008

Old Soot Secrets

Following a plea for soot advice from aged tomes by Flange member VP I can provide this from The New Illustrated Gardening Encyclopedia by Richard Sudell, F.I.L.A., A.R.H.S., (the book is not dated but the inscription is 1932).

"There are 3 reasons why soot is valuable to the gardener: it contains a little nitrogen; it is a good insecticide; it darkens the soil surface, and therefore makes the soul warmer by retaining solar heat. Soot should always be stored dry and can be used in making liquid manure, or as a surface dressing along the rows of growing crops, either alone, or mixed with lime. If mixed with lime it makes the best insecticide, as the fumes are objectionable to insects of all kinds."

He also has a diagram (see pic) to show how to make soot-water - a sack full of soot, plus a brick to keep it submerged, hung from a rope in a butt of rainwater - with light excluded.

Practical Home Gardening Illustrated (1949) by the same author adds no more information but does include a very similar diagram in the month of March. The diagram bears the legend "Soot water stimulates pot plants", and I'm unclear whether March is time to make, or to apply soot water.

It does have rather lovely pictures inside the cover of Garden Friends & Foes which I’ve posted for purely gratuitous reasons.
My copy of The Complete Gardener first published 1950 (and heavily reprinted) by W.E. Sherwell-Cooper (a man with a formidable array of credentials after his name) has this -

"Soot is a nitrogenous manure which darkens soils and so enables them to absorb and retain heat better. More generally used as a top dressing in the spring. Suitable chiefly for all members of the cabbage family. Usually applied at 5ozs. to the square yard."

Sunday, 29 June 2008

I'm the Firestarter

Flange Member VP asks:

What's the strangest thing you've been asked to do in the pursuit of further book perusal or purchasing?

In order to gain access to the hallowed portal of the Bodleian Library in Oxford (not as a student I hasten to add but in my then career of mad scientist grant provider), I had to sign a declaration I wouldn't set fire to any of the books. I think this was in response to a real incident that happened centuries ago; I'm sure there's a proper Oxford grad out there who can enlighten me further or even furnish a copy of the declaration. It was in ancient English too, so you weren't quite sure exactly what you were signing up to at the time either.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Book'em Danno

There's been a fair amount of booky activity amongst garden bloggers recently, so in the manner of one of Alex's shed round-ups here goes:
  • Firstly said sheddista continues his Friday Shedworker’s Bookshelf strand with A Place of my Own by Michael Pollan. A great writer, but not one of his books I've read. Another for the wants list I think.
  • Over at Carrots and Kids, Dominic Murphy's Playground Potting Shed - which I'm currently reading myself - gets deserved praise.
  • Last week VP went to the Welsh hills with a mountain of books.
  • And at the Beholder's Eye blog Deb created a lovely post about succession book-reading.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Modern Love

I wanted to share with the flange members my latest acquisition. I was today given 'The Modern Greenhouse' by J S Dakers by a work colleague who is having a clear out. Now you need to understand that by modern we mean 1955 and this is an update on the original version of 1938. In a charming foreword the author says that the 1938 edition has been updated to take into account changes in horticultural practice. I have only had a quick flick through but had to smile to myself at a section which describes how to make up a general mix compost:

4 parts yellow loam, 2 parts peat-moss (from bales), 1 part course river sand.

The mind boggles - what is yellow loam? what bales? and do I need to go wading in the river!

Then to each bushel of compost add: one andhalf ounces superphosphate of lime, three quarters of an ounce of potash and two ounces of horn or hoof manure - I have too many questions to this part to list!

All I can say is thank goodness for John Innes!!!!!

Will peruse the book further and let you know if I find any more gems - no doubt I will

Helen (aka patientgardener)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Hard backed danger

I spent a couple of hours recently kiting round second hand bookshops and charity shops. Both can be rich hunting grounds for garden books, although sometimes one can, quite inexplicably, draw a blank.

Charity shops are a bit odd in that way, some have no garden books out unless it's summer, presumably on the basis that no-one wants to know about gardening in winter. My marketing strategy would go the other way somewhat, but I assume, that theirs is tried and tested. My best ever charity shop purchase was a brand new, mint copy of the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (RRP £20) for a quid.

Anyway, whilst trolling around I saw this sign on the door of a charity shop. Now I can understand the potential dangers inherent in second-hand electrical goods, but I can't imagine why hardback books are also verboten.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

This is your life

James has suggested a topic for the Flange - Biography.

His top three (in reverse order) are:

Sally Festing - Gertrude Jekyll
John Dixon Hunt - William Kent
Kate Colquhoun - A Thing In Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton


Monday, 16 June 2008

Always Allways?

I've just finished re-reading Beverley Nichols' A Village in a Valley.

Towards the end of the book Miss Hazlitt, one of the spinsters in the village of Allways passes away.

No doubt pondering his own mortality following this event, the author spends the last section of the book imagining a spectral visit to his Allways cottage many years in the future.

In his mind's eye the cottage has been neglected to the point that the roof has fallen in and ivy is growing inside the walls. It struck me that it would be interesting to learn what has actually become of the cottage.

All I know is that the fictional village was actually Glatton in Cambridgeshire.

This made me think of another of his books that I own. Inside which I found an old yellowing newspaper clipping, with a grainy black and white photo, underneath which was printed

"This quaint old entrance belongs to Beverley Nichols' cottage".

I love finding things like that in old books, don't you?

But what of the cottage?

Friday, 13 June 2008

Shed Books

Flange member Alex has a new strand on his fabulous Shedworking blog.

It's called The Shedworkers Bookshelf and will appear every Friday.

The first book featured is Garden Buildings by Alistair Rowe.

Check it out


Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Blog Book Reviews

I was sent this link to an interesting piece on blog book reviews by Flange member Alex

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Soupcon Sir?

Another topic from the Blogtabulous VP - not so sure about it myself - if you start recommending things just because they have a smidgen of gardening in, sooner, or later someone will recommend that awful TV detective thing with Felicity Kendall in.

How about non-gardening books that still have interest for us as there is at least a little bit of gardening content in them?

My starter for 10 is 'O Beloved Kids' by Rudyard Kipling. It's a collection of his letters to his children - I came across extracts whilst going through the Batemans garden archive at the National Trust. The letters themselves are lovely, but there's also reference to what's been happening in the garden (hence the extracts in the archive) and dates from around the time that Kipling wrote 'The Glory of the Garden'. It's also extremely poignant as not long afterwards his son John went off to fight in WW1.

It's one for the second hand or library search, though Emma will be relieved to find that prices should be a bit more reasonable on Amazon this time.

Friday, 6 June 2008


I picked this D G Hessayon up at a boot sale the other week. No idea how old it is, but some of the illustrations are great. Some of them seem to have barely changed though.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Deeply Dippy

The Blogtastic VP asks:

What's your favourite dippable book?

You know the kind of thing - you're in your lounger on the patio (ignore that weed RPF), glass of nice chilled something in 1 hand, dippable book in the other, doesn't matter if you have a quick snooze in between reading...Mine's 'The Faber Book of Gardens' at the moment, edited by Philip Robinson. It's where I found Ted Hughes' Thrushes poem I posted the other day.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Baggy Trousers.

Has anyone read The Playground Potting Shed by Dominic Murphey?

Is it any good?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Those keeping abreast of booky witterings on the GM blog will have read about
Barney Bardsley’s & Valentine Low's books.

They are both books about allotments. That's not so say that you would learn much from them. They are not "how to" type allotment book such as Jane Perrone's or say Andy Clevely’s, but rather "allotment tales ".

Earlier this year I read Elspeth Thompson’s Urban Gardener from 1999, which is a collection of her Telegraph columns, in which her allotment features most heavily and are probably overall the best bits. And last year I read Robin Shelton‘s Allotted Time, a book about an allotment (and Stella Artios), subtitled “Twelve Months, Two Blokes, One Shed, No Idea.”

I hadn’t really noticed that there were so many, but there are others- which certainly makes “allotment tales” a sub-genre of garden books.

Others that I have not read include:

My Life on a Hillside Allotment - Terry Walton
One Man and His Plot - Michael Leapman. This is quite an old book from 1976
Digger's Diary: Tales from the Allotment - Victor Osborne
View from a Shed - Michael Wale
Close to the Veg: A Book of Allotment Tales - Michael Rand