Gardens Ablaze

A Gardening Blether
Monthly Column by Patrick Vickery
December, 2002


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A Compost Blether


Gather together a hundred gardeners and ask the question: what's the best method of constructing a compost heap? - and you'll receive a hundred different answers with a few strong words thrown in for good measure. Folk can be so possessive of their 'expert' knowledge, can they not?  You'll certainly get a heated debate, anyway, with much colourful "rabbit and pork" (slang for 'talk' apparently) thrown in for good measure.

I once made the mistake of engaging in a 'compost heap' debate myself.  Never again. The other guy, a man called Bill, for there was only two of us left in the room by the time we'd really got stuck into the topic - the others having beaten a hasty retreat - wouldn't talk to me for months afterwards and even now regards me as some sort of subversive element who's in the habit of routinely undermining other people's tried and tested methods.  But then gardening does that to people sometimes, doesn't it, just like any other human preoccupation, when 'Expert' meets 'Expert' and neither is prepared to give an inch.
"What I do is pee on it," one 'expert' might proclaim, whilst shoving his nose conspiratorially into your ear, "adds just the right amount of nitrogen and potash. Good for the vegetables, especially the cabbages."

"Human hair is water retentive," another might bellow (a local barber of the district told me this once) "sow seed tatties on human hair, a tried and tested method."

Well, what can you say to that?

Personally I tend to grunt when confronted by any type of 'expert' these days, a drawn out murmuring sort of grunt. This usually does the trick.  Approving yet neutral. Better that, of course, than respond in a less charitable manner with something along the lines of: "Take your nose out of my ear, you pompous windbag!"  Yes, much safer in the long run.

But what happens to the compost heap once it's started?  If - like me - you lack the time and dogged persistence, then it quickly becomes a breeding ground for the most intriguing collection of weeds, thistles and woody-stalked vegetation that requires vigorous strimming to tidy the whole mess up.  Either that, or you're left with an untidy eyesore. You could call it a 'wildlife garden' and leave well alone of course, that is if you can live with such a notion; or you could strim it and then explain it away as yet another giant mole hill to add to the already growing number of giant mole hills at the bottom of the garden (simply another piece of lumpy grass to cut on a regular basis).

Compost bins, of course, are the 'thing' of the moment just now: plastic containers (inverted conical shapes resembling wheelie bins without wheels) and bottomless. Cast an eye around next time you're out and about and see if you can spot any with weeds, thistles and woody-stalked vegetation exploding out of them. You might do. You just might do.

Despite all this, however, I may try one myself, see how I get on.  But could I really pass it off as a giant mole hill if it was neglected through no fault of my own?  I doubt it.

Now there's a sobering thought.


 (Copyright: Patrick Vickery)


A Tomato Blether - January, 2002

A Tree Blether - February, 2002

A Hare Blether - March, 2002

A Surreal Blether - April, 2002

A Slug Blether - May, 2002

A Goat Blether - June, 2002

A Half-Man, Half-Garden Blether - July, 2002

A Blaze Blether - August, 2002

An Inanimate Object Blether - September, 2002

A Notable Quotable Blether - October, 2002

A Plant Blether - November, 2002

A Copper Beech Blether (or a chainsaw pruning!) - January, 2003

A Heron Blether - February, 2003

A Bergenia Blether - March, 2003

A Rose Blether - April, 2003

A Critter Blether - August, 2003

Blether Home

Patrick Vickery is a garden writer who lives in the Scottish Highlands.  He runs a small perennial plant nursery and has one book published to date: 'In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden' (Capall Bann Publishers. ISBN: 186163 1480), a 'How To' book about the propagation of hardy perennial plants in an environmentally friendly way, and how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways for both expert and gardening enthusiasts alike - at minimum cost and in an innovative and exciting way.  And - of course - how to sell the plants you grow (should you wish to) to raise money (not a fortune) for yourself or a particular charity or cause. 


Patrick is married with three children, lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world, uses a raised bed system of propagation and has two dogs, a cat and two goats. His second book - 'Gardening Tales - Blethers and Grunts' - a collection of anecdotal tales concentrating on the more humorous side of gardening (particularly the things that go wrong!) has recently been completed.


Patrick's book can be bought from an absolutely fascinating website full of gardening, herbal, mystical, and magical books that one would never find anywhere else.  The address is

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